Not-Umami’s Burger

Umami Burger



Yield: 4 servings

I have to be real here…this burger will take you some time, but if you plan each component out, your hands-on time is almost nothing.  I had the pleasure of this burger on a visit to Los Angeles in the early days of Umami Burger restaurants, when there were still just a few spots and only in L.A.  Now, the restaurant has branched out and has locations across the country, but I will always remember that first time. This burger is the utter definition of umami, with the tomatoes, mushrooms, beef, soy sauce, and Parmesan.   Umami is one of the five tastes and can be described as savory or meaty.  There are many foods that are rich in glutamates, which are the receptors where the umami flavor is tasted on your palate.  The original burger does not have the truffle components, but I think it amps up the umami flavor even more.  OK, I’m tired of typing umami, so just make the burger!  P.S. I like puns…do you get the title yet?!



4 Roma tomatoes, halved

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1 tablespoon sugar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


2 large onions, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 star anise pod


1-1/3 pounds ground beef

2 tablespoons butter, frozen for at least 10 minutes

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


2/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon truffle oil

Kosher salt, to taste


1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon oyster sauce


1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese


4 buns, split in half

4 tablespoons white or black truffle butter, at room temperature


4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt, to taste


Preheat the oven to 250°.  Place the halved tomatoes on a small parchment-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar.  Bake for 3 to 3-1/2 hours, until the tomatoes have dehydrated but are still slightly plump.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.


Preheat a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the olive oil, onions and star anise pod.  You will have a mound of onions that will cook down to almost nothing.  Season generously with kosher salt and stir to mix.  Cook for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.  Taste your onions occasionally once they start to cook down and remove the star anise pod once the spice begins to infuse into the onions. If the onions are browning too quickly or starting to stick to the bottom, reduce the heat to medium-low (this will most likely occur after a minimum of an hour of cooking).


In separate bowls, combine all the ingredients from the truffle mayo and balsamic ketchup and season with salt and pepper to taste, if desired.  Refrigerate until ready to use.


Raise the oven temperature to 375°.  Spread approximately one-half tablespoon on each bun half.  Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, until golden and slightly crispy.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat liner and place a scant 1/4 cup of Parmesan on the baking sheet and, using the back of the measuring cup, spread into a round slightly smaller than the size of your buns (they will spread a little bit).  Repeat for the remaining three frico.  Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until melted and slightly golden.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.  Take care when transporting to your buns, as they are delicate and break easily.


Preheat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  When very hot, add the mushrooms in a single layer and don’t touch them for a few minutes!  When the mushrooms have cooked for a few minutes and begun to release some of their liquid, season generously with salt.  Continue to cook until dark in color and slightly caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes total.  Remove from the heat.


Preheat a grill pan or outdoor grill over medium heat for at least 10 minutes.  Mix the fish sauce, soy sauce and ground beef together to combine.  Grate the butter with a box or hand grater and mix gently into the beef.  Portion the beef into four 1/3-pound patties just slightly larger than your buns and season each side with salt and pepper.  Flatten the patties as much as you can, as they will puff up in the center as they cook.  Don’t overmix your meat!  Allow to rest while your pan heats.  In the bowl of a food processor, add the dried porcini mushrooms and process into a fine dust.  When ready to cook, place the patties on your grill pan and cook for approximately 4 to 7 minutes per side, or until the burgers reach your desired doneness. When you flip the burger, generously sprinkle the cooked side with the porcini dust.  Remove from the grill and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.


To assemble your burgers, spread some balsamic ketchup on the bottom bun. Place the burger patty on top and smear the caramelized onions over the burger.  Place the Parmesan frico, mushrooms and tomato on top.  Spread the top bun with the truffle mayo and top with the bun.


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