With a name that sounds more like a Mexican fast food joint or a designer drug’s street-name, you’d hardly expect Loco Moco to be a dish that hails from a chain of volcanic islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Born out of the plate-lunch culture that is a pillar of modern Hawaiian cuisine, Loco Moco is a dish that could only have been invented in the melting pot that is Hawaii.
A mountain of rice topped with a hamburger patty and fried egg, all floating in a sea of brown gravy, Loco Moco is an eclectic mix of Asian and American comfort foods that symbolizes the Aloha State in more than one respect. As tasty as it sounds, I’ve never had a Loco Moco that’s really bowled me over. The patties are often overcooked, underseasoned pucks of hamburger, and the gravy usually tastes like it came out of a package.
Recently, a reader asked me how I’d make my version of Loco Moco and it got me thinking about how I could take this plate-lunch staple from good to great.
First, I wanted a patty that was more tender and flavorful. The obvious solution would have been to simply borrow the patty mixture from my Japanese Hamburg Steak, but that just seemed like too far a departure from Loco Moco’s laid-back simplicity. To that end, I kept it easy, adding panko for moisture retaining tenderness and some onions, oyster sauce and Worcestershire sauce for flavor.
For the gravy, I decided to do a mushroom pan gravy incorporating the fond from frying the patties along with some well browned mushrooms. Finally some soy sauce and bourbon go into the gravy for some extra oomph (Kentucky may be a long way from Hawaii, but when has adding booze ever been a bad thing?).
My last trick was to cover the rice and hamburger with fried shallots. This adds a marvelous sweet onion flavor to both the rice and the gravy, elevating the dish to another level of deliciousness. Topped with a sunny-side up egg, it’s heaven on a plate.
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