A burger, at its most basic level, involves ground meat cooked to your desired doneness and served on a bun. However, this is just the blank canvas; your choice of meat is also key. If you opt for classic ground beef, you need to consider the fat-to-lean ratio and any seasonings before even thinking about toppings. While pondering mix-ins, along with basic salt, pepper, and other spices, you should also consider a secret ingredient that can bring an unexpected burst of flavor: fish sauce.
Fish sauce is a pungent liquid condiment and seasoning sold under different brands, made by fermenting fish and salt. It's commonly used in Thai, Vietnamese, and other Asian cuisines to add an intense savoriness and saltiness to dishes, which is what makes it particularly suited for enhancing pretty much any of your favorite burger recipes. By adding just a small amount, your patties will be infused with rich flavor minus any strong fishy taste. Promise!
Fish Sauce Adds Umami To Burgers
Fish sauce is rich in umami, often referred to as the fifth flavor alongside salty, sweet, bitter, and sour. Umami is a savory quality found in some proteins like those in red meat, fish, seaweed, cheese, tomatoes, and various vegetables. Adding fish sauce naturally enhances the umami in a burger, eliminating the need for MSG, a concentrated source of this flavor compound. When Adam Fleishman reinvented the burger for his popular restaurant concept, Umami Burger, he experimented with fish sauce along with other umami-rich elements.
Fleishman's idea was a stroke of brilliance because the basic burger naturally possesses high levels of umami, especially if it includes cheese and ketchup -- both significant sources of the compound. Fish sauce, while unconventional, elevates these savory qualities. Plus, when used judiciously, no one will even detect the presence of fish sauce inside the burger; it simply tastes more savory.
How To Make An Umami-Rich Burger At Home
While adding fish sauce to a hamburger might seem unusual, you've probably added something similar, notes the "Burger Guru" in an interview with Washingtonian: Worcestershire sauce. This condiment is often used to flavor beef, and its base includes fish in the form of anchovies. Of course, Worcestershire sauce also imparts a caramelized flavor that can alter the burger's character significantly. Fish sauce, on the other hand, is lighter and disappears into the meat with proper use. The Burger Guru suggests starting with a couple of tablespoons of fish sauce per pound of beef, but feel free to adjust if you find the sauce's taste too prominent.
When selecting fish sauce, pay attention to the ingredients because quality can vary. One common method is to look for a concise list of ingredients and avoiding products containing MSG, artificial colors, or flavorings. Seek a variety with anchovies, water, salt, and sugar, and consider one with higher protein content and lower sodium for the best results.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.