There's nothing more all-American than a burger, save for apple pie and Michael Phelps. So when it comes to Asiafying such an iconic food of the U.S. of A., it takes some imagination and finesse. You can't just add a dash of soy sauce and sprinkle on some ginger and call it an Asiafied burger. No. You need to think of the burger as a vessel that you can repurpose to carry the flavors of an equally iconic Asian dish. I chose Korean bibimbap.
In order to successfully integrate two very disparate dishes, you have to first determine the common ground. Start with the burger — what are its components? There's meat, there are usually raw vegetables that go on top, ketchup or some other kind of condiment, and two buns that hold the whole thing together. OK, so what's an Asian dish that has similar components? Your first thought might be banh mi, which would be absolutely correct, but it's too easy! Turning a sandwich into a sandwich? That's amateur hour. Let's be more creative than that.
Bibimbap immediately came to my mind. The popular Korean dish translates to "mixed rice," and typically features vegetables like spinach, carrots, and mushrooms, a protein like bulgogi (Korean marinated beef), gochujang sauce, and a fried egg, all of which gets mixed together with the rice. If you think about it, the vast majority of these components can work in a burger — the vegetables, the fried egg (nothing better than adding a fried egg to a sandwich!), the gochujang (which creates a spicy super condiment when mixed with ketchup), and, of course, the marinated meat. And replace the rice with hamburger buns as the carb holding everything together. In my case, I chose brioche bread that I cut into hamburger-size buns.
When I assembled my bibimbap burger and pressed the top bun down to let the runny egg yolk ooze down, I swear I hadn't been so proud since I graduated college. And when my friend Tiffany came over to have burgers with me, she said, with her mouth full, "This tastes just like bibimbap!" Ah, that sweet, sweet taste of success. Recipe below.
- 1 pound ground chuck
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 ounces pound spinach
- 4 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 carrot
- 1 cucumber
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons gochujang
- 1 loaf of brioche bread, cut into 8 hamburger-size buns
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon garlic. Add the ground chuck and combine well. Season with salt and pepper and combine again. Let marinate for at least an hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet and add the spinach and mushrooms with the remaining tablespoon of soy sauce. Do in batches if necessary. Cook until spinach is wilted and mushrooms are tender. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and set aside.
- Using a mandoline slicer (or vegetable peeler if you don't have a mandoline), slice the cucumber and carrot into thin ribbons. Toss with rice vinegar, remaining tablespoon of sesame oil, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Brush your grill with olive oil and heat up until water sizzles when dropped onto the surface (about 5 minutes on medium or medium-high heat). While grill is heating up, form the meat into patties (it should yield about 4 medium-size patties). Grill patties until browned and caramelized on both sides and barely pink in the middle (about 6-8 minutes per side).
- While patties are grilling, fry eggs until whites are cooked but yolk is still runny.
- Toast buns in oven until warm and slightly crispy (about 5 minutes).
- Mix together the ketchup and gochujang.
- To assemble, slather the gochujang ketchup on one bun. Place the patty on top of the other bun and pile the spinach and mushroom mixture on top, followed by the pickled carrots and cucumbers, and then top with the fried egg. When you close the burger with the other bun and you push down gently, the yolk should run down, creating another sauce for the burger.