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Hambagu (Japanese-Style Hamburger with Tangy Sauce)

A recipe for Hambagu (Japanese-Style Hamburger with Tangy Sauce) from the cookbook, Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking.
Course Main
Cuisine Japanese
Keyword asia, asian, beef, hamburger, Japan, Japanese, meat, teriyaki
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 Servings


Tare no Teriyaki (Teriyaki Sauce), Makes 1 1/2 cups, only need 1 cup:

  • 1/2 cup Japanese soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin sweet rice wine
  • 1/2 cup sake Japanese rice wine
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped yellow onion
  • 5 thin round slices peeled ginger
  • 2 medium garlic cloves smashed and peeled


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion very finely diced
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 pound ground beef preferably 80% lean
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • White pepper to taste
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil plus extra for your hands
  • 1 cup teriyaki sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard


To make the teriyaki sauce:

  • Combine the ingredients in a small pot, bring to a boil over high heat, and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for about
    8 minutes so the aromatics have a chance to infuse their flavor into the liquid. Strain, discarding the solids.
  • The sauce keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

To make the Hambagu:

  • Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter, and let it melt. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and light brown at the edges, about 8 minutes. Let the onions cool. Meanwhile, combine the panko and milk in a medium bowl, stir to moisten the crumbs, and let it sit for 5 minutes or so.
  • Add the onions, panko mixture, beef, salt, nutmeg, and white pepper to the bowl with the panko mixture and mix firmly with your hands until the ingredients are well distributed and the mixture is slightly sticky to the touch, about 1 minute. Add the egg and mix again, about 30 seconds more.
  • Using lightly oiled hands, grab about a quarter of the meat mixture and firmly toss it back and forth between your hands for about 1 minute, or 30 seconds if you’re quick. (The goal—unlike that of most Western hamburger makers—is to get rid of most of the air hiding out in the patties.) Form 4 patties of more or less equal size (about 4 1⁄2 inches in diameter and 1⁄2 inch thick). Use your fingers to make a gently sloping dent in the center of each patty; this way, they won’t puff too much during cooking.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke. Add the patties, leaving a little space between each one, and cook until the undersides are deep golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, flip over the patties, and cook until the undersides are browned, about 3 minutes more.
  • Meanwhile, stir together the teriyaki sauce, ketchup, and mustard in a small bowl and add the mixture to the skillet. Let the sauce come to a gentle simmer and cook, flipping the patties occasionally, until they are cooked to medium or medium well, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve right away.