One of my favorite foods in the world is a good burger. My wife, Kim, has written about some of Tokyo's best burgers, and there are some fantastic places to grab the American classic throughout Japan. Still, two foods I love as much as a burgers are yakiniku and rice, so imagine my surprise when I stopped into a MOS Burger fast food chain and found myself face-to-face with something that combines elements of all three...
...THE RICE BURGER!
The concept is simple enough: swap out rice for buns, and yakiniku for the burger patty (note: there are versions which still use a ground beef patty, but they are not as common). The execution is anything but simple. You have to ensure that the rice is prepared in such a way that it is sticky enough to hold together in a bun shape, but dry enough to be held and not stick to the inner contents or other half of the "bun."
Start with the right rice:
One way many places get around this issue is to use high quality rice, like Niigata's famous koshi hikari rice known for its stickiness.
Add a Glaze
Take the high quality rice, mold it into a bun shape, and then glaze it with a yakiniku sauce. When fired, the glaze will dry and develop a bit of crispiness. That glaze enables the bun to be held without getting rice stuck to your fingers, while also adding depth of flavor to the burger. From there, throw in the yakiniku, beef patty, veggies, or whatever else you want!
So where can you find these uniquely Japanese creations?
Although you can find them in other specialty shops in the world, only in Japan will you find Rice Burgers in mainstream eateries and restaurants. The easiest place to find Rice Burgers are MOS Burger, though there are also senmonten, specialty stores that offer them in some of Japan's city centers. Some supermarkets and convenience stores will also offer these delicious burgers.
So if you are like me and love burgers, rice, and yakiniku, or if you are just interested in trying something new and unique, I say zehi, grab a rice burger and enjoy!