The Japanese version of Salisbury Steak, Stewed Hamburg Steak is made with a mixture of pork mince (ground pork) and beef mince (ground beef), cooked in a sauce flavoured with tomato ketchup and Worcestershire sauce.
Hamburg steaks are very popular among Japanese people, particularly children. This is one of the many Western style dishes that made it to Japanese households as a home cooking dish. Today’s recipe, Stewed Hamburg Steak is a variation of popular Hamburg steak dishes.
The word ‘stewing’ is ‘nikomu’ (煮込む) in Japanese. Because browned Hamburg steaks are cooked in flavoured sauce like stew until the sauce becomes thick, this recipe is called Nikomi Hamburg (煮込みハンバーグ) in Japan. To be more accurate, it should actually be spelt ‘Nikomi Hanbāgu’ to reflect the way the Japanese pronounce the word ‘Hamburg’.
Hamburg steak was introduced to Japan in the early 20thcentury, around 1910-1920. But it was still a dish served in restaurants, rather than cooked at home. This was probably because the Hamburg steaks were made of beef mince (ground beef) and beef was an expensive meat (and it still is!).
It was only in the 1960s when Hamburg steaks using mixture of pork mince (ground pork) and beef mince (ground beef) were introduced, and Hamburg steaks became a popular dish at home.
Hamburg steak made of pork and beef is bouncier and juicier compared to the one with just beef. But beef gives it a meatier texture and flavour.
The proportion of pork and beef is up to you. It is said that 30-40% pork and 60-70% beef is the best mix but I used 50:50 in my recipe. Simply because it is easier to buy a quarter kilo (a half pound) of pork mince and a quarter kilo of beef mince. If I happened to have different amounts of pork and beef, I might just mix them without worrying about the proportions.
I am not sure how the stewing method of making Hamburg steaks came about but I am wondering if the stewing method was invented to eliminate the risk of uncooked Hamburg steak. I know from my experience that the thick ground meat patty is difficult to cook through without burning the outside.
In this recipe, you only need to cook the patties for a couple of minutes each to brown the surface. The stewing step after this takes care of cooking the meat through.
The stewing sauce is a mixture of beef stock, water, wine, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce and sugar. But wine can be replaced with water.
I have a vague memory of cooking Nikomi Hamburg with my sister for the family when we were around 18 years old. At the time, we did not use wine as it did not exist in our household. We also used tomatoes and the flavour was more tomato based as well as the colour. I think that it was the most common flavouring for stewing sauce at the time.
But I changed the recipe of the sauce because I wanted it to look like demi-glace sauce. I eliminated crushed tomatoes and added red wine. It is not the same as demi-glace sauce of course, but the flavour of the sauce is pretty good (I got thumbs up from my kids!). The consistency of the sauce is just like demi-glace sauce. I also made the sauce without wine and it turned out OK, too.
I added shimeji mushrooms to the sauce to give an authentic touch to the dish. But sliced button mushrooms work pretty well with this sauce, too. You don’t have to add mushrooms, either.
Nikomi Hamburg is a typical ‘yōshoku’ (洋食, Western food) that is served at family restaurants in Japan. Like many other yōshoku dishes, Nikomi Hamburg is often served with rice, instead of bread. Rice is normally served on a separate plate but at home, I serve a typical set menu of Nikomi Hamburg like this.
You can keep Stewed Hamburg Steaks in the fridge for a few days. To reheat, use the microwave to maintain the soft texture of the Hamburg steak.
The Japanese version of Salisbury Steak, Stewed Hamburg Steak is made with a mixture of pork mince (ground pork) and beef mince (ground beef), cooked in a flavoursome sauce made with just beef stock, tomato ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and sugar, with/without red wine.
- 1 onion , finely chopped
- 1½ tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp panko breadcrumbs (note 1)
- 2 tbsp milk
- 250g (0.6lb) beef mince (ground beef, note 2)
- 250g (0.6lb) pork mince (ground pork, note 2)
- 1 egg
- ¼ tsp pepper
- ½ tsp salt
- 1½ tbsp oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- ¼ onion , thinly sliced
- 100g (3.5oz) shimeji mushrooms (note 3)
- 250ml (8.5oz) beef stock
- 50ml (1.7oz) each of water and red wine (note 4)
- 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Add 1½ tablespoons of butter to a frying pan over medium high heat. Sauté onion for 3 minutes until the edge of the onion pieces start browning slightly.
Transfer the onions to a large bowl, spread them as thinly as possible and cool them down.
Mix panko breadcrumbs and milk in a small bowl.
When the onions are at least at room temperature, add all the Hamburg Steak ingredients except oil to the bowl of onions and mix well until ingredients are evenly mixed and the mixture becomes sticky.
Flatten the surface of the mixture and draw cross lines to partition into 4 equal quadrants.
Put a small amount of oil (not in ingredients) on your palms, take ¼ of the mince mixture and make a ball.
Throw the mince ball from one hand to the other to flatten, like the baseball players do (although the baseball won’t flatten). Do it few times so that the air inside the mince mixture is removed. Then turn the ball into a flat oval shape of about 2.5cm (1") thick.
Press the centre of the oval gently to make it slightly thinner than the outer part of the oval (the centre bulges up when cooked). Repeat steps 6, 7 and 8 to make 4 patties.
Add oil to a frying pan over medium high heat. Place the 4 mince patties in the frying pan and place a lid on.
Cook for about 2 minutes until the bottom of the Hamburg steak is browned. Then turn it over using a spatula, place a lid on and cook further 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Wipe the frying pan to remove black bits but do not completely wipe off as good flavour is stuck to the bottom.
Melt butter in the frying pan over medium high heat. Add sliced onions and sauté for a couple of minutes until the onions become transparent.
Add shimeji mushrooms and sauté for further 2 minutes or so until the mushrooms are softened and lightly browned.
Add the remaining Stewing Sauce ingredients to the frying pan, mix well and bring it to a boil over high heat.
Reduce the heat to medium high and place the Hamburg steaks back into the frying pan including the juice on the plate.
Cook for 8 minutes or until the sauce reduces and thickens slightly with a gravy consistency. While cooking, turn the Hamburg steaks over once and then once more at the end. Turn the heat off.
Transfer the Hamburg steaks to serving plates with a choice of vegetables. Pour the sauce with shimeji mushrooms over the Hamburg steaks. Serve immediately.
1. Panko is Japanese breadcrumbs and it is much coarser than standard breadcrumbs. When soaked in milk, the breadcrumbs become soft and easy to blend into the meat mixture. You could also use soft white bread ripped into small pieces.
2. Japanese Hamburg steak is usually made of pork mince (ground pork) and beef mince (ground beef) mixed together. But you can use just pork or beef if you want. It is also OK to change the ratio of pork and beef. The more beef you have in the patties, the firmer the cooked Hamburg steaks will be.
3. I used shimeji mushrooms to give a Japanese touch to the sauce. But thinly sliced button mushrooms are also great.
4. For a non-alcohol version, replace wine with water.