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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Pan-Asian Burgers

I make no qualms about my ethnic background, especially because there's no use hiding it. I've got a big round face and slender, almond-shaped eyes, and high-ass cheekbones. Strangers have always made it a point to remind me of my ethnicity, often before introducing themselves or asking me my name, so I've used my ethnic make up as armour since a young age. It doesn't help that I was the product of an Asian woman and a white man, and then later raised by the white half of my family, so I had absolutely zero cultural identity growing up, aside from Catholic church services on holidays, golf, and passive-aggressive comments about each other's life choices behind each other's backs.  You know, standard stuff.

Anyway, I love burgers. Like most Americans, the classic ground beef base for a burger is my go-to. I am, however, of a multicultural persuasion, so I always feel the need to give everything a simple twist here and there. Coming into my own brand of adulthood, one of the most-liberating things I've discovered is just not giving a damn about what anyone thinks of me. It especially comes in handy when people make offensive comments about race, especially mine. I've stopped being self-conscious at making a "what the actual fuck" face when someone implies that the burgers from the McDonald's in Japan are made from dog meat. I don't give a frog's fat behind in calling someone out on offensive behavior. I am alive in the time of an American revolution; I feel lucky to be here, and - as the great Lin-Manuel Miranda said: "I am not throwing away my shot."

I'll stop now. On to the burgers.

Pan-Asian Burgers
(yields 5)

  • 1 lb 86% ground beef(I like loin, but chuck is fine, if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 3 Tbsp wasabi sesame seeds(or just 1 tsp wasabi powder and 2 tbsp sesame seeds)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 scallion, diced fine, all the way up to the greens
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Cheddar, shredded(B & I are both lactose intolerant, so I used Daiya cheddar shreds for mine!)
Combine all ingredients (except for the cheese) in a bowl and mix well with your hands. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Cover a piece of your counter with plastic wrap and take out a round cookie cutter of your desired size. It can be small for sliders, or large for big jumbo-sized quarter-pounders. I had a nice 3.5" round and it worked fine for my needs. 

Using a spoon, fill the mold you've chosen full of your burger mixture, and tamp it down well. These will help you create perfect portions for yourself, get that nice restaurant shape, and ensure that everything will cook evenly. Plus, it's fun for kids to help you with, if you have those sorts of little dudes in your house. 

Protip: If you have picky eaters in your family, invite them to help you cook! A sense of ownership will ease their troubled minds(and tummies) and they'll be more-likely to try something new.

Damn. Look at that sear. 
Heat your saute pan and turn your oven to broil. Lubricate your pan with grapeseed or coconut oil, and let get hot. Salt your patties with kosher salt while the pan is heating; waiting and letting it draw out a bit of moisture is how you get a nice crust on your burgers, so long as your pan is - again - crazy-hot. Once your burgers are in the pan, seasoning side down, season the other side so that you'll get the same effect when you flip them. 

I like a medium-rare burger, so that means about 3 minutes per side. Once all of the burgers are cooked, pop them on a small sheet pan and top them with a sufficient amount of cheese. I'm with a severely lactose intolerant partner, so I use Daiya's products for my cheese substitutes, which are honestly some of the best I've come across thus far. Despite the fact that I am an Asian woman, I am - oddly - not lactose intolerant. (About 90% of East Asians are lactose intolerant.) I can have cheese when I'm alone, but it's basically my dirty little secret that makes me only mildly bloated from time-to-time. Anyway, go ahead and pop those bad boys underneath your broiler for a nice melt.

I make bread for my bakery, so I had a wheat loaf lying around. I cut 1/2" slices and toasted them for strength and crunch. I've got a fully-working garden, so I grabbed some red leaf, nasturtium and curly green varieties for my burger situation. The rain has been crazy lately, and combined with the nice warm sun gives me the biggest nasturtium leaves I've ever seen. Seriously, it covered the whole burger patty! I just love its peppery zing, and it's so visually stunning. I'm in love with its hydrophobic qualities, as well, and take every opportunity that I can to photograph it. 

I mean, seriously. Look at that gorgeous nonsense. 
Burgers are a perfect canvas for doing anything you want. You can make this even more ethnically flavored by omitting the cheese and topping with some kimchi. Turn this burger around by exchanging the oyster sauce for white miso paste, or maybe adding some fresh ginger and fish sauce instead. I promise you that it'll taste great; the majority of the world's population seems to adore these flavor profiles, so there's certainly no harm in giving it a go.

Happy cooking and happy eating!