Sunday, March 24, 2013

Yum...ami - The Best Burger in Beijing


I went back to Pinotage one day when I was craving red meat. I’ve heard people rave about their hamburger but had not yet tried it myself as, in my belief, a burger is a burger is a burger; the toppings are what makes it.  And, if I go to a nice restaurant, I want to try something new; something that the chef had put a real thought in to, something imaginative and different, challenging even. Something I am not likely to make myself.

Still, this day, I just had to have a burger. I completely expected the Beef Burger with Umami Seasoning, Sautéed Mushrooms, Caramelized Onion, House Dried Tomatoes, Parmesan Crisp, and House Made Tomato Sauce to be a simple mushroom and cheese burger but boy, was I wrong…

Umami is one of the five basic tastes together with sweet, salty, bitter and sour. The word is borrowed from Japanese where it can be translated as “pleasant savory taste”. It is slightly brothy or meaty (which distinguishes it from salty) with a long flavorful aftertaste that pleasantly coats the tongue. It was originally discovered in Japan by Professor Kikunae Ikeda who in 1908 managed to isolate glutamic acid from kombu, a kind of seaweed often used in Japanese cooking. MSG (monosodium glutamate) is often added to dishes to produce the same results as natural umami seasoning but MSG is often misused. The right amount added can really enhance flavors but use too much and the food becomes unpleasant and almost chemically tasting. Though there are no scientific proof; I know many who have felt queasy or even been hallucinating after a meal heavy on the MSG (“I can see pink elephants!” – ok, perhaps the bai jiu was talking a little bit…).

The burger at Pinotage was made with prime ground beef, perfectly cooked to my liking. The mushrooms sautéed until perfection, the onions sweet and tender, the tomato sauce and dried tomatoes unexpectedly savory and the parmesan crisp nutty, salty and well, crispy. The top bun I removed immediately (why are they always too big) but the bottom part soaked up the meaty juices perfectly and added an extra texture to each perfect bite.

Will I go back for the burger?  Definitely!  Will I make it myself?  Not likely. Why should I when I can have the perfect burger for 80 kuai at a nice restaurant 15 minutes from my house. Besides, while MSG will never cross my threshold, I have no idea how to extract anything from seaweed.

No comments:

Post a Comment