Monday, 17 August 2009

Japanese Hamburgers - In Tokyo, they call it a Hanbaga

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So hubby and I got back from Japan a week ago and whilst we mostly ate like kings, every so often we craved a bit of junk food.

Nothing hits the spot quite like a juicy hamburger, so here's my round-up of the best burgers in Japan, where they call them hanbaga (or hanbaagaa depending on who you talk to).

meemalee's Guide to Japanese Hamburgers

4. MonsterBurger

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At Number 4 is MonsterBurger, the creation of Muscle Park, a weird sports theme park in Odaiba, Tokyo.

The meal is enough for two, costs about
¥1250 (about £8) and comes with a drink and a choice of either weird knobbly fries or potato smiley faces. Guess which one we chose?

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The point of MonsterBurger is The MonsterBurger - a ridiculous towering beast of a burger in a box shaped like the multi-coloured vaulting horse mascot of Muscle Park itself.

The daunting concoction was actually three separate sandwiches skewered together by a wooden stick - the top one was breaded chicken fillet, the next cheese and bacon, and the bottom one teriyaki beefburger.

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When deconstructed, it was all perfectly edible, though the bread was a little pappy and sweet.

I did like the fact that they had a watercooler and paper cups for customers to help themselves and also a little washbasin.

I probably wouldn't bother going there again, but it's worth checking out just for a laugh.

3. MOS Burger

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At Number 3 is MOS Burger (ie Mountain, Ocean, Sun), most famous for inventing the rice burger where the burger buns are actually made of rice mixed with barley and millet.

There are branches all over Japan, but we went to the one next to Suehirocho station which is commonly cited as the fanciest one as they give you nice drinks coasters and real crockery.

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A set meal will set you back
¥700 each (almost £4.50).

We got a couple of the classic MOS Burgers which were teensy, but the sauce, OH THE SAUCE!

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Umami-laden heaven - a little like a rich tomatoey, spiced ragu schmeared all over the juicy beef patty.

We've also tried the rice burger, but it was a bit of a disappointment - flabby bits of stringy beef in lukewarm rice, like a gyudon gone wrong.

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MOS Burger is probably the most high-profile burger chain in Japan and certainly the one with the best marketing.

You can get MOS keyrings from gashapon machines (so far we've failed to get anything except coffee cups) and even a MOS playset for your little darlings.

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2. Lotteria

Lotteria is at Number 2, and happens to be the most popular hamburger chain in South Korea, and had up until now been my Japanese burger of choice.

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They often have specials and the first we tried may be the best burger we have ever eaten though has sadly since been discontinued.

Luscious, meaty double beef patties covered with a smokey yet subtle teriyaki sauce and topped with a glorious just-fried and still-wobbly egg.

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Okay, I know it sounds wrong, but it was oh so right.

I've no idea what the burger was actually called, but we dubbed it the "Teriyaki Love Burger" after the excessive signage.

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However, the next time we tried a sandwich called the W Burger and
that was a slightly less happy experience.

Though tasty with a nicely flame-grilled patty, the grease was overpowering - almost dripping from the bun.

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This time around, we had the salad-filled Zetsumodo (I may have made that name up) and the standard beef and egg burger and both proved Lotteria were back on form.

Lotteria's set meals are the cheapest at around
¥650 - about £4.

1. Freshness Burger

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Taking the Number 1 spot is Freshness Burger.

We managed to find a branch accidentally when wandering around Asakusa - I'd wanted to try it since the first time we went to Japan, but I'd never found good enough directions.

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It was 11 am - not breakfast or lunchtime - but I convinced hubby to come and buy one burger with me.

Freshness seems a tad more upmarket than its rivals (it has flowers on the tables goddamit) and to add to its cosmopolitan nature, it provides an English menu and offers a global assortment of condiments in a World Spice caddy to complement your meal.

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The reason Freshness wins for me is simple - it's all about the bun. We went for the classic Freshness burger and the bread was absolutely delicious - really fresh-tasting - and was a soft orangey-yellow inside, apparently because the buns are made with pumpkin.

The bread had also been lightly toasted so there was just a bit of crunch, enough to make me sigh with happiness. The beef patty itself was also delicious, covered in special sauce similar to MOS Burgers and stuffed with tiny diced onions.

Hubby and I fought for custody of our single burger, which came with an unprompted and well-appreciated glass of iced water.

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If we hadn't been feeling so skint with the exchange rate being so crap, I would have also got a Blueberry Protector.

It's one of their new drinks which I guess has vitamins in it or something, but whatever, the name is enough of a draw for me.

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A set meal at Freshness will set you back about
¥670.

Conclusion:

The best burgers I've ever had have been from Japan (though note I've never been to the US).

It's mainly because of the quality of the Japanese beef which
, as far I'm concerned, beats the pants off UK fast-food beef both flavour and texture-wise. In terms of decor and service, Japan's burger bars are also light years ahead of the UK.

It's no surprise it's the only Yoshoku I'm willing to have whilst in Japan.

Edited to add:

Proof that Japanese Hamburgers rock (found via Blog of Hilarity)



9 comments:

  1. I am almost throwing up with jealousy Meemalee. So this is where you disappeared to. It's quite frankly just not good enough.

    Did you try the makudonorado's? It's the best in the world. Way better than the ones you get in New York.

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  2. Very very jealous too! I've always wanted to try Mos Burger and now I've got more on my list!

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  3. Teriyaki Mos burgers on the rice bun are delish! I've not had any of the others. I love the peach tea too. Here's a trick my sis taught me: pour in some cream for a yummy milky peach iced tea!

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  4. Hi Meemalee the Monster Burger is just to freak'n cute!!! My head is about to explode!
    I never was a big fan of MOS' rice burger too. But they win my respect for inventing it.
    Freshness Burger is the best! Their MOS-like meat sauce is more potent, closer to how MOS' was originally before they changed recipes a few years back and made it thinner..

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  5. Great Burger.

    I am very fond of Burger.

    Back in Taunggyi, my grandma, who passed away, used to made me burger. Hers were very delicious.

    Back in Rangoon, my mom used to make some too. They were, too, delicious.

    I don't like Mc Dornald here. It looks like small child-play toy.

    But I like Burger King and MOS burger.

    Yesterday, I had my burger from Burger King. I longed for Burger for like 3-4 days. Therefore, yesterday, I had. (Here is my entry about yesterday's burger http://lunch.lawshay.com/2009/08/criminal-or-victim.html)

    Your pictures are really nice.

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  6. Love the styling in all those burger places! Out of interest do they do any veggie versions?

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  7. Hey meemalee - I loved this post... the cult of Japanese burgers!

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  8. Love it! Pumpkin burges buns from Freshness Burger - it never occurred to me to have yoshoku while in Tokyo as the food was SO good but next time I'm Japan-bound I'll hunt down a few of these places....just to see the marketing more than anything else :D

    Great post

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  9. @gastrogeek - Never made it to MacDonalds somehow

    @Su-Lin - It's all about the sauce

    @Pat - Like a peach shake? Might try that :)

    @Dennis K - Yay for a fellow Freshness fan!

    @Law Shay - Thanks :) I've never had home-made burgers before - you're lucky!

    @TheFastestIndian - Indeed, you can get tofu burgers at all of them. And Freshness had a really fancy veggie one which was sold out.

    @KirkK - Thanks - Japanese burgers officially kick ass :)

    @Signe - Next year at the Covent Garden stall I'm expecting pumpkin bread from you!

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Thanks for taking the time to comment!