Most of you probably regularly eat noodles and ground meat (not necessarily together), but would you ever think of combining them in a burger patty? I certainly wouldn’t and was sincerely surprised that such a crazy idea can yield an amazingly luscious burger. A huge amount of green onions – though less surprising – might also contribute to the final taste results, but in my opinion, the presence of chopped udon noodles is what makes the difference.
For those who have never heard of udon, it’s thick wheat flour variety of Japanese noodles, usually eaten in light soups. I am particularly fond of their chewy, slightly bouncy texture and always have a package in stock, but I would have never even dreamt of including them into a burger. Actually, I stumbled upon this recipe while looking for new ideas to use the abundance of Japanese green onions growing on my balcony. My long search led me as far as Kawaga prefecture’s official website and their filmed recipes.
Kagawa is apparenty famous for its udon (sanuki udon, to be precise) and its inhabitants are said to be addicted to these noodles (if you saw the film “Udon”, you know what I mean…). I have no doubts that only big passion for udon could have led to the creation of such an unusual idea. Ms Toshiko Tsukuda, from Kagawa prefecture’s research council group, presented this recipe (click here), aimed at using local green onion, under the name of (roughly translated, please correct me, if I’m wrong) “grilled green onion and udon surprise” (びっくりネギ焼きうどん). I was completely blown away by the idea of chopped udon in burger patties (not to mention being able to use a huge bunch of my green onions), so I bought the beef and prepared them as soon as possible. The burgers were incredibly juicy, surprisingly light and I particularly appreciated a slightly chewy typical udon “touch”.
As it often happens, I have modified this recipe already at the first cooking session. I changed the ingredients’ ratio (mainly increasing the beef amount), added crushed garlic clove and ground cumin to spice up the beef a bit and I also decided to glaze the burgers with teriyaki sauce (or rather my own, less sweet version of it). For the original recipe, check Kagawa Prefecture’s official website (unfortunately I haven’t found an English version, the video is in Japanese only, I think). (UPDATE: Thanks to Hiroyuki, I have found out this recipe is almost identical to Udon Gyoza, the specialty of Takatsuki).
TIPS: The patties are quite delicate, but surprisingly, they keep well the shape, if you form a ball in your hand, roll it a bit to make sure the ingredients “stick” and then slightly flatten it. Of course they should be turned very carefully.
If you use the “fresh” precooked udon (not the dried noodles), you don’t need to warm it or boil before chopping and including into the patty. Just unpack it and chop.
My teriyaki glaze is only slightly sweet (compared to the standard teriyaki glaze), so add more mirin and/or sugar if you want it typically sweet.
You can use any green onions or chives you have. I find Japanese green onions more delicate than Western ones.
Preparation: about 30 – 40 minutes
Ingredients (serves 3):
200g (about 7 oz) cooked udon or “fresh”, precooked udon: you don’t need to cook this one here; just take it out of the package and chop it
200 g (about 7 oz) ground beef
a big bunch of chopped spring onion or chives (the volume equal to udon’s volume)
salt, pepper (I have added 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper)
ground cumin (I have added 1/2 teaspoon)
1 crushed garlic clove
6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons mirin (sweet cooking sake)
Chop the udon as finely as possible (but don’t make a paste out of it!).
In a bowl combine the chopped udon, the spring onion/chives, the beef, the egg, salt, pepper, cumin and garlic.
Mix well with your hand or with a fork.
Put aside for ten minutes.
Heat the oil in a pan or heat a grill.
Form patties (beware: they are delicate and cannot be as flat as beef-only patties).
Fry or grill the burgers as much as you prefer (even completely cooked inside they were still juicy though). I fry them, putting a lid over the pan, so that the upper part is slightly cooked before I flip them (this way they are well cooked inside – I don’t like rare burgers – but not dry). Of course if you want them rare inside, don’t cover the pan.
In the meantime warm the teriyaki glaze in a small pan and make it boil until it thickens (watch the pan because it burns easily).
Before serving, brush the sauce over each burger.