Japanese Bento Burgers with Wasabi Guaca-mame and Ponzu Grilled Shishito Peppers

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.

The combination of sweet, spicy, salty, and umami flavors found in Japanese cuisine hits every single one of my taste buds. Japanese restaurants, with menus offering multiple courses of small plates, are tailored for indecisive customers such as myself! I can try a little bit of everything and leave perfectly satisfied. One of my favorite local restaurants offers a “Bento Box” dinner, which allows the customer to choose their own mix of traditional Japanese items off the menu, which are neatly placed in their own little compartment in the box.

This burger was inspired by all of my favorite bento box items: Green salad with tangy carrot-ginger dressing, miso soup with shiitake mushrooms, steamed sesame edamame, wok-charred shishito peppers (every once in awhile you get a spicy one, so beware!), miso-glazed black cod, and various types of sushi with lots of hot wasabi and pickled ginger. The Comte cheese, while not Japanese, adds a complementary mildly nutty flavor. Although there are several components to this recipe, the various steps come together quite easily, creating a unique and yummy burger that will have your guests saying “Domo arigato!”


Wasabi Guaca-mame:
1 large ripe Hass avocado, halved and pitted
1 1/4 cups frozen shelled edamame beans, thawed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon wasabi paste
1 tablespoon chopped pickled ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Carrot-Ginger Dressing:
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 one-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped
1 medium shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons white miso paste
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons water

Miso-Glazed Patties:
2/3 cup white miso paste
2/3 cup mirin
1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms, finely ground
1/4 cup ponzu soy sauce
1/3 cup finely chopped scallions
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh gingerroot
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/4 pounds ground chuck

Shishito Peppers:
18 medium-sized fresh shishito peppers, stems removed
3 tablespoons ponzu soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil

Vegetable oil, for brushing the grill rack

3 cups loosely packed Asian salad greens or regular mixed greens
6 ounces Comte cheese (can substitute Emmentaler or Gruyere), thinly sliced
6 fresh brioche hamburger buns, split


Makes 6 burgers

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

Prepare the Wasabi Guaca-mame: Scoop the flesh out of the avocado halves into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the edamame, cilantro, wasabi paste, pickled ginger, and the salt to the bowl. Process the mixture until almost smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Transfer the guaca-mame to a bowl, cover, and chill. Clean out the food processor bowl and the blade (they will be used in the next step.)

Prepare the Carrot-Ginger Dressing: Place the carrot, ginger, shallot, miso paste, and rice vinegar in the bowl of the food processor fitted with the steel blade. Blend the mixture until it is finely chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. With the motor running, slowly add the vegetable oil and then the 2 tablespoons of water through the feed tube in a slow stream, continuing to blend until smooth. Transfer the dressing to a small bowl, cover, and chill.

Prepare the miso glaze and the patties: In a medium bowl, whisk together the miso paste and the mirin until smooth; cover and set aside. Place the ground shiitake mushrooms in a large bowl. Add the ponzu sauce, and stir until well blended. Add the scallions, garlic, ginger, crushed red pepper, and salt; stir to mix. Add the ground beef to the bowl and mix all of the ingredients together, handling the meat as little as possible to avoid overworking it. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form the portions into patties to fit the buns. Place the patties on a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Thread the shishito peppers (crosswise) onto 3 metal skewers or onto 3 bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water. Place the skewers on a large plate or a tray. In a small bowl, whisk together the ponzu sauce and the sesame oil. Brush both sides of the peppers with the ponzu oil. Place the skewers on the grill. Grill the peppers for 3-5 minutes on each side, brushing occasionally with the extra ponzu oil, until the peppers are charred and blistered. Carefully slide the peppers off of the skewers onto a plate, and cover with foil to keep warm.

Brush the grill rack with vegetable oil.

In a medium bowl, toss the salad greens with about 1/2 cup of the Carrot-Ginger Dressing; set aside.

Grill the patties: Place the patties on the grill rack. Brush the tops of the patties with some of the miso glaze. Cover the grill, and cook the patties for 4 to 6 minutes per side for medium, brushing occasionally with the glaze until the desired level of doneness is achieved. During the last few minutes of grilling, place the sliced cheese on top of the patties, and place the buns, cut sides down, around the sides of the grill (or upper rack if available) to toast lightly.

Assemble the burgers: Place equal portions of the Carrot Ginger Salad on the bottom halves of the buns. Spread a generous layer of the Wasabi Guaca-mame onto the cut sides of the top halves of the buns. Top the salad with a patty, three shishito peppers, and the top bun. Serve immediately to your very lucky friends!!