Japanese Pretzel Tonkatsu Burger

Japanese Pretzel Tonkatsu Burger
Japanese Pretzel Tonkatsu BurgerMatt Taylor-Gross

Amy Thielen combines her Midwestern roots with a Japanese fast-food favorite for this crunchy burger coated in pretzel and panko breading, fried in peanut oil, and topped off with a sweet-savory sauce made from browned butter, ketchup, sake, and a dash of fresh ginger. Serve it with a cold Swiss chard dish as a side.

Japanese Pretzel Tonkatsu Burger
Japanese comfort food meets the all-American burger.
Yield: serves 4
Time: 1 hour

For the Burger

  • 1 lb. quality (not lean) ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup finely crushed pretzel meal (about 5 oz. packaged pretzels, ground to a powder in a food processor)
  • 34 cup panko (2 1/2 oz.)
  • 12 tsp. salt, plus more for the beef
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups peanut oil for frying

For the Tonkatsu Sauce

  • 2 tbsp. butter (1 oz.)
  • 13 cup ketchup (3 1/2 oz.)
  • 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger (1 1/4 oz.)
  • 2 tbsp. sake (1 oz.)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. To make the tonkatsu sauce: Grate the fresh ginger into a small dish. Squeeze with your fingers to extract 1 tablespoon of liquid ginger juice (or, if you like, squeeze it through a moist paper towel). Heat a small sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the butter. Cook until it browns lightly, about 5 minutes, then add the ketchup. Cook, stirring, until it thickens and loses its raw taste, about 1 minute. Off heat, add the ginger juice, sake, and black pepper to taste and stir to combine. Set aside.
  2. For the tonkatsu: Lightly season the ground beef with salt and black pepper, then shape it into four 4-ounce pucks about 3 ½ inches wide and 1 inch thick. Season both sides with more salt and pepper to taste. Prepare two bowls for breading: one with beaten egg, the second with the mixture of pretzel meal and panko. Season the panko mixture with 12 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Double-bread the patties: drop each burger into egg, and finally drop into the pretzel/panko mixture, pressing gently on the patty to make the coating adhere, and repeat: drop again into the egg and the panko mixture. Set them on a plate.
  3. Pour 12 inch of oil into a heavy cast-iron skillet and preheat over medium-high heat. When the oil registers 350°F on a deep fry thermometer, carefully add the tonkatsu patties, leaving a little room around them. Fry quickly, about 2 minutes per side, until evenly browned and crispy. Blot on a paper towel-lined plate and serve with a ½ cup of marinated greens and a dollop of tonkatsu sauce.