kitchen firsts: korean gochujang bbq burgers
This week, despite the totally un-May, un-barbecue weather around here, we decided we were in the mood for some burgers. We found some super cute slider buns at the store, so although I intended to go for a Korean inspired burger that would certainly not qualify as a traditional “slider” (which I gather has a specific composition and way of cooking that shouldn’t be confused with any old miniaturized burger) we decided to go ahead with the mini burgers idea and whip up some awesome Korean condiments to match.
I don’t recall ever making mini burgers or sliders before, but calling that a kitchen first would kind of be pushing it as far as I’m concerned, so the kitchen first this week is either the idea of making a barbecue sauce (albeit a non-traditional one) or the use of a new (and amazing) korean condiment in the making of said sauce; either way, it was new and delicious. The stuff in question is gochujang sauce, which is essentially a Korean fermented chili sauce that is savory, spicy, and sweet all at the same time. When I first tasted it there was a lightbulb moment where I realized that this sauce is what I have been missing when I try to recreate yummy Korean food at home– it has some kind of umami craziness about it that makes a really tasty addition to just about anything, but it doesn’t have any sketchy things in it like MSG (or crack) even though it tastes like it must. Plus, you can usually track the stuff down at regular well-stocked grocery stores (if not, most certainly at an asian market). Making a bbq sauce from it is very simple but will elevate the flavor of your burger to a new level. We slathered the patties with the sauce prior to cooking and then completed the burger experience with the addition of gochujang mayo, lettuce, sliced cucumbers, kimchi, onions, and a final slather of some more of the barbecue sauce. Incidentally, this sauce is also delicious on pork or chicken and would be amazing on something like pulled pork sandwiches or shredded chicken tacos, so pleeeease, even if you are afraid of spicy things (it really isn’t very spicy), or afraid of Korean food, or afraid of sesame oil, give this a try– I think you will find it subtly spicy, sweet, and savory in a way other barbecue sauces cannot match!
Korean BBQ Burgers
Makes 4 mini burgers or 2 regular burgers
2/3 lb ground sirloin (you could use more or less depending on how large of a burger you want)
1/4 cup minced onions
Salt and pepper
4 slider buns or 2 regular buns
gochujang bbq sauce (see recipe below)
gochujang mayo (combine a few T of mayo with gochujang, to taste)
kim chi of your choice (we like the kind made with daikon, but any kind you like would be perfect!)
In a small bowl, mix minced onion into the sirloin and season generously with salt and pepper. Form into patties, either 4 slider sized ones or two larger ones, and brush with korean barbecue sauce (alternately, you could mix some of the barbecue sauce directly into the meat before shaping into patties, but we liked the way the coating of sauce sort of caramelized on the surface of the burgers in the pan). Grill or griddle the burgers in a small amount of butter or oil, and remove when cooked to your liking.
Toast your buns (if you like), then slather the bottom bun of each burger with a little bit of gochujang mayo. Add a piece of lettuce, then top with the burger patty. Instead of ketchup, give your burger another good slather of the gochujang bbq sauce, then garnish with sliced cucumbers, onions, and kimchi. Serve immediately!
Korean BBQ Sauce
Adapted from Steamy Kitchen
Makes about 1/2 cup
2 T go chu jang
2 T soy sauce
2 T sugar
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornstarch
Combine gochujang, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil in a small bowl. Add sugar and cornstarch and whisk until dissolved. You can store the sauce in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it, or slather it on right away! And to reiterate, if you have extra sauce it would be amazing with pulled pork, on shredded chicken for tacos, or just on a grilled chicken breast. If you need it thicker for some kind of preparation you can always add a bit more cornstarch. Enjoy!
Note: be careful to avoid contaminating your bowl of bbq sauce with raw meat juice when you add it to the uncooked patties– I accidentally threw my meaty spoon back into the bowl of sauce after poking around at the raw patties with it and then I was nervous about using the sauce on the cooked burgers so I had to make some more!