JAPAN - (THE JAPAN NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) Hamburger steak is one of the most popular dishes among Japanese children.
Restaurants at department stores and other eateries offer "okosama lunch" (kids' lunch), a meal featuring children's favourite foods, of which hamburger steak, called hamburg in Japanese, is often a highlight.
Apart from hamburger, the meal usually includes deep-fried shrimp, French fries and rice of chicken and ketchup.
To make the patty stay together, it is common to add stir-fried minced onions, in addition to bread crumbs and eggs.
Parents explore various ways to entice small children who dislike vegetables to eat them by hiding them in the patties. Some parents even use the technique of grating carrots and other root vegetables and mixing them with the ground meat.
1 cup bread crumbs
0.5 cup milk
1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
600g ground beef and pork mixture
1 tsp salt
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp red wine
4 tbsp tomato ketchup
4 tbsp Japanese Worcestershire sauce
Choice of vegetables
1. In a mixing bowl, soak bread crumbs in milk. Mince onion. Heat half a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and stir-fry until semitransparent.
2. Let cool. Combine ground meat, egg, bread crumb mixture, salt, pepper, nutmeg and onion, Mix well with hands until smooth and gooey.
3. Divide meat mixture into four portions. Form patties. In a clean skillet, heat one tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Place patties in skillet and cook 2 minutes until browned. Flip the patties and cook another 2 minutes.
4. Set the heat to low and cook the patties covered for 5-6 minutes or until heated through. Place patties on individual plates with your choice of vegetables.
5. Discard fat from skillet and combine red wine, tomato ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 1 minute or until it becomes slightly thick. Remove from heat and serve over patties.
Hamburger is often served as a main dish for dinner and is also popular as a lunch-box item. Many frozen and retort hamburger products have been marketed, but I usually make double the amount of patties I need for dinner. I put half of the patties, which are formed into small portions, in a freezer and save them for lunch boxes.
That way, I can defrost them whenever I run short of bento items, and I can make a sandwich easily. If you simmer the frozen patties with chopped cabbage, Chinese cabbage and broth, a different dish can be prepared quickly.
One of my friends lives in Germany and visits me once every several years. I was surprised when she told me, "Japanese meals are delicious," while eating a hamburger steak I had made.
"Aren't hamburgers originally from Germany, though?" I asked.
She said, "Everything that comes with rice and miso soup becomes a Japanese meal."
Her definition of Japanese meals convinced me.