Served with a red wine reduction sauce, this homemade Japanese hamburger steak (Hambagu) recipe is big on flavors. The meat is juicy and melts in your mouth. Perfect in a hot frying pan or summer grill outs!
I still remember vividly how my mom and I spent many evenings making Japanese Hamburger Steak or Hambagu (ハンバーグ). If I was home, she would call me around 4:30 PM and always encouraged my presence in the kitchen. Unless I was in the middle of a novel that I couldn’t stop reading, I didn’t mind helping her out most of the time. That’s how I learned cooking Japanese food from her.
Japanese Hamburger Steak, or we call it Hambāgu (ハンバーグ) or Hambāgu Steak (ハンバーグステーキ), is a popular dish enjoyed both at home and at Yoshoku (Japanese style western food) restaurants. It’s a steak made from ground meat and usually served with rice rather than buns. While researching facts about Hambāgu on Japanese Wiki, I learned that there is an American version of hamburger steak and it’s very similar to a dish called Salisbury Steak, both of which I’ve never tried before.
The common theme for all these hamburger steaks is that they are made from a blend of minced beef (In Japan, it’s both beef and pork) and other ingredients. There are many variations of Hambāgu in Japan, like Wafu Hambāgu (soy sauce base sauce with grated daikon), Teriyaki Hambāgu, Demi-glacé Hambāgu, and more. Not to mention, there are different topping options, such as sautéed shimeji mushrooms and fried egg. But today I’m sharing the basic Hambāgu recipe with a homemade sauce.
As I mentioned earlier, Hambāgu in Japan is typically made from both ground beef and ground pork, and the common ratio is 7 : 3. Japanese supermarkets sell a convenient package of both ground beef and ground pork (we call it Aibiki-Niku 合いびき肉) so that we don’t have to buy the meat separately. We use this Aibiki Niku for Korokke, Spaghetti Meat Sauce, and Hambāgu recipes.
Important tips on making perfect hamburger steak
To enhance the flavor of Hambāgu, below are a few important tips which I learned from my mom. I also included a video on how to toss hamburger steak to force out the air pockets.
- Sauté onion slowly and then cool it down completely. The cooked onion will add natural sweetness to Hambāgu.
- Knead the mixture into gruel with hands.
- Play catch, tossing meat mixture from left hand to right hand a couple of times in order to release the air inside (See video below).
- Cool down the meat patties in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and take them out only right before cooking.
- Indent each patty with fingers to avoid explosion or crumbling of the meat patties when you cook. The meat will expand during cooking, and the indentation will disappear.
Video Tutorial: Tossing Japanese Hamburger Steak (Hambagu)
Here is how you toss Japanese hamburger steak to force out the air pockets.
To Serve Japanese Hamburger Steak
You can sear the meat patty in a sizzling hot frying pan to brown the steaks, and then cook the red wine deduction sauce in the same pan. The rich sauce adds another layer of flavor to the already juicy Hambāgu. Serve the steak with a bed of grilled vegetables, you will have a fancy and extra special dinner that doesn’t cost a bomb. This is exactly the kind of recipe that calls for a bottle of red wine and a reason to celebrate.
Now before I share the recipe, Mr. JOC will talk about his review on the wine that we pair up with Hambāgu.
When Nami told me she would make Japanese hamburger steaks, I remembered that we received a bottle of 2011 Meiomi Pinot Noir as a gift and thought they might go well together. I wanted to drink something that would refresh my palate from the rich juicy steak. The pairing was just perfect, the Pinot Noir was light and delicate which balanced out the steak and the heavy sauce. Even though the wine was very light, I was quite surprised at how flavorful and fruity it was. Here is an excerpt on the tasting note from the wine maker:
“Bright, deep garnet color. Aromas of cola, blackberries and a sweet cedar note…..Then the wine unloads with flavors of bright cherry, cola, dried leaves undertoned with vanilla, leather and high style oak.”
If you are looking for a fun Pinot Noir to share with friends or to go with Steak/Chicken, give Meiomi a try. You won’t be disappointed. 🙂
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- ½ onion (6.8 oz or 192 g)
- 1 Tbsp neutral flavor oil (vegetable, canola, etc)
- ¼ tsp salt (kosher or sea salt; use half if using table salt) (for onion)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ lb ground beef & pork combination (14 oz or 386 g) (See Notes)
- 1 large egg
- 2 Tbsp milk
- ⅓ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) (20 g)
- 1 tsp salt (kosher or sea salt; use half if using table salt) (for meat mixture)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- 1 Tbsp neutral flavor oil (vegetable, canola, etc) (to cook)
- ¼ cup red wine (for steaming)
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 Tbsp red wine
- 3 Tbsp water
- 3 Tbsp ketchup
- 3 Tbsp tonkatsu sauce (or Worcestershire sauce)
Gather all the ingredients.
- Chop the onion finely. With the knife tip pointing toward the root, slice the onion to within 1/2 inch of the base. Make about 1/4 inch parallel cuts. Then slice the onion horizontally about 1/4 inch parallel cuts. Then cut perpendicular to the first slices you made. If the onions need to be chopped finer, you can run your knife through them in a rocking motion. Be sure to hold down the tip of the knife, otherwise the onions are going to go flying around the room.
- Heat oil in a large pan over medium high heat and sauté the onion until translucent. Season with ¼ tsp salt and pepper.
- Transfer to a large bowl and let it cool.
- Add the meat in the bowl and mix all together.
- Add an egg, milk, Panko, 1 tsp salt, black pepper, and nutmeg.
- Mix the meat well with your hands until the mixture gets sticky. If you want to keep your hands clean, use rubber gloves or use plastic bags.
- Pinch off 2 inch from the mixture and make 4 large patties (or 6 medium patties). Toss each portion from one hand to the other hand repeatedly about 5 times in order to release air inside the mixture (see the video link above). The hamburger steaks will crack while cooking if you don’t release the air inside.
- Make oval shape patties. The top shouldn’t be flat, more like round. Keep in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before cooking so that the meat combines together.
- In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat and place the patties gently on the pan. Indent the center of each patty with 2 fingers because the center of patties will rise with heat.
- Cook the patties about 5 minutes. Do not flip until nicely browned.
After you flip, pour ¼ cup red wine and lower heat to medium-low heat. Cover and cook for 5 minutes to thoroughly cook the inside of the patties (adjust cooking time depending on thickness).
Then uncover and increase heat to medium-high to let the red wine evaporate. When it’s almost gone, transfer steaks into individual plates. Do not wash the pan as you will make the sauce next.
- Combine the liquid sauce ingredients in a bowl.
- In the same pan (without cleaning), add butter and sauce ingredients and mix well.
- Lower the heat to medium low and let it simmer for a few minutes until alcohol smell is gone. While simmering, you can skim off the scum and fat.
- When the sauce thickens, pour the sauce over the hamburger steaks. Serve the hamburger steak with vegetables over your favorite side dish.
Ground meat: The good ratio for hambagu is 65% ground beef and 35% ground pork. I usually make with roughly 50-50 for convenience. You can make hambagu with 100% beef, however it will not be as juicy and soft as combined meat.
Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.
Please note: We received no compensation for this review. We received a bottle of Meiomi from Jarvis Communication free of charge to use in exchange for an honest review.
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on December 17, 2012. The content has been updated on August 2017.