Japanese Hamburger: Hambaagu or Hamburg?

It’s day three of the 2012 London Olympics and I’m slightly at a loss for words. Perhaps it’s exhaustion from our busy weekend (which I will happily share in a separate post), or because our DVR wasn’t working Sunday night when I couldn’t stay up to watch swimming, or perhaps I’m feeling a bit off because my left knee is having unusual joint issues. Instead of my weekly gym date with my BFF Monday night, I opted to be a couch potato, rest my uncooperative knee, watch the Olympics and look through my inventory of un-posted, yet not forgotten food photos.

It’s been a while since I shared a favorite childhood dish so I am sharing my Mom’s Japanese hambaagu (that’s Jenglish for hamburger). Japanese hambaagu is a classic Japanese family dish. I’m certain that every (non-vegetarian) kid in Japan has eaten hambaagu at one time or another. It’s one of those dishes you find on the menu of every family restaurant or kissaten (cafe) in Japan, or a Japanese-American home in the U.S.

Oh, and just a sidebar, but if you go to a Japanese restaurant in the U.S. and they have “hamburg” on the menu. It’s not misspelled. It’s another term for referring to Japanese “hambaagu”. Gotta love Jenglish!

The only difference from the hambaagu recipe posted below and the one my Mom used to make for us is that I use ground turkey meat, instead of ground beef, and I let the hambaagu steam just a little. Japanese hambaagu is a Japanese version of an American hamburger, yet without the bun, mayo and vegetables. A more accurate translation of the Japanese hambaagu, is meatloaf. Yes, I think hambaagu is more like individual meatloaf patties.

My Mom serves hambaagu with gohan (rice), miso shiru (miso soup), a cooked vegetable such as broccoli or cauliflower, and a salad. For our hambaagu sauce, we usually made it ourself, which was a mixture of our preferred amount of ketchup and okonomiyaki sauce or tonkatsu sauce. My Dad prefers his hambaagu with black pepper and mayonnaise. He likes to keep things real!

Mom’s Hambaagu

for the patty:

  • 1/2 small onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 slice bread (I use “shokupan” – Japanese sandwich bread)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Salt and pepper
for the sauce:
  • 1/4 cup okonomiyaki sauce (or tonkatsu sauce)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons ketchup

1. In a medium bowl combine all ingredients for the hambaagu patty. Using your hands, mix until well-incorporated.

2. Make patties about 3/4 inch thick and 2 to 3 inches in diameter.

3. Heat olive oil on medium-high heat in a large pan with lid. Cook patties for about 5 minutes on each side. Pour a little water into the pan, just enough to cover the pan, and close with lid to steam the patty (about 2 minutes) until the water evaporates.

4. Mix sauce ingredients and serve, or use ketchup, soy sauce or other condiment of choice.

Corned Beef Hash & Summerpalooza

Our summer is heating up with activities very quickly. This weekend Bebe E starts a soccer for tots class and Bebe E just finished up basketball for tots. We also started obon odori practice, which is a Japanese dance for the summer obon festivals. (Click here for my post on obon and okinawa dango, a Japanese sweet donut). Bebe E loved her first dance practice and especially the popsicle that was offered during break!

This week, Bebe E is swimming up to three times at a new swim school.  The time we need to get ready, drive to school, take our lesson, change and head back home for me to prepare lunch, essentially takes up half our day. After lunch we usually do arts and crafts, and Bebe E is happily making great use of a new little easel that we picked up. Afterwards, we have story time with a few favorite books from her collection or borrowed from the library, and then it’s nap time.

Oh nap time.  How I love nap time, but not because I get to sleep too. Ok, ok, I confess once in a while I have been known to catch a few zzz’s out of sheer exhaustion…

What I enjoy about nap time is that it’s the best time for me to knock off a few chores, prep a few items for dinner, and have a moment of quiet time. I used to blog during her nap time, but recently I’ve been slowly working on my new website and for the next few weeks I’ll be folding “tsuru” or Japanese origami cranes.

A very dear friend of mine is getting married very soon and I am helping to fold some of the 1,001 cranes that she needs to make her “senbazuru” (one thousand crane) wedding art display. So far, I’ve folded cranes for a number of girlfriends that got married, but I probably made the most cranes for our own wedding, specifically hundreds for our senbazuru wedding art display. It now hangs in our home, and when I look at it, I am reminded of our wedding and my family and friends that helped to make it.

Now, I am fortunate to give back and help a dear friend as an honored bridesmaid. Bebe E has been asking if she could do origami with the gold paper too, but that probably wouldn’t be a good idea. The paper is very small about 2″ x 2″ and the folded cranes are tiny. I gave her some colored origami to play with but she says it’s not the same. Since then, when she sees me folding cranes, she says, “AGAIN, mommy? How come you folding those AGAIN?” I just laugh. One of these days I need to share an origami blog post. For now, I share with you what the folded cranes look like in the photo below. They are about 3/4 ” tall and less than 1/2″ wide. Their wings are not down and their heads are not folded, but those are details that the “crane lady” will take care of. She is the master craftsperson who will arrange all 1,001 cranes into an artfully crafted display. I can’t wait to see my friend’s senbazuru display on her wedding day!

So what does corned beef hash have to do with folding cranes? Absolutely nothing. I bought corned beef on sale a while back and decided to make a late St. Paddy’s day corned beef meal and I used the leftovers to make a hash for brunch.

While I occasionally enjoy ordering corned beef hash when I dine out, I’m always skeptical about ordering this, and I’m always careful to ask whether the corned beef is homemade. I will now confess that when I was pregnant, I often had cravings for corned beef hash and I was so desperate for it that I often asked my husband to buy me canned corned beef hash. I was bed ridden, so at least I made it more convenient for my husband rather than demand that he make it from scratch?!? Not to worry, Bebe E, despite my cravings I only ate this once in a while during your 9-month gestation.

This corned beef hash is very easy to make, especially when you’ve got leftover corned beef available (click here for my recipe).

Corned Beef Hash

  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3 cups chopped corned beef
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 large green bell pepper, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock (original recipe calls for heavy cream)
  • 1 tablespoon Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

1. Boil potatoes in salted water until tender.

2. In a frying pan, sautee onions and bell pepper in olive oil until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add potatoes and let them brown for about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, simmer for about 1 minute. (Original recipe calls for heavy cream but it seemed to rich so I opted to use chicken stock.)

4. Add chopped corned beef, thyme and flat leaf parsley and cook for about 3 – 5 minutes.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com

Pictured above is Bebe E’s “hand art” that she created all by herself using her new easel and paints. I was cleaning up the kitchen when I noticed she was repeatedly running back and forth from her easel to the bathroom. I asked her what she was doing, and she would simply reply, “washing my hands, mommy”. No harm in that, right? She later called me over to show me what she made and I was surprised to see her beautiful artwork. I realized that every time she painted her hand a different color she would wash it out to use new colors. What can I say, I am a very proud mommy!

What’s next? Aside from our summerpalooza activities, we’ve got a trip to San Diego Zoo planned, a few birthday parties, a couple of Obon festivals, and a possible trip to Lego Land and the Aquarium as well. As we immerse ourselves in summer time activities, I would like to encourage readers to consider becoming a fan of my Facebook page, Bebe Love Okazu. Here, I will be sharing some of our summer time bento dishes and a few other food related tidbits and family activities that I might not have time to upload on my blog, until much later. As in, possibly after my new website is done, until the cranes are folded, until my bridesmaid duties are completed and my good friend is happily married. :)

Happy 4th of July!


Chinois Chicken Salad

There are a handful of signature salads that I enjoy eating when I dine out, and the Chinois chicken salad is one such salad. A few years ago, I met my BFF (best friend forever), aka, Auntie S, at Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois Cafe in South Coast Plaza. She shared with me that she really enjoys their chicken salad so I decided to give it a try. I’m a huge fan of Asian inspired chicken salad, but I am p-i-c-k-y! There are very few Asian chicken salads that I love, yet, I found myself really enjoying this. I was hooked!

The Chinois chicken salad is a mix of napa cabbage and romaine lettuce, mixed with a generous helping of cilantro and tossed with tiny crispy wonton strips, toasted sesame seeds, scallions and thinly julienned snow peas. My favorite aspect of this salad is the savory, slightly tart vinaigrette with it’s hint of mustard spice. It differs from my favorite chinese chicken salad recipe in that it appeals more to my savory palette. The chinese chicken salad recipe I often enjoy at home is sweeter, and this savory mustard vinaigrette was a refreshing change of pace.

A few months ago, Bebe E, Auntie S and I, found ourselves once again at South Coast Plaza for a girls’ day out. We quickly decided to revisit Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois Cafe and we both ordered the chicken salad. When we were almost done with our salads, I turned to Auntie S, and said what I hate saying when we’re dining out: “I bet we could make this at home.” That night, I was lucky to find this salad recipe on Wolfgang Puck’s website (thank you, Chef Puck!), and soon enough we made plans to have dinner at our house for Chinois chicken salad night.

Now, THAT was a good night. :)

We planned our chicken salad night on our regularly scheduled gym night. The BFF and I have a standing gym date where we spend 50% of our time working out and 50% of our time doing what best girlfriends do best… catch-up on our week, check-in on our families, laugh about silly stuff, complain about anything that we need to vent about, and in general make the most of our girl time. Instead of half-an-hour on the treadmill and a few weight machines, we hung out at home, ate chicken salad for dinner and Beard Papa cream puffs for dessert. It was indeed a good night.

Chinois Chicken Salad

(serves four)

for mustard vinaigrette dressing:

  • 4 teaspoons dry Chinese mustard powder
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons sesame oil (or light sesame oil)
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil (or peanut oil)
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
for salad:
  • 4 cups shredded roast chicken
  • 1 medium head napa cabbage, 1/4 inch julienne strips
  • 2 cups romaine lettuce, 1/4 inch julienne strips
  • 20 snow peas, 1/4 inch julienne strips
  • 6 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 scallion, finely sliced (optional)
  • Fried wonton strips (optional)

1. Make vinaigrette. In a re-sealable jar or plastic container with secure lid, combine all ingredients for the vinaigrette and shake vigorously until the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Alternatively, use a blender to mix the ingredients until smooth, adding the oil last. Add salt and pepper to adjust taste as needed.

2. Make salad. Julienne napa cabbage, romain lettuce, and raw snow peas. Combine vegetables with shredded chicken. Pour vinaigrette over salad and toss until well-coated. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, scallions and wonton strips.

3. Optional Wonton Strips. Using 8 – 10 wonton wrappers, thinly slice them into 1/4 inch wide x 1 inch tall pieces. In hot canola oil, fry wonton strips for up to 60 seconds until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Recipe adapted from Wolfgang Puck.

Thanks Auntie S for a great night and for the delicious Beard Papa cream puffs! We should definitely take a break from our gym night routine and have yet another dinner at home soon!

I hope everyone had a great weekend. We had quite the busy weekend and I’ll look forward to sharing more about it soon.



Turkey Sliders | Burgers

At a Memorial Day BBQ a few years ago, I was asked if I knew the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. While somewhat uncertain of my answer, I replied (with conviction) that Memorial Day was a day to honor military men and women who died while serving their country, whereas Veteran’s Day celebrated living military veterans for their past service to our country.

After being “quizzed” at that BBQ a few years ago, I went home that night and Googled Memorial Day, just to be sure that I had my facts straight about Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. I shared a few of the facts that I learned in my research on my 2010 homemade granola Memorial Day post.

While we enjoyed a nice 3-day Memorial Day weekend spent with family, in the back of my mind I try to remind myself of the significance of the holiday and the importance of remembering those that have fallen in service to our country.

* * * * * * * *

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to share this simple turkey slider recipe that I make regularly, but of course with all that goes on in my life, I never got around to it. Our BBQ on Monday reminded me to post this recipe, as I made a variation of my usual turkey sliders in regular hamburger size.

My recipe for turkey sliders / burgers is very similar to my Mom’s Japanese “hambaagu” (hamburger) recipe, which I will get around to sharing one of these days. :)

Turkey Sliders | Burgers

makes approximately 12 – 14 sliders or 6 burgers

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 – 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt*
  • Dash of black pepper*
  • Olive oil, if pan frying instead of grilling
  • King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls
  • Greens: arugula, spinach, or romain lettuce
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Cheese of your choice, optional (I use smoked gouda)
  • Condiments of your choice: mayo, mustard, ketchup, BBQ sauce, A-1 sauce, sweet relish

* Variation #1 for 2012 Memorial Day burgers:

    • Replace salt and pepper from original recipe with 1 1/2 teaspoons of McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning
    • 1 small sprig of fresh thyme, leaves only

* Variation #2 for Sliders: Occasionally I will add one of the three to the original recipe:

    1. 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped basil
    2. 1/4 onion, chopped
    3. If I have some leftover vegetables, I will add finely chopped carrots and/or chopped spinach


1. In a large bowl, combine turkey, garlic, egg, panko, salt and pepper and/or additional ingredients from Variations #1 or #2. Using your hands, knead all the ingredients together until incorporated.

2. For turkey sliders, make small 2 – 3 ” diameter patties. For burgers, using a 1/4 cup measuring cup I scoop a heaping cup-full to make the patty. In preparing burger patties for our BBQ, I store them in a sealable tupperware, separating the layers of patties with wax paper.

3. When I make turkey sliders at home, I use a stove top grill pan coated with a drizzle of olive oil. Cook the sliders on each side for about 5 – 7 minutes.

Cooking Tip: When I flip the burger over to cook the second side, after about 2 minutes I pour about 2 – 3 tablespoons of water into the grill pan and then cover the pan with a lid to steam the burger. To me, this seems to make the patty more tender and juicy. After cooking for about 2 minutes I will add cheese on top of the patties and cover the pan with the lid again to melt the cheese.

Burgers may also be grilled outdoors as we did on Memorial Day.

4. My family loves turkey sliders served on King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls. I split the rolls in half and lightly toast each side on the grill pan. Serve immediately and garnish with greens (baby spinach and arugula are my favorites) and condiments of choice. In our family everyone uses something different. I prefer A-1 steak sauce with a little mayo. My husband likes BBQ sauce with mayo or a traditional combo of mustard, mayo and ketchup, and both Bebe E and Nene like mayo and ketchup.

I hope everyone had a great 3-day weekend and took a moment to honor and remember all of our fallen soldiers.


P.S. – I will post the cookies I made for our BBQ shortly.

Wonton Soup

My husband makes three types of Chinese soup when any of us are sick. One of them is Chinese Winter Melon Soup or tung qwa soup, which I’ve shared in the past, the second is Moqua Soup or Fuzzy Melon Soup (post forthcoming), and the third, which is my absolute favorite, is Wonton Soup.

While it seems seasonally inappropriate to share a hot soup recipe amidst our warmer and sunny Southern California weather, last week when I was feeling quite awful from bronchitis, my husband asked if I would like some soup. I only thought about this for a second before I immediately replied in my hoarse, weak voice, “YES! Please make me wonton soup.” I followed this with my sad face and pleading puppy-dog eyes, “if it’s not too much work…”

When I met my husband, I could tell that his cooking repertoire was somewhat limited and differed from my own. We shall refer to this repertoire as “one or two steps above bachelor dining”. While there is nothing wrong with the following repertoire, this included spaghetti, ground beef burritos, frozen fish sticks, frozen pot pie, frozen french fries, steak, ham, and a very small handful of nearby take-out specialties.

However, my husband surprised me with a few dishes which included (click for recipes) hoisin baby back ribs, sautéed baby bok choy, sautéed gai-lan (Chinese broccoli), wontons, and his three Chinese soups. He is also very good with BBQ. Not surprisingly, he learned these dishes from his parents, namely my mother-in-law. Thank you Yin-Yin for teaching your son these dishes!

Wonton Soup

for wontons:

See recipe post for Chinese Wontons. Instead of frying the wontons, they will be boiled and added to the soup recipe that follows.

for soup: (serves approximately 4)

  • 4 – 6 baby bok choy
  • 1 cup reserved shiitake mushroom liquid (from Chinese Wonton recipe)
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Salt, to taste (optional)
  • Sliced green onions for garnish (optional)

1. Make wontons according to recipe. We usually allot 6 to 8 wontons per one soup serving. The remaining wontons are usually fried, or the wonton meat (with no wrappers) is frozen.

2. In a large stock pot, combine 1 cup reserved shiitake liquid, 8 cups of chicken broth. If you prefer, beef broth may be substituted. Add tablespoon of soy sauce and dash of salt as needed. Bring to a boil.

3. Slice baby bok choy lengthwise in half, and then into large bite-sized pieces, if necessary. Add baby bok choy to the broth and cook until tender.

4. In a separate medium-sized pot, and this MUST be done in a separate pot and not the same pot as the broth, bring water to a boil. Add a handful of wontons and allow these to cook for about 8 to 10 minutes until the pork is cooked through. Because these are bite-sized portions of meat, they cook relatively quickly.

NOTE: The wontons must be cooked in a separate pot from the soup broth because the wonton wrappers are quite starchy and causes the water to become a thick, starchy, icky mess.

5. In a large soup bowl, add 6 to 8 boiled wontons then ladle the soup with baby bok choy over the wontons. Garnish with chopped green onions (optional).

Even though you don’t read my blog, thanks hun for making me my favorite wonton soup, in addition to your two other Chinese soups, taking care of the girls, packing lunch, doing laundry, buying groceries, running out late at night to get me Sucrets and cough syrup, picking up my antibiotics, entertaining Bebe E so I can get some rest, picking up the toys strewn all over the house, making Bebe E breakfast, doing the dishes, cleaning the kitchen and picking up take-out dinner. I understand why, every day, you kept begging me to “PLEASE get better soon”. :) – – – Love, your wife | recovering bronchitis patient.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend!


P.S. – Hideki’s photo of my yaki nasu | grilled Japanese eggplant made it onto FoodGawker! And my chyuka kyuri tsukemono | Chinese style pickled cucumbers made it onto TasteSpotting! Note: If I can figure out how to get a FoodGawker or TasteSpotting icon with link onto my homepage I will stop making these little announcements. Until then, you’ll just have to bear with me as I overcome yet another technology challenge. :)

P.S.S. – Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you stop by my blog. I enjoy hearing from folks!