Hamburg steak! That’s the real name friends! For someone who’s taught English as a second language in Japan, “hamburg” is one of those Janglish words you spend a lot of time correcting (“So if it’s in a bun, it’s a hamburger, but if there’s no bun, it’s a hamburger patty!” – me). It took a while before I learned that Hamburg Steak is the actual name for an all-beef patty served with gravy. However the Japanese hanbaagu is actually closer to the Salisbury steak, and need not contain only beef. Our version contains no beef at all, and in fact works better with ground pork or chicken, which are a better match for the tofu’s neutral flavour.
The secret ingredient in this Japanese recipe is fu, or wheat gluten. It’s commonly sold in the form of small, baked and dried bread-like slices, and is used in soup and sukiyaki. Fu can also be found in raw form, and is used in Buddhist vegetarian cuisine, as well as in desserts. In this recipe, fu is responsible for the soft and creamy texture of the patties, and also acts as a binding agent. If you can’t find any, feel free to experiment with replacements or simply omit it, but be warned: the texture won’t be the same!
In the recipe below we topped the patties with grated daikon and ponzu. It also tastes great with teriyaki sauce, and the stronger taste is better suited for bentos! If making the teriyaki version, just add the sauce when the patties have cooked through, and simmer until glazed.
Tofu-Pork Hamburg Steak
- 300 g firm tofu
- 200 g ground pork
- 20 g fu
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp potato starch
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- ½ tsp salt
- 5 stalks scallions
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 200 g daikon grated
- ponzu to taste
- Drain the water from the tofu package and set tofu aside on a dish or in a strainer for 10 minutes to drain out some of the excess moisture (no need to press, squeeze or wrap it). Put the fu pieces in a plastic baggie and use a pestle or something hard to crush the pieces into a powder. Chop the scallions.
- In a large bowl, combine the tofu and fu, then add the rest of the ingredients (except the vegetable oil). Mix well.
- Make 4-6 patties (or more, if you want small ones). Heat up the vegetable oil in a frying pan and add the patties, cooking until the underside has browned.
- Flip the patties and cover, cooking over medium-low for another 6 to 7 minutes, or until cooked through. (If you were making the teriyaki version, now would be the time to add the sauce, and simmer until glazed.)
- Serve with grated daikon and ponzu to taste.