Taiwanese like to fancy themselves as major eaters, extraordinaires among the yumness-community. “Taiwanese food is da bomb! Huh-huh-hah-hee!”. “Too spicy for who??! Huh-huh-hah-hee (…forget it, it’s an inside joke)!!”. But the truth is, relative to all the many other cultures surrounding us, Taiwanese cuisine is… blaaaaaaaaand… I don’t know what it was like 40 years ago if somebody wants to make that argument, but perhaps their mentality hasn’t caught up to reality that Taiwanese have grown quietly inside their small and cozy shell over recently years… into independent health-nuts. WAKE UP and smell the SALT guys! It isn’t for anti-bacterializing. It’s to season your food? so it tastes like SOMETHING? And WHAT THE HELL are you doing to that fat on top of your noodle soup?! It’s there for a REASON! Called YUMMO! I can go on and on…
Perhaps – struggling to find a transition from my ranting if I must – this is because Taiwanese has exhausted all their daily heart-popper quota on their breakfast. Yes. This is a place where people actively eat burgers in the mornings. Even McDonald knows to draw the line and call it McMuffins instead. But if you walk into a western breakfast joint in Taiwan, you’d be guaranteed to see at least a few types of burgers on their menu alongside with others, and students who direly need it for the gruesome, twisted, broke-back educational system that’s about to run their day (as to help them sleep through it). No doubt a contribution by a legendary establishment called Mei-er-mei that practically invented this genre, from a humble hole-in-a-wall joint then, to a major McDonald’s-wanna-be now. But why is it worth mentioning?
Because as deceiving from its goody-goody poise of a regular-looking burger, the Taiwanese breakfast burger is completely corrupted and deformed on the inside. First, it uses mayonaise that closely mimics its Japanese inspiration which – I don’t want to put you off or anything – is SWEET. No shit. Sweet mayo. And to go really old-school, not always with cheese but almost ALWAYS comes with an egg with appallingly overcooked edges but still-runny center which turns out… is kinda nice. And the most different of all, is the patty. Well, more closely to a disk-meatball than patty, the ground beef is filled with minced onions and carrots then seasoned with SOY SAUCE, corn starch and whatnot. To be honest, I’m not even sure if it is beef. I mean this is a place where people gamble for street-sausages that’s probably made with stuff coming out of the rear-end of a slaughter house. “100 % beef” is kind of a stretch. McD knows. Then FORGET MEDIUM-RARE NONSENSE. The thin patty is griddle-fried until an ultra-crispy layer forms on both sides that one-second-further it could be mistaken as charred. But all the wrongs add up to… a delectable that’s close to my heart.
If you would like to love yourself some breakfast burgers, here’s what you do. When you wake up 7 am after much dispute with the alarm… OK right, stop. Who in their right state of mind is up for mixing beef-patty from scratch in the morning? Nobody loves anybody that much. So there’s a system to be introduced, a very neat and efficient one to be put in your freezer so that on a particular day – let’s just say productivity isn’t the goal of such day – you could put this together before your coffee finishes brewing. All you have to do is to cook the patties according to (my) instructions… fry the eggs… slice the buns and rub on the condiments…
… and of course the OTHER things just for color… relax it’s just a few…
… and then you carefully layer on that perfectly crisped-up patty and runny egg…
… and then if it was a day bad things happened the night before, say excessive amount of whiskey…
… I won’t blame you and no-one else has to know…
Servings: 8 single-deck, 4 double-decks
- Burger patty:
- 500 g of ground beef (preferably no leaner than 75%)
- 1/2 cup of shredded carrots (approx 1/2 medium carrot)
- 1/2 cup of finely minced onion
- 2 1/2 tbsp of soy sauce
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- 2 tsp of corn starch
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp of ground white pepper
- 1/4 tsp of five spice powder
- Some rice flour for dusting (or use regular flour)
- Oil and butter for frying
- Japanese mayonaise
- Sriracha sauce (optional but recommended)
- To assemble: (4 single-deck portion)
- 4 large eggs
- 4 hamburger buns
- Iceberg lettuce
- Thinly sliced tomato
To prepare the patties: Mix ground beef, shredded carrot, minced onion, soy sauce, olive oil, corn starch, salt, black pepper, white pepper and five-spice powder together until evenly incorporated. Divide the mixture first into 4 equal parts, then halve each into 8 equal parts. Lay a large piece of parchment paper on the counter, large enough to spread out 8 individual patties. Use the largest circle cookie-mold, preferably slightly larger than the hamberger buns. But if it’s slightly smaller (like mine), it’s fine. Place the circle-mold on the parchment and place 1 part of patty inside. Press and smooth out the patty until it tightly fits the mold. Slowly remove the mold and if it is slightly smaller than the burger bun being used, lightly press on the patty to spread it out until it’s slightly larger than the bun. This is because patty contains fat and fat shrinks during cooking. I HATE getting a burger that looks like the letter I. Repeat with the rest of the patties.
Lay another equal-size parchment paper over the top. Lightly press on it so the patties stick to it, then cut each sections into individual squares. You can now stack them and freeze them in an air-tight bag until needed.
To cook and assemble the burger: Take as many patties as you need out of the freezer and defrost it SLIGHTLY on LOW in the microwave just so it’s pliable. Peel one layer of the parchment away and crack freshly ground black pepper on top. Now here’s unconventional part. Dust the patty lightly with rice flour like you are dusting a cake. Rice flour works better but use regular flour if that’s all you have. This goes to the crispy crust that I mentioned and I find that it helps the caramelization. Stick the parchment paper back on and flip the patty. Repeat with the same steps.
Heat up a NON-STICK skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tsp of oil a little bit of butter. Once the butter starts bubbling, add the patty. Now a LITTLE TRICK for even browning. Rest your spatula on top of the patty WITHOUT PRESSING it. This little weight keeps the patty from arching in the middle which will leave the center un-browned, but doesn’t force out all the juice you want to keep inside. Leave the patty to fry until you see the bottom-edges turn dark-brown. Flip the patty and caramelize the other side in the same way. It should cook in no time.
Remove the patty and any bit of onion in the pan (or else they’ll burn). You can turn the heat down now to medium-low and fry the eggs with a little bit of salt’n pepper.
Smear a thin layer of Japanese mayonaise and sriracha (I didn’t use ketchup but you can) on both sides of the hamburger bun. Add lettuce (trim it so it fits the bun) and thinly sliced tomatos. Top with the patty and fried egg.
Serve with multiple napkins on the sides.