This Curry Chicken Katsu Rice Burger gives an Asian spin to an American favorite. And of course, we need to pair it with a drink that also fuses East and West– the Japanese Coffee Cola.
My first time eating a rice burger was over 10 years ago. I was a sophomore in high school on a study program in Xiamen. It was during a weekend excursion with some friends out of campus, and we walked by a McDonald’s and saw posters for their rice burgers. At the time I remember being utterly intrigued, because the concept was unheard of to me. A burger made of rice “buns”, with a sauce-slathered patty sandwiched in between. The poster made it look mouth-watering, and naturally we decided to try it.
The specific details of that rice burger are really foggy to me now, but I know I was delighted and impressed by it. I distinctly remember wondering why the McDonald’s in my country never made anything that good, or anything remotely as good quality. Because it was delicious, and the serving was huge and filling, and holding it in my hands I still remember how heavy it was. It felt like a whole new world of fast-food at the time. And the thing that’s imprinted in my mind about the entire experience was the sense of wonder that someone actually thought of such a thing.
Nowadays, not much shocks me anymore in terms of culinary creativity, but back then, during the era where only a select few had dial-up internet, you wouldn’t know things like these existed unless you actually went abroad and saw or tried it for yourself. The level of appreciation feels different. Eating rice burgers between that time and now, I never did quite manage to replicate a similar sense of astonishment, but I do carry with me the memory of that first time. And I suppose all of that ties into my inexplicable desire to make this Curry Chicken Katsu Rice Burger from scratch. The curiosity has extended from eating to making.
And of course, I had to pair it with something that befits the concept of a burger. Being my slightly extra self, I did not want to just serve this with a soda. I come across the Coffee Cola made famous by the Japanese some time ago, and I thought it would make the perfect pairing for this Japanese-themed Curry Chicken Katsu Rice Burger. I was right. The Coffee Cola, with that sweet and slightly-salty cream on top, was a revelation. I did not expect to like it as much as I did! (There were a lot of mixed reviews about the canned version so I was nervous.) The flavor is a bit more cola forward, with some undertones of coffee. It’s the cream topping that really brings everything together, and I love how the slight saltiness of the cream gives this drink an interesting spin. YUM.
The drink refreshes the palate from the prominent curry flavor of the chicken in the burger. All in all, quite a satisfying pair, albeit a little time consuming.
- WHAT CURRY POWDER SHOULD I USE? Honestly speaking, I wasn’t happy with the curry powder I used. It was a cheap blend, and the color wasn’t particularly appealing. It’s the only regret I have about the entire thing. I mean, the burgers turned out good despite the cheap curry powder, but I know it could’ve been SO MUCH BETTER. So don’t be like me and make sure to use good curry powder– maybe even splurge on an S&B curry powder if you are so inclined. In hindsight, I should’ve done just that.
- CAN I JUST USE PLAIN RICE FOR THE “BUNS”? Personally, I do not recommend it. Seasoned rice is usually the way to go for fusion-y dishes like this. I say this because I minimally seasoned my rice and felt that there was something lacking to tie the entire thing together. I kept looking for that little tang of rice vinegar. If you don’t have furikake, go ahead and skip it, but make sure you put mirin and rice vinegar in there.
- WHAT’S THE EASIEST WAY TO SHAPE THE RICE “BUNS”? Keep a bowl of water at hand when you shape the “buns” so you can wet your hands every step of the way. It will stop the rice from sticking to your hands! You can also use a mold/large round cutter if you have it. No need to make it thick– about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick is enough. Make sure you pack it SUPER DUPER tight so it doesn’t fall apart when you cook/toast the rice in the pan, and most especially when you flip it! It tastes better toasted and brushed with a bit of soy sauce.
- CAN I MAKE THE COMPONENTS IN ADVANCE? Timing is key for this burger dish, but they can be prepped on the same day you need to cook them. You don’t need to marinade the chicken overnight because the curry flavor might become too overwhelming. (I like marinading for 1 hour.) After you put the chicken in the marinade, start shaping your rice “buns” and set them aside, covered, until ready to cook. I recommend cooking everything at the same time to make sure the burger is hot when served. The chicken takes some time to cook, and you might think that’s enough time for shaping the rice “buns”, but it was actually more time-consuming than I expected.
Curry Chicken Katsu Rice Burger
For the curry chicken katsu
- ¼ cup 30 grams curry powder
- 2 Tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- ¼ cup 60 ml rice wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon caster sugar
- 4 chicken thighs, 500 grams, trimmed and sliced in desired sizes (I divided each thigh into 3)
- 1 cup 150 grams all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- Vegetable oil, for deep frying
For the curry sauce
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- ½ cup 125 ml water
- 1 teaspoon sugar, or more to taste
- ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
For the rice buns
- 8 cups cooked rice, Japanese short grain or sushi rice, or other similar sticky-type rice
- 8 Tablespoons mirin
- 8 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 8 Tablespoons seaweed flakes or furikake, plus more to top
- Soy sauce
- Lettuce, portioned
- Tomatoes, sliced
- Cucumber, sliced
- Japanese mayonnaise
- White or black sesame seeds
Prep the chicken
- In a medium bowl, mix together curry powder, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar until well combined. Take out ¼ cup of the mixture and set aside for the sauce.
- Place chicken into a tray or ziplock bag, then pour in the remaining curry mixture. Toss to coat every part of the chicken and marinate for 30 minutes in the fridge.
Make the curry sauce
- In a small saucepan, pour in the reserved ¼ cup curry mixture. Whisk in the cornstarch and water until combined. Mix in sugar and salt. Place saucepan over high heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes or until thickened. Taste the sauce and adjust sugar and salt as needed.
Cook the chicken
- When ready to cook, heat up frying oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until it reaches 350°F (180°C) on a deep-frying thermometer.
- Place the flour and baking powder in a wide shallow plate. Coat the chicken and shake off the excess breading. Fry the chicken in batches until cooked through, flipping the chicken just once. The amount of time will depend on how thick and big your chicken portions are. Set aside cooked chicken on paper towel to drain.
Prep the rice buns
- Season the rice with mirin, rice wine vinegar, and furkikae, then mix well. Have a bowl of water ready so you can dip your hands in as needed. Using damp hands, divide the rice into 8 portions. Shape and compress the rice to ½" thick and 3" diameter patties. Pack the rice as tightly as you can so it doesn’t fall apart. Use a mold if you want, but make sure to wet the sides so the rice doesn’t stick.
- Brush both sides of the rice buns with soy sauce. Heat a pan over medium high heat and add a little oil. Sear the rice buns until lightly toasted on each side. Use minimal and gentle handling and a wide spatula so it doesn't fall apart on you. (It shouldn’t fall apart easily if you packed the rice in properly.)
- Take your bottom rice bun and place lettuce on top. Put a piece of chicken, then spoon curry sauce on top. Squeeze out a bit of mayonnaise atop the sauce, then top with tomatoes and cucumber slices. Top with another rice bun.
- To help the burger stay intact, wrap in parchment paper or foil. (We ended up just eating it on our plates with utensils because I made it quite high!) Serve immediately, with a side of fries or onion rings if desired, and a tall glass of Japanese Coffee Cola.
- CAN I USE REGULAR COFFEE AND/OR DIET COKE? I have not tried this with regular brewed coffee though I imagine it can probably work. The cold brew is just a little stronger in flavor, so it still manages to somewhat shine through in the drink once everything is mixed together. If you try it, let me know how it tastes. As for the Coke, you can use any Coke variant you like.
- CAN I USE LESS COKE IF I DON’T LIKE IT SWEET? I have tried playing around with the ratios of the coffee and the cola, and frankly I think this drink tastes best with a full cup of cola with the 1/4 cup of cold brew. The sweetness of the cola isn’t overwhelming at all.
- WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE ANY SALTED BUTTER? The topping tastes better with a hint of salt, so you can just sprinkle in a pinch of fine sea salt before you whisk the cream.
- WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT OVERMIXING THE CREAM? First of all, the cream will not look pretty sitting on top of the drink if it’s grainy and stiff. Secondly, you won’t be able to mix the cream into the drink as smoothly.
- HOW MUCH CREAM SHOULD I ADD? Honestly, it’s really up to you. The more cream you pile on top, the more decadent the drink becomes. I’d set the limit at 1/2 cup worth of cream though. I personally just add a little over 1/4 cup, just enough to make the drink lighter in color and creamy when mixed.
Japanese Coffee Cola
For the Salted Buttercream Topping, good for 4 servings
- ½ Tablespoon salted butter
- 1 Tablespoon sweetened condensed milk
- 1½ Tablespoons powdered sugar
- ½ cup cold heavy whipping cream
For the drink, per serving
- ¼ cup cold brew coffee
- 1 cup cola, preferably one made with cane sugar
- ¼ to ½ cup Salted Buttercream Topping, according to taste
- Ice cubes
Make the Salted Buttercream Topping
- In a small bowl, melt the butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Immediately add in the condensed milk and whisk until thoroughly combined.
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and cream until the cream thickens and ripples start forming on the surface. Slowly add in the butter-condensed milk mixture and continue whisking until homogenous and soft peaks form. You want this to be soft and not stiff so don’t overwhip. Place in the fridge for the time being. (Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.)
Make the drink
- Fill a tall serving glass with the ice and add the cold brew. Slowly pour the cola over the ice. It will bubble up to the rim so be patient. You want to leave about an inch allowance from the rim of the glass. Pipe or scoop the buttercream onto the top. If you want it more decadent, go the full ½ cup. Mix and enjoy with the Curry Chicken Katsu Rice Burger!
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