The Japan-Meets-Midwest Burger With Serious Crunch

Amy Thielen makes a brilliant spin on Japanese tonkatsu by frying burger patties breaded with panko and pretzels

When cookbook author, Midwestern food sage, and Saveur contributor Amy Thielen gets nostalgic for the Japanese restaurants she used to frequent as a city-dweller, her go-to home recipe is a variation on tonkatsu. The dish of breaded, fried pork cutlets is classic comfort food in Japan; here Thielen adapts the technique for America's own quintessential comfort food: burgers. And she adds a secret ingredient to the panko breading—crushed pretzels—for a recipe that screams "I live 200 miles away from a Japanese restaurant" in the best possible way.

The burgers get seasoned and dipped in egg before getting coated in the breading, then shallow-fry in hot oil. Because of that oil, the patties cook much faster than typical burgers, so expect them to keep cooking for a few minutes after you remove them from the pan. To lighten the dish up, do like Thielen and make a Japanese-inspired Swiss chard salad with leaves pounded in a mortar dressed with a sesame dipping sauce. Serve it all with a modified tonkatsu sauce made with browned butter, ketchup, ginger, and sake. No bun required.

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