The cronut, that calorific cross between a croissant and a doughnut, may have to shove over. The ramen burger, a hamburger served on a bun made from fried ramen noodles, is the latest trendy take on haute junk-food.
Ramen burgers are the creation of chef and food blogger Keizo Shimamoto, who has been selling them at the Smorgusburg food market in Brooklyn, N.Y. The current craze has hungry crowds lining up for hours before Shimamoto even opens for business.
The ramen burger is just the latest instalment in what has been dubbed, "The Summer of Food That Should Not Exist." This wave of freaky food mash-ups, often with awkward portmanteau names, includes various iterations of the stunt burger: the grilled-cheese burger, the french fry burger, the spaghetti burger, as well as the inevitable (and at last month's Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, potentially poisonous) cronut burger. From the Pop-Tarts ice cream sandwich to the waffle taco (or waco, though that moniker is understandably slow to catch on), these Frankenfoods range from inspired to evil genius-y to just plain icky. Deep-fried lasagna burger? Ugh. Pizza with chicken strip crust? Eew.
So far, the demand for ramen burgers, as with so many hot hybrid foods in New York, is being driven by a canny combination of scarcity and buzz. That means short quantities and long lineups. In what could be the quintessential crossover of kooky made-up foodstuffs, a man recently tried to bribe his way into the Shimamoto's ramen burger queue using two coveted cronuts from Dominique Ansel's bakery.
While the ramen burger started out as a New York City phenomena, word has spread through social media. "I can't believe how fast news can travel," Shimamoto wrote on his blog, goramen.com, on Aug. 3. "In just two days, the Ramen Burger went from dream to Internet superstar before I even sold a single one."
The web has also allowed the rapid dissemination of knockoff recipes. The name of Shimamoto's own ramen burger may be trademarked, but homemade versions have been popping up all over the web. While Shinamoto was coy about the "secret" to the ramen bun, food bloggers quickly figured out it must involve using egg as a binder. Emulating Shinamoto's other flavours, most recipes involve adding soy sauce and sesame oil to the burger. Condiments include ketchup spiked with Asian hot sauce.
Sorted, a popular online food hub, jumped on the ramen burger. Specializing in cheap and cheerful recipes for young people and students, the Sorted lads aren't exactly strangers to ramen noodles. Their version of the ramen burger involves a double beef burger, quick-steamed pak choy, a fried egg and cheese (that last ingredient seeming like a bit of a British bloke addition). Foodie sites offer some ramen burger fails (too high, too flat, too strange), but also lots of good advice. I mixed and matched a few of the Internet recipes and watched the hands-on demo video from Sorted Food. The result is a basic version of the ramen burger. (Or, since the name Ramen Burger is trademarked, let's just call them Mr. Noodle Burgers.) You can probably figure out from this recipe whether this is something you actually want to make and eat, or whether this is more of an "Alison made a ramen burger so I don't have to" situation.
I will say these burgers were surprisingly easy and pretty tasty. At any rate, there was no lineup.
Mr. Noodle Burger
2 x 100 g packages ramen noodles (I used original flavour)
2 eggs, beaten
250 g (1/2 lb) regular ground beef
few splashes soy sauce
few splashes sesame oil
bunch green onions, finely chopped
Ketchup mixed with hot sauce, to taste
Green onions, chopped
Cook the noodles according to package directions, but DO NOT add seasoning mix. Drain noodles and let sit until cool enough to handle but still slightly warm. Place noodles in a medium bowl, add eggs and mix thoroughly. Divide the noodle mix into four and place each portion in a round container, like a bowl or a ramekin, about the size you want the bun to be. Press each portion into the container and then take plastic wrap and cover completely, keeping a flat, round shape. Press the ramen "bun" down into the container and then press with a weight. (I nested the bowls and then used a final bowl with a heavy can on it.) Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
When ready to make the burgers, place ground beef in a bowl, add the contents of one seasoning packet, a few splashes of soy sauce, a few splashes of sesame oil and the green onions. Mix thoroughly, but try not to overwork the meat. Form into two patties slightly bigger than the size of your ramen "buns." (Meat will shrink slightly as it cooks.) Poke a little dimple in the centre of each patty to keep it from plumping up. Using a medium pan, fry burgers until cooked through, flipping once. Meanwhile, unwrap the ramen buns (they should be firm and holding together). In another large non-stick pan, heat oil, add the four ramen buns and cook until lightly browned on one side. Flip and continue to cook until lightly browned on the other side.
Serve by placing a ramen bun on a plate, topping with a burger, garnishing with arugula, green onions and ketchup. Top with another ramen bun. Makes 2 burgers.
Tester's notes: Yes, this is undoubtedly a novelty food, but it's a darn tasty novelty food, and not as fiddly as I thought it would be. The ramen buns ended up slightly crisped at the edges and soft inside. I worried they would be messy to cook and eat, but after the time in the fridge, these "buns" held up really well.
And the ramen-inflected flavours pair well with the beef burgers. (You can use pre-made patties if you want; just splash them with a bit of soy and sesame oil.)
How hungry would you have to be to eat a ramn burger? Join the conversation in comments below.