Ever since Stephen returned from Japan, I’ve been hearing about MOS burgers (mosu baagaa!). He claims that it is THE PERFECT BURGER. Like, not just the perfect fast food burger, but like the most satisfying burger he has ever had. If you have discussed Japan at all with Stephen since his return, you have probably heard about them. We were talking about Japan just yesterday and, of course, they came up two sentences into a serious conversation about jobs and the future:
Stephen: We could consider going to Japan to teach, if I can’t find a job here.
Sara: That would be pretty cool, especially if the job market stays so crappy here in the States. It would be nice to do some more traveling.
Stephen: Yeah. Plus we could get MOS burgers!
If, like me, you have not been to Japan and experienced these miraculous little burgers, you may be wondering what in the world a MOS burger is, besides perfect. As I’ve learned through much internet research and grilling of Stephen, a MOS burger has several qualities that set it apart from your standard burger.
1) It has a patty made of beef and pork, that Stephen describes as moist and somehow light, set atop a cute little bun which he also describes as light.
2) It is topped with some sort of mysteriously delicious, chili like “meeto sosu” (meat sauce), as well as a huge, thick tomato slice, very finely chopped onion, mustard, and mayonnaise.
Having heard this description recounted with such enthusiasm for 2 years, I finally decided today that it was time to see if I couldn’t get a taste of one myself. As traveling to Japan to satisfy this craving is unfortunately not an option, I was left to troll the internet and Stephen’s mental archives for some semblance of a DIY MOS burger recipe, but found that such a thing did not really exist in a usable form (yet!). The MOS website confirmed that the patty is indeed a mix of beef and pork, and provided the handy diagram above (which required Stephen’s Kana Can Be Easy book to decipher) to explain how to assemble a MOS burger, but there aren’t really any make-it-at-home recipes available.
Most of the ingredients are easy enough to hack– get yourself the best little buns you can (Stephen thinks a small brioche bun, between slider and regular size, might be ideal, although we had no such options tonight and settled for grocery store burger buns), dice some onions very finely, get some mayonnaise and yellow mustard, and make a smallish patty from ground beef and pork. The tricky part, it turns out, is the meaty chili sauce–all I could find on the internet was that it was a mildly spicy, sweet tomato-based meat sauce that contained miso. So we improvised, including the requisite onions, meat, tomatoes, and miso, and then added chile powder and appley-sweet Tonkatsu sauce (Japanese pork cutlet sauce, available from asian markets and well-stocked grocery stores) until it tasted about right to Stephen. I thought that it was really delicious atop these burgers–kind of like a really jazzed-up ketchup. Stephen says that if he had one of our burgers and a real MOS burger in front of him, he would still choose the MOS burger. But since we are, for the foreseeable future, in Oregon…these seriously hit the spot for Stephen. And for the MOS burger virgin? I can only say that for me, it hit spots I didn’t even know I had.
2 smallish hamburger buns
1/4 lb pork
1/2 lb beef
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1 T vegetable oil
3/4 cup crushed tomatoes in puree
about 1 T chile powder (depending on what kind you use, and your taste for spiciness)
3 T Tonkatsu sauce
1 T Japanese light yellow miso
The best tomato you can find, thickly sliced
Begin by finely dicing the onions. I do this by slicing the top off the onion, peeling it, and then cutting a grid of really small cuts half way down the onion without cutting through to the roots. When you’ve done this horizontally and then vertically, you can turn the onion on its side and slice cross-sections off, leaving you with perfect tiny little cubes.
Next, begin heating your grill or griddle to 350 degrees to cook the burgers. Form 2 small, half-beef, half-pork patties, using about an 1/8 lb of each to create two 1/4 lb burgers. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside until griddle is hot.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat 1 T vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add about 1/4 cup diced onions to the pan and cook for a few minutes, until softened but not brown. Add a small handful (about 1/2 cup) of the ground beef to the pan, and brown, breaking up clumps as small as you can. When meat is cooked, add the 3/4 cup of crushed tomatoes, and about a teaspoon of chile powder, to start. Stir, then add in 3 T of Tonkatsu sauce and the miso. Continue stirring and cooking until sauce has reduced to a thick, chili-like texture. Add more chile powder or Tonkatsu sauce if you want it spicier or sweeter, or if it’s tasting too tomato-y (may depend on the tomatoes you use).
Keep the sauce warm on the stove top while you cook the burgers on the preheated grill or griddle. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness, and cook burgers to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees. While they are cooking, cut your tomato into 2 thick slices.
Now it is time to assemble the burgers. Stephen says it’s all about the order of assembly, which goes as follows: Bottom bun, very light smear of mustard, patty, light layer of mayonnaise, small pile of diced onions, chili sauce, thick tomato slice, top bun. Serve immediately and enjoy!