Super Quick: Japanese-Style Hamburger Steaks

More than 10 years ago, my husband and I spent a year living and working in Japan—before we were married and before we had kids. Many of my fondest memories from this time involve food. Homemade buckwheat soba noodles and steaming bowls of ramen in our favorite local restaurants. Street food, like takoyaki made with octopus and sprinkled with dried fish flakes. Japanese beer and edamame at an izakaya with friends after work. Eating whole fish cooked in an irori at Tsurunoyu Onsen. Onigiri at the summit of Mount Fuji. And so many more…

Cherry blossom viewing season near Mount Iwate

Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) near Mount Iwate in Japan, spring of 2001

One meal in particular from Japan has become one of my staple dinner recipes here in Switzerland: hamburger steaks. This is a good everyday and allergy-friendly meal, and both my kids love it. Plus, it’s quick to make, and the patties and sauce could be prepared ahead of time.


Japanese-Style Hamburger Steaks

Adapted from NHK World’s Dining with the Chef

Serves 2-4

For the hamburger steaks:
About a half pound (1/3 kilogram) of ground beef
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup firm tofu, finely shredded or crumbled*
1/4 cup dairy/egg/nut-free bread crumbs or panko
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
A pinch of salt
A pinch of pepper

For the sauce:
Scant 1/4 cup of sake**
Scant 1/4 cup of mirin
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1. Put all the ingredients for the steaks into a bowl and mix together with your hands. Form into about 5 rounded patties.

2. Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a glass measuring cup or small bowl.

Dairy-Free Switzerland7

3. Heat a skillet to medium-high heat and cook the patties until browned on one side. Flip the patties and brown on the opposite side.

4. Pour in the sauce around the hamburgers and bring to a boil. Spoon the sauce over the burgers while they finish cooking. Serve warm and garnish with grated daikon.


*My Swiss tofu is very dry, so I use a grater to finely shred it for this recipe. In general, use a firm tofu and be sure to drain excess water.

**If you can easily find sake, please use it. However, I’ve substituted white wine and even a light beer, when necessary (Shhh! Don’t tell anyone!).


I need to stop baking cakes and focus on quick, healthy recipes like this one. More to come in my “Super Quick” series, but I’ll likely have some new sweet stuff too…


4 thoughts on “Super Quick: Japanese-Style Hamburger Steaks

  1. Sandy Shaw says:

    Hi Heddi, This sounds good and I will try it! A month ago I went to New York with Lindsey and we ate at A fabulous ramen restaurant. She said that it was a chain in Japan and I really wish one would open in Boston. Sandra

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Holly says:

    Wagamama is good, plus they are fantastic about food allergies. I’ve been to several in the UK and they come over and discuss any food allergies and will cook everything separate to ensure it’s safe. I’m happy to take my peanut allergy son there whenever I go to the UK:

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