I've been slightly obsessed with burgers lately. I love just about anything on a bun, from handmade veggie burgers to beef with bacon, with lamb burgers (with goat cheese and pickled red onions, please!) being one of my favorites. Not to mention that I think my husband has perfected the beef burger (he has a secret ingredient - I'll see if I can get him to share it in a later post!). But I've been trying new ways to get some of my favorite flavor combos sandwiched between a yeasty kaiser roll or soft ciabatta, if you are a talented enough baker, or lucky enough to source some good ones, and to cut down on meat costs by purchasing ground meat. If you are in the Seattle area, I am really fond of Essential Baking's kaiser rolls, as well as their Panino rolls, or, if you're feeling decadent, Macrina's brioche buns. I know, buying expensive buns may seem to defeat the purpose of eating frugally, but to me, the bun is second only to the patty, so I won't skimp there.
This is a pretty straightforward translation - turning a pork banh mi into a pork burger. I'll admit, it's not much of a stretch, but it sure is yummy! Use good quality and fairly lean ground pork - I really like Thundering Hooves - and toss with a little fish sauce, dark soy, and lemongrass. I used to purchase whole lemongrass, peel them to their less fibrous innards, chop them into 3" lengths, and freeze them until I needed them (I do a similar thing with ginger). And this is still a good option, but one day, browsing through the large Asian section at my favorite local grocery store, I found a giant frozen tub of finely minced lemongrass. For about $2. Well not only was this a time saver, but it's also an excellent deal, so I snagged it and have been using it ever since!
These are a fresh and unique option to the typical beef and cheese burgers, and great for summer! I find the burgers to be enough for dinner, but if you want to round it out with a side, some stir-fried yu choy or bok choy, lightly pickled cucumbers, sweet potato fries, cabbage slaw with a soy sauce and rice wine dressing, or some fresh sliced mango with lime juice and mint would all be really tasty.
Vietnamese-style Pork Burgers
1 1/3 lb ground porkIn a large bowl, mix the pork with oyster sauce, lemongrass, fish sauce, and salt and pepper. Set aside for 30-60 minutes to let the flavors meld and to let the meat come to room temperature.
2 tsp lemongrass, finely minced
1-2 tsp fish sauce to taste (I like Squid brand)
2 tsp oyster sauce
small pinch of salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
8 thin cucumber slices, cut on the bias
1 tsp sriracha (or more to taste)
1/4 cup mayo
4 kaiser rolls, or other soft rolls
Prepare the marinated carrots. Mix the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the julienned carrots, and microwave on high for about 20 seconds to dissolve the salt and sugar and soften the carrots just a bit. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, but can be made a day in advance.
While the meat rests and the carrots marinate, wash and trim your cilantro, slice your cucumbers, and mix the mayo with the sriracha.
Get a panini press hot (you can also use a regular grill, or a lightly-greased cast iron pan). Shape meat into 4 burgers, with a small, shallow indentation in the middle so the burgers will cook flat. Cook your burgers for about 4 minutes, or until a nice sear appears and burgers are cooked through. If using a grill or pan, cook for about 3 minutes over medium-high heat, or until meat appears cooked halfway up and a nice carmelization has happened. Flip, and cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until fully cooked.
Set patties aside to rest, and cover with foil to keep warm. Toast the buns, spread both sides with the sriracha mayo, a little over 1 TB per bun. Add cilantro to the top half. Drain the carrots and pat dry with a paper towel; lay down some carrots on the bottom of the bun, and top with 2 slices of cucumber. Add the patties and serve!