If food trucks have become test kitchens for culinary entrepreneurs with tight budgets and a wealth of ideas, Keizo Shimamoto receives high scores with the success of his Original Ramen Burger.
"When my brother Keizo left his cushy finance job to study ramen in Japan, everyone followed his story," Jeff Shimamoto, owner of The Original Ramen Burger brick-and-mortar in Los Angeles, said about the ramen burger boom. "It was every food lover's dream; to drop everything and follow your passion."
It's approaching two years since Keizo launched his idea for a modern mash-up of Japanese and American fast food in the U.S. The ramen burger is still going strong on the menu at three New York locations, including Shimamoto’s own Ramen.Co, and at the brick-and-mortar that opened in Los Angeles’s Koreatown late last year.
According to the menu, the Original Ramen Burger is fresh ramen noodle buns, baby arugula, Angus beef patty, secret shoyu glaze, and green onions. "The bun making technique is a closely guarded secret, as is the sauce, which makes it the Original Ramen Burger," said Jeff.
But not to worry if you're freezing in a Milwaukee outpost, far from Shimamoto's burgers. As long as you can get your hands on some ramen and ground chuck, you can enjoy this unusual hybrid and make it your own.
Tonkotsu-style Ramen Burger
Makes 2 burgers
(The Original Ramen Burger uses fresh noodles, but a dried noodle method is included since the dried variety is easier to find.)
Fresh Ramen Method
- 4 packets fresh ramen
- 4 tsp peanut oil
Dried Ramen Method
- 2 packs dried ramen
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp peanut oil
You may prep each noodle square separately to keep them evenly divided, but eyeballing it works as well. Marinate your egg (see below) while you set your noodle buns in the fridge. Both take an hour.
Fresh Ramen Method: Quick-rinse noodles under cool water. Mold into buns by gently packing each into oiled ramekins or another similarly-shaped container. Set in refrigerator for 1 hour. Carefully remove from ramekins and steam noodle buns for about five minutes. Lightly brush both sides of the noodle bun with oil and flash sear on a hot frying pan. Work quickly to avoid sticking and use more oil if you have to. (Note: too much oil will degrade the bun into a sponge resembling polenta.)
Dried Ramen Method: Cook noodles in boiling water for about 1 minute. Immediately strain and rinse with cool water. Transfer the noodles to a medium bowl. Lightly beat egg and toss with noodles. Mold into buns by evenly packing each serving into ramekins or another similarly-shaped container. Set in refrigerator for 1 hour. Heat 1 tbsp of peanut oil on frying pan and fry bun until light brown. Refresh oil in pan if necessary and repeat on other side. (Note: sacrilege aside, I preferred the dried ramen because it made for a firmer, stabler bun that could contend with the patty.)
- 1 heaping tbsp miso paste
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- granulated garlic
In a small bowl, whisk miso paste, rice vinegar, mirin, ginger, sesame oil, and garlic. Set aside until ready to use.
- ½ lb 80/20 ground beef
In a medium bowl, season ground beef with salt and pepper to taste. Form into four patties and cook on grill pan or grill to preference.
- ½ cup soybean sprouts
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 1 stalk scallion
- 2 pieces thin-sliced black pork belly
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup shoyu
- In a medium bowl, toss sprouts, sesame oil, and salt. Set aside until ready to use.
- Grease skillet and fry pork belly until crisp on each side and set aside on paper towel to drain.
- Thinly slice green part of scallion.
- Boil eggs. Peel and place in small container with shoyu. Do this the night before to let them marinate, if possible. If not, even 30 minutes to an hour will do. Roll the eggs in the shoyu to coat evenly.
Preparation: Stack bun and meat. Smear miso sauce directly on burger patty, and top with pork belly, scallions, and seasoned sprouts.
Tip: Jeff Shimamoto says the Spicy Ramen Burger, which uses La Sriracha Macha, topped with a fried egg is a popular choice at The Original Ramen Burger. Why not?