Saturday, June 2, 2012

How to Make Soft Mini-Hamburg for Bento

Hambaagu (or "hamburg", as in "hamburger" without the "-er") is something I grew up with, and wondered why we didn't eat them inside a bread bun like other people.  (...And why my mother called them "hambaagu", without the "-er" or "patty"!)  I've figured out the answer since then: Hambaagu is a Japanese thing.

The special thing about these hamburg, is that they're still soft, even after they cool down - one of the requirements for delicious obento foods.  The secret is: lots of panko breadcrumbs, and after cooking on both sides, add a little water to the frypan, put the lid on and steam them, similar to making Japanese-style pan-fried gyouza.  The panko absorbs the water and holds the moisture in.

I learnt how to make these watching a cooking show on Japanese TV, teaching mothers how to make obento for their kids when they start kindergarten.  Mini-Hamburg and Chicken Karaage were named as the favorite bento "main" okazu for kids.  (Japanese cooking shows are really useful!)  I didn't write down the recipe at the time so I pretty much guessed it.  You can't go wrong.  I cook mine on a large electric okonomiyaki hotplate.

400g pork mince (if your mince is low fat, mix in 1 Tbsp vegetable oil or Japanese mayonnaise)
Panko or homemade breadcrumbs: Almost the same volume as mince (maybe 1 cup? didn't measure)
1 small onion, sliced very finely
1 egg
1 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
a sprinkle of salt and pepper

1.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  It should be moist, if not, add another Tbsp milk.
2.  Pre-heat a large frypan to med heat, wipe with a little oil.
3.  Shape mini-hamburg in your hand and place them on the frypan (about 4~5cm dia)
4.  Turn when browned and cook until browned on both sides.
5.  Pour a little water onto the frypan (enough to cover the base of the frypan, about 1/4 cup, depending on the size of the frypan and how much you are cooking) and immediately put the lid on to keep the steam in.  After a few minutes when all the water has absorbed into the hamburg, they're done!  (Be careful not to burn yourself with steam when you open the lid.)
 6. Wash the residue from the frypan before cooking the next batch.
1.  Allow to cool before bagging for the freezer.
2.  Laying the bagged hamburg out on a baking tray allows them to freeze faster and keeps them separate.
3.  Once they're frozen, place all the bags into a freezer-safe lidded container, and they'll be fresh for up to a month.  (I use one with a hinged lid, it's easier to open and close)
4.  Reheat 3 hamburg on a plate in the microwave on high for 1 minute, or until they are hot right though.  Use however you like in your bento.


  1. These look so very yummy, definitely going to try it for my son's lunches!

    1. Thanks, Sanchia!♡ by the way, make sure you use nice-tasting breadcrumbs. If you use the usual supermarket variety in Australia, only use a small amount, otherwise the flavour will be affected.

  2. chance upon this site when i was looking up ideas for Gyudon recipes... and i have tried it yesterday and made this hamburg for kids school lunch today... both were delish!!! :) thank u...hope you keep posting new stuff..i'm a new fan from Manila :)


    1. Thanks Nina! Great to hear you enjoyed them! I've been very busy with other things the past 6 months but I will be posting again soon, stay tuned ^_^

  3. Starting to make myself bento boxes for going to college with, they are great as they are not too expensive and they are really fun too! Love the recipes, I'm going to try this one soon! Thanks!

    Amy :)

  4. Hi there! I'm new to your blog but can't wait to try out your recipes. I do have a few questions, though. I live in the US, so I imagine ordering an okonomiyaki hot plate wouldn't be that difficult, but I'm not entirely sure what qualities I need in one. What should I look for when I'm shopping?

    Thanks for the neat blog! And thanks for explaining these recipes in a way that's easy to follow. It's not easy venturing out to other styles of cooking, and this helps tremendously!


    1. Do you know of any Daiso shops in your area? You might find one there.

  5. I just made these the other night and it was so easy and so tasty. My whole family loved it and I even froze some for my daughter's lunch. Thank you!!!

  6. but i don't have a microwave D: what should i do?

    1. Hi Yasumin, If you don't have a microwave, you could freeze the uncooked hambagu patties, then defrost each day's portion in the refrigerator overnight and cook them in the morning in a frypan when preparing the bento. I hope this helps!

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  10. I positively don't feel like profound fricasseeing chicken in the first part of the day, so I make an enormous bunch of karaage one evening, serve some of it for supper with a major verdant plate of mixed greens, and freeze the rest in little packs. Since we're primarily making this karaage for freezing and re-warming for super-quick bento, this is the formula for delicate karaage (not super crunchy) - I'll do that karaage in a later post.

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