Food in Japan is divided into two distinct categories; Washoku, the native, traditional cuisine that dates back many hundreds if not thousands of years, and Yōshoku (or seiyōshoku), Western style dishes that started being imported into Japan’s culinary tapestry during the Meiji restoration. Along with firm favourites such as karē, tonkatsu, and ramen, ebi furai- or breaded, fried prawns lie firmly within the yōshoku camp, probably owing their heritage to Portuguese traders who introduced crumb coated pork cutlets to Japan during the late 1880s. Much later, an enterprising chef combined two of the most popular yōshoku, ebi furai and hambāgā to create an ebi katsu burger, chopped prawns shaped into a patty, breaded and then deep fried before being served in a soft buttery bun with the traditional furai accompaniments of tartare and tonkatsu sauces. We’ve adapted this modern classic slightly by mixing our prawn meat with minced hanpen, a very airy fishcake made from pollock and nagaimo yam, which gives the burger a particularly light, bouncy, juicy texture without detracting from the sweet, delicate flavour of the prawn.
Onipote (a contraction of the words onion and potato) is a half portion of onion rings served with a half portion of fries, a dish we first came across in an Akihabara branch of MOSBurger, Japan’s largest fast food chain. Why chose between both of these classic sides when you can have a little of each? Rather than batter our onion rings we’ve opted for the same crunchy panko crumbs that we used on our ebi burger and then dredged both these and the super skinny fries with a sweet and spicy shichimi togarashi salt. Perfect!
- 100ml tomato ketchup
- 40ml Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon sanshō (or white pepper)
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon karashi (or smooth, hot mustard)
- 1 teaspoon arrowroot
- Mix all the ingredients except the arrowroot together in a small saucepan and slowly bring the mixture to a simmer. Slake the arrowroot in about a tablespoon of cool water, then add it to the hot sauce. Stir the sauce constantly until it thickens which should take about a minute.
- Take the pan off the heat and transfer the sauce to a bowl or bottle. Once cooled the sōsu will store in the fridge for about a month.
Tartare sauce ingredients.
- 60g Japanese mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped gherkin
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped capers
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- squeeze of lemon juice
- pinch of sea salt
- pinch of black pepper
- Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl and taste the sauce to ensure it is seasoned to your liking, adding more salt, pepper and lemon if you feel the need. Don’t make the tartare sauce too far in advance as it has a tendency to discolour if kept for more than about an hour.
Ebi katsu burger & Onipote ingredients.
- 2 hanpen (120g total)
- 350g large raw peeled prawns
- 2 heaped teaspoons potato starch
- 600g floury potatoes (approximately two large potatoes)
- 1 large onion
- 3 large eggs
- 60ml sour cream
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- plain flour for coating
- panko breadcrumbs for coating
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
- 1/4 white cabbage
- 4 gherkins
- 4 soft burger buns or brioche buns to serve
- 1 quantity tartare sauce from above recipe
- 1 quantity sōsu
- 2 teaspoons shichimi togarashi
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Prepare your potatoes ready for frying, we prefer to leave the skins on for extra flavour but feel free to peel them if you like, then slice into 5mm thick French fries (we’re fortunate enough to have a 5mm attachment for our mandoline so got through the potatoes in no time). To remove excess starch from the potatoes, soak the cut fries in a bowl of cold water for at least an hour but no more than three hours.
- Using a mandoline or a very large, sharp knife, shred the cabbage as finely as you can and set to one side. Combine the shichimi togarashi, salt and sugar in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Tear the two hanpen fishcakes into small pieces and place in a food processor along with approximately 200g of the prawns and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pulse the seafood until it is a coarse paste, then empty it out into a mixing bowl. Roughly chop the remaining prawns and add these along with the potato starch to the bowl and mix through until the pieces of prawn are evenly distributed. Divide the burger mix into four equal balls and form them into patties- the mixture will be quite sticky, so oil your hands lightly as you go to keep the burgers smooth.
- In a wide shallow bowl, mix together one egg, the sour cream and the hot sauce; this will be used in the coating of the onion rings. In a second bowl beat the remaining two eggs ready for coating the burgers, tip a few handfuls of flour into a third bowl and some panko into a fourth.
- Peel the onion, then cut into 2cm thick slices, separate the slices into rings and set aside. Place a large saucepan of oil onto a high heat and warm up to 160ºC and preheat your oven with a grill pan and rack inside to 90ºC.
- Remove the potato from the water and pat dry of excess moisture with a clean towel. Add a couple of handfuls to the hot oil and fry for five to six minutes until they are almost cooked but not coloured. Drain the par-cooked fries on some kitchen roll and then repeat the process for the rest of the potato.
- Now that the fries are partially cooked, increase the heat under the oil until it reaches 190ºC. While the oil is warming, you can bread the burgers and the onion rings. First dip each patty in the flour, then the beaten egg, and finally coat in the panko crumbs, making sure that each layer of coating is complete and there are no visible gaps. Place the coated burgers on a plate and repeat the coating process with the onion rings, only this time using the sour cream mixture in place of the egg.
- When the oil has reached 190ºC, carefully slide the burgers into the pan and fry for about five minutes, until they are golden brown on both sides and have puffed up slightly (depending on the size of your pan you may have to do this in two batches) then remove the burgers and place them straight onto the rack in the oven to keep warm.
- Next fry the onion rings in a similar way, for about three or four minutes until they have crisped up nicely and taken on a pleasant golden brown colour slightly lighter than the katsu burgers. Again, keep the drained onion rings warm in the oven until you’re ready to serve- using a grill pan and rack like this also allows a lot of the excess oil to drip off the fried foods making them much more appealing.
- Using a wire mesh strainer, scoop any crumbs out from the hot oil and discard them before you move on to cooking the fries for the final time. Carefully place two handfuls of the part cooked fries into the oil and cook until golden brown and crisp. Remove them with your strainer and tip onto a plate lined with kitchen roll to drain while you repeat the process with the rest of your fries.
- To assemble your burgers, first spread a generous amount of the tartare sauce on a sliced bun, then add your ebi katsu burger, drizzle with sōsu, mound on a handful of the shredded cabbage and finish off with the top of the bun. If you have a bamboo skewer handy, they’re useful to spear a gherkin and push through the entire burger to hold it together. Sprinkle the onion rings and fries with plenty of your shichimi seasoning and serve next to the burgers, along with any leftover sauces for dipping, and perhaps a wedge or two of lemon and a bottle of beer.
Serves 4 people.