RECIPES: Recipe Details

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Those tongue teasing, hot and haunting Sichuan peppercorns are now thankfully back on the market, after a few years hiatus and I am thrilled. They work so well in a beef burger. The toasted peppercorns are very spicy but not painfully hot, like a fiery Asian dried chile. The tingling sensation tickles the taste buds, then dissipates as you bite into the juicy burger. So delicious, Ma Po, creator of the Sichuan inspiration, would be jealous. These burgers call out for a Sutter Home Zinfandel – not a wimpy wine, it can take the heat!


(I counted 14 ingredients. The starred ingredients are used both in the burgers and the relish. I repeated them each time for clarity.) Cool Gingered Napa Relish:
1-1/2 cups shredded Chinese celery cabbage (Napa)
1 tablespoon scallion greens, finely minced *
2” piece peeled ginger, finely minced to yield
1-1/2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce*
1 tablespoon Colavita extra virgin olive oil*
Scallion Oil for Buns:
1/2 cup Colavita extra virgin olive oil*
2 large or 3 smaller scallions, cut into 2” lengths*
--- Burgers:
6 ounces (one-half a 12-oz package) silken firm tofu
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 pounds ground beef chuck (75-80% lean)
1-3/4 tablespoons naturally brewed soy sauce*
1-1/2 tablespoons hot bean paste
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1-1/2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns
4 scallions, well trimmed, slivered lengthwise and cut into 3” flat pieces, for garnish*
6 large sesame-seed hamburger buns, split open


Set a gas grill on high, then reduce temperature to medium-high when ready to grill. Adjust burners for direct grilling and adjust rack so that burgers will be 5-6” from heat source. Relish: Combine Napa cabbage, 1 tablespoon scallion greens and ginger. Whisk vinegar with sugar, 2 teaspoons soy sauce and 1 tablespoon oil. Toss with cabbage mixture. Set aside to blend flavors. Scallion Oil for Buns : In a grill-proof saucepan placed on grill rack; heat 1/2 cup oil and the 2” scallions lengths until scallions sizzle and turn golden, just a few minutes. Remove and set aside until cool. Strain, Mix 2 tablespoons of sizzled scallions with Napa Relish, reserve remainder for another use. -------------- Burgers: Pat excess moisture from tofu with paper towel and crumble with a fork. Mix with cornstarch then combine with beef and 1-3/4 tablespoons soy sauce, mixing thoroughly. Add bean paste, and garlic. Handling mixture gently, form into six 3/4” patties without compacting. Place a small, dry, grill-proof skillet on grill. Toast peppercorns 1-2 minutes just until fragrant. Remove immediately to a cutting board. Crush with a wine bottle “rolling pin” or in a pepper grinder on coarsest setting. Coat patties with 1/4 teaspoon of the peppercorns per side. Oil grill rack. Grill hamburger buns, cut side down around edge of grill, until golden, about 2 minutes. Brush cut sides generously with scallion oil. Grill burgers 4-6 minutes per side over medium-high or until internal temperature reaches 160 F, Turn after 5 minutes. Arrange sliced scallions on bun bottoms. Add burgers. Drain relish of any excess liquid and top burgers with a spoonful of Cool Gingered Napa Relish. Close buns. Serves 6. Wine Pairing: Sutter Home Zinfandel


Ingredient notes: Silken firm tofu is available at most grocery stores. Hot bean paste is available in well-stocked grocery stores, in the Asian section, and at Asian markets. Sichuan peppercorns: These are easily available.