Fo-Fo (Faux Pho) Burgers — Vietnamese-Inspired Spiced Burgers with Gingery Onions

Pairs well with:

Sauvignon Blanc

With hints of passion fruit, melon, and citrus, this wine beckons you to kick back and find a perfect porch swing.


1 1/2 tablespoons chopped Thai basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped scallions
1 cup good mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip or “salad dressing”)
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce (nuoc mam)
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground star anise
Scant 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 pounds ground chuck
1 teaspoon Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam)
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 medium to large white onions
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger, juice squeezed out
2 tablespoons Sutter Home Gewürztraminer white wine
Vegetable oil for grill
6 ciabatta bread rolls, or ciabatta loafs cut into six burger-bun-sized chunks
6 leaves red leaf lettuce
12 leaves Thai basil
12 small sprigs fresh cilantro



Herbed mayonnaise: Herbed mayonnaise can be prepared several hours ahead. Stir the chopped herbs into mayonnaise, add lime juice, fish sauce. Squeeze juice from grated ginger into mayonnaise, reserve the ginger. Chill until ready to use.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium high.

To make the burger patties: Mix the star anise, cloves, cinnamon, salt and pepper well in a small bowl. Blend well into the beef. Sprinkle 1/3 of spice mix over the ground chuck, then add the fish sauce. Squeeze juice from the grated ginger (reserve the ginger). Mix lightly. Add half the remaining spice blend, mix lightly, add rest of spices and mix lightly until the spices are well distributed. Form six patties, and set onto platter, covered with plastic wrap or foil, awaiting grilling.

For the caramelized onions: Put the oil into a 12-inch cast iron (or other fire-proof) skillet. Thinly slice onions. Put into skillet with the reserved 3 tablespoons of grated ginger. Set skillet over medium-high to high heat and cook, stirring often, until onions are golden – about 15-20 minutes. Add the wine, let it boil off for 1-2 minutes. Remove onions from grill and set aside, covered with aluminum foil to keep warm.

When the grill is ready, brush it with oil. Put patties on the grill, cover and cook until browned on bottom. Turn, cook until done to preference – about 5 minutes more for medium. Place the ciabatta buns or bread, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly during the last 2 minutes of grilling.

To assemble the burgers: Spread both sides of bread with Herbed Mayonnaise. On the bottom of bun, spread 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons caramelized onions, to taste. Cover with burger. Atop each burger put a leaf of red leaf lettuce, then two basil leaves and two small cilantro sprigs atop the lettuce. Add the bun tops, and serve.