Foreign Foods in Japan –
Hanbāgu!

“Haan-baa-ghu”.

It’s delicious. It’s uniquely Japanese. And it’s not a hamburger!

Hanbāgu!

Our Foreign Food this month is a delicious Japanized version of steak, with similarities to Salisbury Steak, Steak Tartare and the Hamburg steak from Germany. Hanbāgu is a ground meat patty made from beef and pork, served like a steak, topped with a sauce and typically accompanied by rice and vegetables. This type of chopped meat steak became popular in the United States in the late 1800s, when German immigrants from Hamburg came to live in American cities like Chicago and New York. They made a “steak” with chopped beef mixed with onions, garlic, salt and pepper and cooked until tender and juicy.

Eventually, these steak patties were adapted to be eaten between two pieces of bread, creating the modern American hamburger, and both the chopped beef steak and hamburger were brought to Japan during World War II with the influx of foreign soldiers into the country.

Hanbāgu patties

Hanbāgā evolved to become Japanese hamburgers – beef patties served with various toppings served in a bun. Hanbāgu evolved as a rich and savory steak dish, cooked by countless Japanese home cooks, becoming a favorite dish among children and adults.

Hanbāgu is made with a blend of beef and pork called aibiki. This mixture is commonly mixed at a ratio of 7:3 and is typically found prepackaged at Japanese stores. Into the meat are added sautéed onions, egg, panko breadcrumbs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. The mixture is mixed by hand into a gruel-like consistency and formed into patties. The Japanese technique of forming the patties adds a special touch to the meat. The patties are tossed back and forth in the hands, removing air pockets and then indented on the middle to foster even cooking. The patties are also rested in the refrigerator prior to cooking, allowing the slow absorption of flavor from the seasonings.

Pan frying some Hanbāgu!

Once the patties are ready to cook, they are pan fried, instead of grilled, similar to a steak. Red wine or another liquid can be added to the par-cooked patties, and they’re finished covered, having absorbed the liquid for extra flavor.

Traditionally, hanbāgu is served topped with a demi-glace sauce, but a red wine reduction or other savory sauce is also commonly served along with rice and vegetable accompaniments.

Mini Hanbāgu are perfect for bento!

Hanbāgu is such a cultural staple and easy to make using our electric skillets. Try our Mini Hamburger recipe for your bentos, and share your favorite way of enjoying hanbāgu!

Foreign Foods in Japan –
Omuraisu!

Chicken rice. Omelet. Ketchup.

Our Foreign Foods in Japan series keeps getting better and better!

Omuraisu!

This month we’re featuring omuraisu, or Japanese omelet rice. It’s not found on most menus in the United States, but it’s hugely popular among those who love Japanese food. Omuraisu is a combination of rice, cooked with chicken, vegetables or ketchup, covered by a thin omelet and topped with a savory ketchup. The rice often contains chicken, but can be made vegetarian with items like onions, corn, carrots and peas, and is seasoned with garlic, soy sauce, tomato ketchup and salt and pepper. Home cooks often prefer leftover rice for this dish, so it’s a great way to make an entire meal from a few components.

Chicken rice

The omelet used when making omuraisu is usually thinner and softer than a traditional French or American omelet. Beaten eggs are quickly shirred in oil heated in a skillet and folded over, thin and soft. The cooked rice is plated and the omelet laid on top, both covered with thin drizzles of savory ketchup, usually a mix of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce.

Omelet

There’s nothing more comforting, unless it’s the delicious variations on omuraisu! Omuhayashi, or omuraisu made with hayashi sauce is deeply satisfying. The base of the dish is the cooked and seasoned rice, the soft, draped omelet and then a cooked sauce made with beef, mushrooms, butter, wine and lots of savory seasonings. The hayashi sauce is poured around the omelet, surrounding it like a moat. Every bite is delicious!

Hayashi raisu

Omusoba marries the best of yakisoba and the soft, tender omelet. Yakisoba is prepared as usual, with noodles and vegetables cooked, then stir-fried in a soy-based sauce. Then, the noodle mixture is topped with the omu-style omelet and drizzled with okonomiyaki sauce and creamy Japanese mayonnaise. (Mouth watering, yet?)

Yakisoba

We have a great recipe for omuraisu on our website. Our special version adds mushrooms to the chicken rice along with other delicious ingredients, and uses rice made in our rice cookers. Check it out and tell us how you like it. Wasn’t it the most delicious thing ever?

Foreign Foods in Japan – Chanpon (ちゃんぽん)

Students. Hungry and poor. The history of higher education is irrevocably intertwined with the history of starving students and the cooks who figure out innovative ways to feed them healthful, nutritious foods for very little money. Chanpon is one of those perfect student meals, and now, a great regional dish from Nagasaki, Japan that was originally created for Chinese students visiting Dejima Island in the area.

As with many beloved foreign foods in Japan, chanpon was developed during the Meiji Period (1868-1912). During this era, Japan had opened its borders to the world, sharing knowledge and information, along with culture and food. Students from China would visit Nagasaki, a port city, and head to a local Chinese restaurant called Shikairo. According to the restaurant, the dish was based on a Fujian specialty called tonniishiimen. Korean jjamppong is very similar!

Chanpon is made with pork meat, seafood pieces, and seasonal vegetables, served in a bone broth with noodles. The meat, seafood, and vegetables are sautéed in lard, and the soup base is made using pig bones and whole chickens. The meat, seafood, and vegetables are fried first, then the broth is added directly to the pot. Finally, the thick, chewy noodles are added to the broth mixture and everything is cooked together to seal in the flavor.

Chanpon has become such a popular dish in Japan that different regions have created their own versions. In Shimane and Hyogo Prefectures, a version called ankake chanpon is made using a thick soy sauce soup base while in Akita Prefecture, the soup base is made with miso broth.

Have you ever tried chanpon? Ready to cook packages are available in most Japanese grocery stores in the US, so we hope you decide to make it one day! Be sure to share your story with us in the comments below.