This Mos Style Yakiniku Rice Burger a fun and tasty Japanese twist on the classic hamburger! Made with thinly sliced beef marinated and pan fried in a flavourful, mildly spicy yakiniku style sauce and served in a lightly seared rice "bun", this truly is a "burger" like no other!
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What is a rice burger?
Rice burger is a hamburger-like dish that uses cooked rice pressed into a round shape instead of bread for the bun. It was originally introduced in 1987 by the Japanese fast food chain Mos Burger, and it has become a popular food across East Asia since then.
According to the official Mos Burger website, the idea for the creation of Mos Burger came from the concept of using Japan's staple food to create a new product as an alternative to a regular hamburger made with bread buns. In fact, Mos Burger is one of the first Japan born burger chains and appeared a little after American fast food chains McDonald's and KFC were starting to gain popularity in Japan.
Incidentally, the idea of using rice instead of buns was not an easy one. In order to prevent the rice from losing its shape, the creators took some inspiration from yaki onigiri and decided to grill the rice. Even after all these years, it remains a firm favourite on the Mos Burger menu.
By the way, rice burger is not the only unusual burger available at Mos Burger, check out this lettuce leaf burger! Great for those who are trying to cut down on carbs.
To me, this has gone too far but you can kind of tell that Mos Burger has always been an avant-garde burger chain. But wait... when I walked past another Japanese burger chain "Lotteria" the other day, I also found something called "DX Tyranno chicken burger".
Fried chicken instead of burger buns! Well, that was a little glimpse of everyday life in Japan. Even though I was born and raised in Japan, food ideas and innovation in Japan have never stopped amusing me.
Ingredients to make Mos Burger style rice burger
My yakiniku rice burger is made up of two main elements, the rice "bun" and the yakiniku beef filling. Here are the ingredients I use for each part:
It's important to use Japanese short grain white rice for this recipe. This is the same kind of rice used for onigiri and sushi, it has a sticky texture and holds together when shaped. Other kinds of rice like long grain basmati or jasmine rice are too dry and will only fall apart when shaped.
I use a rice cooker to cook my rice, but if you need tips on how to cook Japanese rice without a rice cooker, check out my post here.
Easy yakiniku style beef
- Thinly sliced beef (beef used for Philly cheesesteaks work best - thinly sliced ribeye or top round)
- Apple (grated - sharp apples work best like Granny Smith, Braeburn or Jonathon)
- Fresh ginger (grated)
- Garlic cloves (grated)
- Soy sauce
- Tobanjan (Chinese fermented chilli paste)
I also place a layer of frilly lettuce on the bottom piece of rice. This is not only for taste and presentation, but also to prevent excess juices or sauce from the meat leaking onto the rice (if the rice "buns" get wet or greasy they start to fall apart - so make sure the lettuce is dried thoroughly after washing too!)
Instructions on how to make rice burger at home
Here are my step by step instructions on how to make Mos Burger style rice burgers at home including process pictures for clarity. For the ingredient quantities and a simplified printable version of this recipe, see the recipe card at the bottom of the page!
Make rice burger "buns"
Mix cooked Japanese rice in a bowl with potato starch and sesame seeds. (I cooked my rice in a rice cooker, but see here for how to cook Japanese rice on the stove.) The potato starch helps bind it together more firmly while the sesame seeds add a toasty flavour.
Once all the ingredients are well distributed through the rice, divide it into portions. I made 2 rice burgers so I divided the rice into 4.
Use a large round cookie cutter (or something similar) to shape the rice into discs. (I used a 9cm approx 3.5 inches egg ring like this to shape mine.) Place the cookie cutter/egg ring on a flat surface and press the rice into the mold. You should press the rice firmly enough that it holds together, but not so hard that you crush the rice.
Carefully push the rice discs out of the molds and place them on a plate. Cover them in plastic wrap and rest them in fridge for 30 minutes. (This step helps dry them out a little so they don't fall apart when frying and assembling the rice burger.)
Mix the sauce and marinate the beef
Start by grating garlic, apple and ginger and mixing it in a bowl with soy sauce, tobanjan, sake and honey.
Once the ingredients are combined, place your thinly sliced beef in the bowl and mix thoroughly until evenly coated.
Cover and marinate in the fridge until the rice is ready.
Fry the rice burger buns
Preheat a large frying pan on medium and add a drizzle of sesame oil. Place the rice discs in the frying pan and fry on each side for 1 minute.
While they're frying on one side, brush the top with soy sauce. Repeat on the other side after flipping them over.
Once both sides have been brushed with so sauce, flip one last time and continue to fry for 30 seconds so that both sides have a lightly charred soy sauce taste.
Remove from the pan and allow to cool slightly before assembling.
Fry the beef
Heat a pan on medium (it's fine to use the same pan you used to cook the rice) and add a drizzle of vegetable oil.
Once it's hot, add the beef and marinade together into the pan and fry until the meat is cooked through and the sauce is reduced completely.
Any fat or excess liquid from the meat that leaks onto the rice can cause it to lose it's stickiness and fall apart, Although creating a barrier using lettuce helps, it's still important to reduce the sauce completely to prevent messy broken burgers!
Assemble the rice burger
Stack the rice burger in this order: rice "bun" → layer of frilly lettuce → generous layer of pan fried yakiniku beef → rice bun.
Serve and enjoy!
Substitutions and variations of this rice burger recipe
In this section, I will list all the alternative ingredients, substitutions and variations against the recipe card below to make the best rice burger to your preference:
- Chicken or pork - instead of beef. You could even try filling the rice burger with elements of other recipes such as teriyaki chicken, chicken tsukune or ginger pork!
- Other types of starch such as corn starch (instead of potato starch)
- Gochujang (instead of tobanjan)