May is National Hamburger Month – as if we need an excuse to celebrate the iconic American favorite.
Though the term “hamburger” comes from the German city Hamburg, the first documented burger made the scene at New York’s Delmonico’s in 1826. Since then, the juicy meat-and-bun concoction has evolved, like America itself, as a melting pot for creative chefs to add their spin. We headed out around New York City to see how chefs are incorporating international flavors into this classic.
At Manhattan’s Molyvos, chef Jim Botsacos makes the Arnisio Bifteki, or lamb and eggs (recipe below). Botsacos takes fresh lamb shoulder and grinds it with garlic, parsley, a little dried Turkish chili pepper and onions for this Greek burger. The chef places the patty on a garlic bun and adds Greek Vlahotiri, a firm sheep’s milk cheese that resembles gouda. He tops it off with an over-easy egg that runs like a sauce when you bite into the burger.
“I love burgers and this one screams Mediterranean flavors,” says Botsacos.
Julian Medina’s 24-hour Latin diner Coppelia stays true to its comfort food menu with the Frita Cubana. The burger consists of sirloin, skirt steak and short rib all mixed together to give it the true meatiness that Latin American cuisine is known for, and it’s topped with fluffy chicharrones, shreds of roasted pork, tangy pickles and a layer of Swiss cheese.
Chef Hong Thaimee of Ngam uses the burger as a vehicle for sharing distinct flavors from her childhood in Thailand.
The Thai model-cum-chef mixes her homemade curry paste with ground beef, to give it the flavors of Chiang Mai sausage, a traditional dish from her homeland. She tops the burger (recipe below) with a cilantro-lime mayonnaise, green papaya kraut and adds her version of fries, made from kabocha squash and sweet potatoes dipped in coconut-curry batter and then deep-fried.
Singapore native Larry Reutens has added a Malaysian-style burger to his exotic menu at Masak. This patty comes with a sauce made with coconut and flavored with kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and chilies. Reutens tops his creations with a chili-shallot spread, a fried egg and a slice of Vermont cheddar for domestic flavor. Of course, the ginger-scallion fries bring it back to Indonesian territory.
“Top Chef” alum Angelo Sosa’s Social Eatz does a Korean-style take with the bibimbap burger. It riffs on the traditional bibimbap bowl that comes with rice, an assortment of pickled vegetables, an egg over easy, chili paste and grilled meat, usually beef or pork. Sosa adds a slow-cooked egg and slivers of Korean pickles to his juicy patty.
There’s no wrong way to eat a burger! Try the recipes below to give your taste buds a trip around the world. Tell us, what international flavors do you like to add to your burger?
Jim Botsacos’ Arnisio Bifteki
Makes 4 8-ounce patties
- 24 ounces lamb shoulder, cubed
- 8 ½ ounces beef chuck, cubed
- ¾ tsp fresh garlic, chopped
- 3 Tbs parsley, chopped fine
- 1 ½ tsp dry Greek oregano
- ¾ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp Aleppo pepper
- 4 Tbs Spanish onions, diced, cooked, and squeezed
- 4 Tbs kosher salt
- 4 hamburger buns
- 1 cup cumin tomato sauce (see recipe below)
- 4 eggs
- Grated Vlahotiri cheese
- 1 tsp oregano
- ¾ cup olive oil
Take the cubed meat and fold in all the ingredients, right before grinding. Feed through the meat grinder twice. Transfer the ground meat into a chilled stainless steel bowl, and, using your hand, lightly mix the meat until completely incorporated.
Weigh the ground meat into 8-ounce portions and form into a ball with light pressure. Take the a ring mold (about 5 inches in diameter), line the ring mold with plastic wrap, place the ball of meat in the center of the ring mold, fold the plastic wrap over the meat and press down to form a patty. Refrigerate until ready to use.
If cooking on a gas or electric grill preheat the grill to a medium high heat, clean the grill and lightly oil the grill using a cloth that is slightly dampened with vegetable oil. This will prevent the burgers from sticking. If using charcoal, allow the coal to come to a white ash stage. A good test is you should be able to hold your hand over the grill for a count of 5.
When ready to grill, brush the burger with olive oil, season both sides with salt. Place on the grill and cook 3 – 4 minutes on either side until the proper temperature is reached, remove from the grill and top each burger with 2 tablespoons of cumin tomato sauce the top with ¼ cup of grated Vlahotiri cheese and a sprinkle of dried Greek oregano. Melt the cheese.
Meanwhile, cut the hamburger bun, butter and toast them lightly. Add a tablespoon of cumin tomato sauce on each bun, place the burger on the bun and then top each burger with a fried egg, preferably over easy.
Cumin tomato sauce
- 1 32-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 Tbs chopped garlic
- Pinch Aleppo chili
- 2 tsp dried Greek oregano
- ½ tsp cumin
- 1 tsp sugar
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup olive oil
Place the olive oil in a pan, add the garlic and cook until lightly colored, add the Aleppo, oregano, cumin, and a pinch of salt.
Add the tomatoes, raise the heat, cover bring to a boil, if the sauce is too thick add a splash of water, skim off any impurities, add in the sugar and additional salt and pepper as needed, cook for 15 minutes
Hong Thaimee’s Thai Burger
Makes 4 burgers
Shopping note: You can find Thai ingredients at most Asian supermarkets.
- 3 lbs ground beef
- 1 tbsp black soy sauce, like Dragonfly
- 2 tbsp Thai fish sauce, like Tiparos
- 9 whole Thai red chili, dried, de-seeded and soaked in water
- 1/2 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp kaffir lime leaves
- ¼ cup lemongrass, sliced
- ¼ cup garlic
- ¼ cup shallots, roughly chopped
- 2 tsp turmeric, peeled and chopped
- 4 brioche buns
- 1 ripe garden tomato, sliced
- Cilantro-lime mayonnaise (see recipe below)
- Papaya kraut (see recipe below)
Soak dried Thai red chilis in water for 10 minutes or until softened.
Mix all ingredients together, except for ground beef, and pulse in food processor for around 3 minutes or until it forms into a paste.
Combine paste with ground beef in a large bowl, put on a pair of plastic gloves and knead together with hands until well incorporated.
Once finished, divide mixture into 4 balls and flatten into patties with the heel of your hand. Place patties in the fridge and let marinate for at least two hours, preferably overnight.
Once ready to grill, remove patties from the fridge and let sit at room temperature for a few minutes to ensure even cooking later.
Heat grill, or if indoors fire up stove to medium-high and use a cast-iron skillet.
Place burger patties on the grill, or oiled skillet, and cover with a lid to keep the meat moist.
Once the burger is done to your liking, grill buns and assemble with cilantro-lime mayonnaise, sliced garden tomato and papaya kraut.
Note: Instead of making the mayonnaise base yourself, you can use 1 cup of store-bought mayonnaise in place of the egg yolks and oil.
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 cup canola oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 2 tbsp cilantro, finely minced
- 1 zest of lime
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
Carefully separate egg whites from yolks and pour yolks into standing mixer bowl.
Beat eggs on highest setting for 2 minutes until it turns a light yellow color.
While mixer is running, slowly add oil, about half teaspoon at a time. Be careful to not add too much oil too quickly because the oil and egg will separate, giving it the appearance of scrambled eggs.
Once the mayonnaise looks fluffy and glossy, remove from standing mixer and fold in the rest of the ingredients.
- ½ cup tamarind concentrate
- ½ cup fish sauce
- ½ cup palm sugar
- 1 ½ cup shredded green papaya
Stir together tamarind concentrate, fish sauce and palm sugar in a pot over medium-high heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Take the pot off the heat and let cool in an ice bath for about 5 minutes.
Once liquid is at room temperature, add shredded papaya and mix together
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