Almost everyone loves a great burger…but this ridiculously flavorful Korean burger will knock your socks off. Getting to this great recipe starts with my husband having found the Korean BBQ cookbook by Bill Kim. His book is filled with recipes based on 7 master sauces and 3 spice rubs, all of which are packed with flavor. The book itself isn’t traditionally Korean, but marries Korean with American and Puerto Rican influences, putting out delicious fusion recipes that I am hooked on (try the Ko-Rican pork chop recipe with Korean chimichurri!).
In the book there’s a recipe for Mama Kim’s burgers that sounded so good we had to try it. And while the result was really tasty, I knew we could do better (sorry, Chef Kim!). First of all, the original recipe calls for mixing a bunch of ingredients, spices and sauces into the ground meat for the burgers. After *much* experimenting with burgers over the years (pub burgers, smashburgers, cooked on the grill or with a reverse sear, done in a cast iron pan on the stove, and so much more), I’m a firm believer that you only season the outside of a burger and not mix things into the meat. The second thing I wanted to play with was the toppings and sauces to put on the burger (the recipe was pretty lacking in recommendations in this area). And finally, I wanted to kick the flavors up another notch.
The final result was absolutely delicious, a little mind-blowing, and a ridiculously flavorful Korean burger that we will make again and again. I give full credit to Bill Kim for the lemongrass chili sauce and curry salt, but the combo, preparation method, toppings and assembly are all mine. 😊
These are done “smashburger” style, so you will want to cook them on a hot griddle or a very large pan so that you have room to smash down the meat with a spatula. This is a great article on how to do smashburgers and why they’re so damn tasty. You can also opt to do burgers however you normally cook them instead, but do season them with the curry salt as I outline below.
Serves: 2 (can be doubled)
Time: 30 minutes
Chef Kim’s Lemongrass Chili Sauce (makes about 1/2 cup)
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp minced fresh lemongrass (from the tender end of 1 stalk)
1/4 cup store-bought sweet chili sauce
1 Tbsp sambal oelek (chile garlic sauce)
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
Chef Kim’s Curry Salt (makes a generous tablespoon)
1/2 Tbsp Madras curry powder (preferably spicy)
1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp Japanese Sichimi togarashi or Japanese 7-spice powder
Whit’s Spicy Korean Sauce:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp lemongrass chili sauce
1.5 tsp sriracha
1 tsp gochujang
1/2 tsp cider or white vinegar
a sprinkle of salt
1 scallion, green part only, thinly sliced
2 brioche burger buns
10 oz ground beef
2 large leaves of Napa cabbage
fresh cilantro leaves for serving
thinly sliced red chile pepper (Fresno or red serranos), optional
To begin, make the lemongrass chili sauce by mixing all the ingredients in a small bowl until well blended. Next, make the curry salt in a separate bowl and set aside.
Make my spicy Korean sauce by mixing all the ingredients (using 1 Tbsp of the lemongrass chili sauce that you just made, reserving the rest for the burgers) in yet a third bowl and set aside.
Using a scale if you have one (otherwise divide the meat into 4 equal sized portions), divide the ground beef into four separate balls, each weighing 2.5 ounces.
Cut the Napa cabbage leaves in half lengthwise, and layer all 4 pieces on top of one another. Slice cross-ways into 1/2″ strips and put in a bowl. Toss with enough of the curry salt to coat the leaves well (you will use less than half), putting the rest aside.
Heat the griddle or pan on medium high heat until very hot. Toast your burger buns, and remove to plates. Quickly place all 4 balls of meat on the griddle or pan and immediately flatten to the extreme with a flat spatula, using a gloved hand or second spatula to apply enough pressure to smash them until very thin (see the linked article at the top of this recipe for instructions and photos), then sprinkle each one with the curry salt. Once you start seeing the brown of the cooking come through to the top of the burger (about 30-45 seconds), you will want to use a flat, metal spatula to ‘scrape’ the burger off the grill and flip it. It should have a very good char (do not be alarmed if it looks almost burned!). Cook another 30-40 seconds to give the second side a char and remove from the grill.
To assemble the burgers Put a couple of teaspoons of Whit’s Spicy Korean Sauce on the bottom bun, pile a healthy portion of the cabbage on the bottom and place one of the burger patties on top. Brush about 2 tsp of the Lemongrass Chili Sauce on top of the patty (enough to put a thin glaze across the whole patty), then top with the second patty. Put cilantro leaves and chile pepper slices (if using) on top of the meat, spread a couple more teaspoons of Spicy Korean Sauce on the top bun and place on top of the burger.
You are now ready to enjoy a ridiculously flavorful Korean burger that I guarantee will want you coming back for more!
P.S. If you have any unused spicy Korean sauce, it is excellent for dipping fries or tater tots into!