<1The hamburger is decidedly American. That is precisely why the Japanese have adopted it and made their own version. Although American hamburger chains like McDonald’s and Burger King do massive business in Japan, most older Japanese still prefer to eat their hamburgers with rice instead of between two bread buns.
Unlike American burgers that remain relatively plain, nothing getting in the way of the flavor of ground sirloin, the Japanese usually blend seasonings into the beef mixture. While lean, high quality beef is healthy and flavorful, it must be cooked carefully or the lack of fat can render a dry, tough patty. If you use a higher grade of beef, form thinner patties so they will cook quickly before drying out. Otherwise, you can use a ground round with up to as high as 15 percent fat and form thicker patties.
This version contains Shiitake mushrooms but you can omit them if you don’t have them on hand. Sometimes, I like to add chopped water chestnuts for crunch. The addition of a little bread helps to keep the texture of the meat mixture a little softer, similar to a meatloaf. And whatever you do, don’t overcook! Resist pressing down on the patties with a spatula to “drain” the fat. You are “draining” the flavorful beef liquid as well.
1 lb. fresh ground beef
2 large Shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and minced
2 slices white bread or ¾ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup milk or water
1 beef bouillon cube
1/3 cup onion, grated or minced
¼ cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ginger, grated
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 butter for frying
Break apart bread slices and place into large mixing bowl. Add beef bouillon cube to milk or water and stir to dissolve. Add this to the bread and soak until soft. Beat eggs into milk-bread mixture. Stir in the seasonings, except for the butter. Squeeze water out of Shiitake mushrooms and mince. Add mushrooms, ground beef, and green onions to the milk-bread mixture. Mix until well combined. Form into patties.
In a skillet, melt butter. Fry the patties over medium heat for about four minutes on each side or until cooked to your desired doneness. Serve with either curry sauce, tonkatsu sauce or a blend of soy sauce and grated daikon, and steamed rice.