If the term “rice burger” doesn’t excite you, I understand completely. Best case scenario: It suggests a particularly bland veggie burger; worst, a Depression-era patty of beef stretched with rice. Actually, though, it’s neither. The rice burger was introduced in 1987 by MOS Burger, Japan’s second-largest burger chain, and to finally get to the point, the bun is made of rice. Not rice flour, but a pressed cake of cooked white rice.
Now, to come clean, I’ve never been to MOS Burger. I did, however, come across a photo of their rice burger online, and for some reason a beef patty between two rice discs called to me. I wanted to talk to someone who’d eaten the thing. First I contacted Yukari Sakamoto, food columnist for Metropolis magazine in Tokyo. “Would never order it again,” she said. “It is too much starch.”
This failed to dissuade me, so I asked my friend Rob Ketcherside, a software engineer based in Tokyo, about it. “My tastes aren’t particularly refined,” he admitted. Bingo! “I used to really like the hayashi rice burger,” (Hayashi being a thick beef stew.) Alas, that isn’t on the MOS menu at the moment, so Ketcherside then described the vegetarian Gomoku Kinpira burger, a stir-fry of burdock root, lotus root, carrots, black sesame seeds, and konnyaku, tucked into a pair of rice buns with a sheet of nori. Don’t you think this sounds ten times better than any veggie burger you’ve ever had? I do too.
If you don’t have a MOS Burger outlet on your block (they’re also in a few other Asian countries), you can make a rice burger at home. Mix cold cooked medium-grain (Calrose) rice with beaten egg and a bit of cornstarch. Form into patties and broil on both sides. Let cool slightly before filling with the burger of your choice.
“Visitors to Japan always make a big deal about McDonald’s teriyaki burgers,” said Ketcherside, “but those are a shallow response to what MOS Burger offers.”
To see a gallery of MOS Burgers, including Gomoku Kinpira, eel, shrimp, and other rice burgers, visit their Singapore site.