Beginning in the mid 19th century, immigrants from China, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Portugal arrived en masse in Hawaii to work in the burgeoning sugarcane plantation industry. Each of these immigrant populations brought with them the ethnic cuisine of their home country, and local food in Hawaii emerged from this unique melting pot of cultures. The Hawaiian plate lunch, which is ubiquitous in Hawaii and is now gaining traction in the continental United States, is actually an amalgamation of Korean barbecue, Japanese izakaya fare, Chinese-American recipes, and Polynesian cuisine.
Loco moco is a popular plate lunch item consisting of a hamburger patty, a fried sunny-side-up egg, and brown gravy over a mound of white rice. There is no culinary significance to the dish other than that it epitomizes the spirit of local comfort food, and is very delicious. The fundamental premise here is the flavor of onion – the hamburger and the gravy both feature generous amounts of minced sweet onion, the plate is garnished with chopped scallions, and crispy, deep-fried shallots are added as a decadent topping.
On a tangential note, it is more appropriate to refer to somebody from Hawaii as a local, while the term Hawaiian is reserved for ethnic Hawaiians. Similarly, local food such as loco moco is distinct from Hawaiian food, which refers to traditional Polynesian cuisine.
LOCO MOCO // HAMBURGER STEAK + FRIED EGG & MUSHROOM GRAVY
portioned for two servings.
- 1 lb ground beef with high fat content
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 large white or yellow onion, finely minced
- ¼ cup panko
- 4 tbsp milk
- Onion powder
- 1 shallot, sliced into rings and strips
- ½ cup flour
- 1 bunch scallions, chopped
- 2 eggs
- 1.5 cups of beef stock
- 3 tbsp butter or beef drippings from cooking
- 3 tbsp flour
- 1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
- 2-3 tbsp soy sauce
Soak ¼ cup panko in 4 tbsp of milk and set aside.
Slice shallots into rings and strips and dust lightly with flour, salt, and pepper. Heat an inch of oil in a heavy pot or pan and deep fry until browned, being careful not to burn the shallots – about 1-2 minutes. Set aside on a paper towel-lined rack to cool. Crisped shallots can be stored in an airtight container for up to one day.
Finely mince the onion and transfer half of the minced onion to a mixing bowl with 1 lb of ground beef, 1 egg, and the panko/milk mixture. Season generously with salt, pepper, and onion powder. Gently mix the contents of the bowl and form two large patties.
Heat a small amount of cooking oil in a cast iron or stainless steel skillet and pan fry the hamburgers on each side until cooked through, about 6-8 minutes total. At this point, there are two options for gravy – either make it from scratch with butter, or wait until the hamburgers are done cooking and make the gravy from the pan drippings. Using the pan drippings will take longer, but will result in better flavor. A stainless steel skillet should be used if opting for the pan drippings as a greater amount of fond will be developed on the skillet surface.
In any case, use either 3 tbsp of butter in a separate pan or beef drippings from the pan used in cooking to sauté the remaining minced onions and sliced crimini mushrooms. Stir in 3 tbsp of flour and cook the roux over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add 1.5 cups of beef stock to the pan and bring the gravy to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and season the gravy to taste with salt, pepper, onion powder, and soy sauce to taste.
Meanwhile, fry 2 eggs on low-medium heat, covered, until the white is crisped and the yolk is just set.
When the gravy is thickened and properly seasoned, arrange plates with a generous serving of white rice, a hamburger steak, one sunny-side-up-egg, finely chopped scallions, and crisp shallots. Serve immediately.