holy shiitake! it’s burger day on pmk!

so there is this thing called the mushroom swiss burger.  honestly, when it is cooked properly, it tastes like true love.  or magic. or maybe both.

unfortunately, this story isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

true, the mushroom swiss burger is darn good when it is good.  but it is really, terribly awful when done bad.  the problem with the mushroom swiss burger is that, especially in chain restaurants all across the great nation of the usa, it is often executed in the most tragic, lackluster, half-baked manner possible.  canned mushrooms?  really?  fake swiss cheese made from more chemicals than milk?  come on.

the trick to the mushroom swiss is, as you might expect, in the mushrooms.  canned just won’t do.  the water will ruin the bun, the patty, and the taste of the burger.  so what is a poor man to do?

well, use fresh mushrooms, i suppose.  oh, what a coincidence.  fresh mushrooms are something japan has in droves.  the japanese have mushrooms in more types than you can shake a stick at.  brown beech mushrooms, white beech mushrooms, enokitake, king oyster mushrooms, pine mushrooms, hen-of-the-woods, and many many others.

oh yeah.  and shiitake.  sweet, sweet shiitake.

so i decided to bail on the cheese, highlight the mushrooms, make myself a dynamite sauce, and go to town making my own japanese-style magical mushroom burger.  and i don’t think i’ll ever go back to the plain ol’ mushroom swiss.

shiitake pesto burger


you’ll need:

  • shiso pesto
  • three or four cloves of garlic
  • one medium-sized onion
  • ground pork
  • rolls (i like french, sourdough, or kaiser)
  • shiitake
  • daikon sprouts (a.k.a. kaiware)
  • japanese spider greens (a.k.a. mizuna)
  • cucumber
  • olive oil
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • basil
  • thyme
  • salt
  • black pepper
  1. mix your burger.  peel the garlic and mince it as fine as you possibly can.  next, peel the onion, mince half, and set the other half aside for later use.  add a dribble of olive oil (because it makes your burgers quite succulent), and equal parts oregano, basil, parsley, and thyme.  pop in that ground pork.  lastly, season with a little bit of salt and pepper.  you can use a spoon to mix everything together, but you may as well just get in there.  if you ain’t dirty, you ain’t cooking.
  2. remember, if you aren’t sure how your burgers are going to taste, dial back the seasonings.  take a pinch of your seasoned meat, flatten it, and cook it in a frying pan.  give it a taste, and if you don’t like it, season it until it meets your standards.  get it?  meets your standards… like, “meats”…  never mind.
  3. pop your meat in the fridge in a tightly sealed container or covered tightly with plastic wrap.  remember, let the flavors sit for about thirty minutes.  they will be better distributed throughout the meat and intensify ever so slightly.
  4. while you wait, get out that knife and prep the veggies.  after a quick wash, cut the base off the daikon sprouts.  cut the ends off the cucumber and cut it into two inch long thin slices, kind of like sandwich pickles (only not pickled).  last, cut the base off a bunch of japanese spider greens, and then chop the bunch into one inch lengths.  set the whole veggie crew aside for later use.
  5. cut them buns if they aren’t already sliced.  get them in the oven, but don’t start toasting yet.
  6. once your meat is settled, start pattying burgers.  i generally try to shoot for a little over a 1/3 pound per patty, which is a good weight if you want to make triple patty burgers (like the yamato or the baekje) on occasion.  try to account for cooking shrinkage when forming the burgers.  lastly, try to make them as flat as possible, which can be tough when using your hands.
  7. ready that shiso pesto.
  8. it’s mushroom time.  remember that onion?  cut it into medium thick slices and set them aside.  get out your shittake, wash them (take extra measures to get off the dirty bits clinging to the cap), and then slice off the base off the bottom half of the stems.  slice each mushroom into about four or five slices.  remember, cut along the length of the mushroom.  if you do it just right, each slice should look like a 2d version of the whole mushroom.
  9. add a little bit of olive oil to a frying pan, bring it to medium high heat, and then toss in the onion.  once it starts to soften, add the mushrooms and cook while stirring on occasion.  salt and pepper are the only seasonings you should really add.  we are going for the flavor of the mushrooms first and foremost, so using anything that would detract from that would be a crime.
  10. start toasting the buns now.
  11. it is always best to grill your burgers, so if you have a grill at your disposal, i’ll leave that up to you.  i, however, do not, which means i cook mine on the stove.  if you are like me, add a little bit of oil to a frying pan, bring it to medium high heat, and toss in a burger or two.
  12. while the burger is cooking, take out one of your toasted buns and smear both sides with pesto.  stack cucumber and spider greens on the top half of the bun.  on the bottom half, lay down a bed of daikon sprouts.
  13. flip your burger when sufficiently seared on one side and allow it to cook through for three or four more minutes.  when you think it is close to done, pop some shiitake on top of the patty, add a spoonful of water to the pan, and cover.  after one minutes, your mushrooms will be piping hot once more and your burger will be succulent and juicy.
  14. use a spatula to remove the burger from the pan and place it on top of the daikon sprout bed you prepared.  serve the two halves separate so that your guests can appreciate the magic of every exquisite ingredient that went into the burger.  that, and the beautiful beautiful mushrooms looming atop the burger.


note: home fries.  this burger is absolutely amazing because of its flavors and its textures.  you can make the texture even more complex by serving it with some sweet potato home fries or sweet potato chips.  the sweetness will really bring out the best, most savory parts of the burger.  just something to keep in mind.


11 thoughts on “holy shiitake! it’s burger day on pmk!

  1. Pork? You dawg, you! Way to go. It’s all in seasoning the meat, right? Outstanding post. I have to admit, though, that I’m quite the cheese snob. We at the Deerslayer household love excellent quality cheese and use it liberally and with vigor. Other than that, we’re definitely on the same page! Cook on!

    • thanks for the kind words!

      trust me, i love me a good cheese as well. but in japan, they have two kinds of cheese: “melty cheese” and “stringy cheese.” both are approximately 0% cheese product. suffice to say, i refuse to ruin a good burger with a lame cheese.

      one day, i’ll get the gumption to order a huge wedge of aged cheese (like an asiago or a parmesan) or maybe start making my own mozzerella.

    • yeah, the burgers were awesome. i like making burgers that are fresh and kind of light despite being ground meat. so many burgers, especially the fancy gourmet kinds, are chock full of bacon and onion rings and rich stuff.

      sorry for making you so drooly this early in the morning. i’ll be sure to post some breakfast for you soon.

  2. I love mushroom just about anything. I worked at a place that would saute an entire portobello cap and put it on a 1/2 pound beef patty. Heavenly. These look great. And if you even need that wedge of cheese to import, you have a contact in the DairyLand.

    • that’s what i am talking about. i love me a huge portabella atop a beautifully grilled burger. throw on a balsamic glaze and maybe some fresh spinach? i’d give my right arm, no questions asked.

      i might just have to hit you up for a cheese suggestion sometime.

  3. Gosh the pics are mouth-watering! I’m suffering from dinner-envy! :-) I’m guessing here but maybe because there’s not enough pasture, the Japanese never got into cattle herding hence the lack of milk products in their culinary history?

    • ah, dinner envy. i know how frustrating that can be sometimes. ;)

      you know, i’m honestly not super certain why beef never really became a huge thing in japan. first, i think a large amount of meat-based dishes japan uses are originally based on chinese cuisine, which was a mostly pig and chicken culture.

      i think the most likely reason for the lack of milk and beef products in japan is the overall abundance of fishing culture. japan traditionally relied on its ability to use the bouty of sea to support its people. because the mainland is divided by a huge spine of mountains runned through most of honshu, animals that need to be put out to pasture weren’t worth the effort.

      except for hokkaido. they have lots of delicious cows there. and the butter is amazing.

  4. A very nice use and expression of simple Asian flavor combinations in a modern burger based on a classic (but I was hoping for some swiss somewhere! whyyyyy!!??? haha). And oh do I feel your pain on the poor mushroom burgers… I recently tried this debacle from a certain Truck (will not name names here) offering game-meat burgers not done too well… the mushrooms just slid everywhere with the onions… so sad.

    • thanks, dude. i’m all about reinventing classics. and i feel your pain on the swiss. cheese just doesn’t make it past my cost-benefit analysis in japan. if i could get a reasonaly priced, really good cheese, you bet your butt i would have smothered this burger in it.

      but alas, japan does have its downsides.

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