I’ve picked up plenty of treasures from my travels around the world, but looking around my house you’d never know it because my collection is a book of recipes we’ve concocted after finding a new favorite dish in a new favorite place. Each place we go, we pick up a new recipe. I LOVE trying new foods and usually make it my goal to try a few of the local specialties when visiting a new place. Some of my stand-out favorites are khao soi in Chiang Mai, Thailand, rotee in Ao Nang, Thailand, ramen in Nagoya, Japan and peanut ice cream on Udo Island in Korea.
On our trip to Maui, Hawaii last month, we enjoyed a ton of fresh seafood, but most of those dishes are impossible to recreate at home in West Texas. That’s why I was so excited to find Loco Moco! Its main ingredient—beef—is plentiful here in our landlocked dwelling place, so I took careful notes as my husband devoured the dish that I declared my souvenir of the trip. (I didn’t order it because I was too busy eating raw seafood).
We scoured the local grocery store before leaving Maui for some sort of seasoning packet to assist us in re-creating this tasty meal back home but came up empty handed. I know there’s a “Loco Moco” packet out there somewhere, but we decided we could do it without one. A few days after we got home from our trip, we took to the kitchen to see if we could cook up some Hawaiian fare, and a new recipe was born. I posted a pic on Instagram and our very own resident Velvet Ashes foodie, Ashley Felder, saw it and asked me to share it with y’all. So here goes! Forgive me for not having a super formal recipe, but I don’t feel it’s in the spirit of this laidback dish to write down specifics. (Read: I’m short on time and still trying to catch up from vacation!)
Not only is “Loco Moco” fun to say, it’s also fun to cook and eat! It’s a pretty basic dish consisting of steamed white rice, a hamburger patty, a fried egg and rich brown gravy all stacked up on top of each other. However simple it may sound, the excitement is in the presentation. First you cook up your favorite white rice (and if you’re not using a rice cooker don’t tell me about it because I’m convinced there’s no point in living without one, but that’s just my 10 years in Asia showing). While the rice is doing its thing, bust open a package of ground beef.
Okay, right here is where I owe those of you living in China an apology. Maybe you’ve found a good place to get ground beef and everything has changed since I’ve lived there, but we had the hardest time finding good beef in China. Maybe it’s because my Texas standards were too high, but even when I bought beef from the place everyone else guaranteed me would be awesome, I came away disappointed. We almost stopped using beef altogether because it was such a disappointment. Whenever people asked me what food I missed most from home my answer was always the same, “100% USDA approved BEEF.” If you’re in a country where good beef is available, you’re gonna love this. If not, you can play around with some other sort of ground meat and tofu combination. Or save this one for your next home leave! Once again, I’m sorry!
Okay, back to the beef! We used about 2 lbs of ground beef and made 8 hamburger patties, so they were about ¼ pound each. Chop up a small onion and add it to your beef. Form it into patties and season with Worcestershire sauce and your favorite seasoned salt along with garlic powder and black pepper. You can season up the beef however you’d do a burger. You want the beef to be tasty, but note you’re getting flavor from the gravy as well. Also, make sure not to use the leanest beef. I use 80/20 whenever cooking burgers because fat gives flavor and keeps them from drying out. Once your patties are formed, heat up your favorite skillet. We use cast iron on a gas stove and that, my friends, is my happy place!!!
Cook your hamburger patties to preference, mine are usually medium because I’m not that scared of a little bit of pink in the center. While those are cooking, dice up some green onion for garnish and set aside. Also, start frying your eggs unless you’re going for one-pot wonder (which was my special talent when living in a Chinese apartment in a building with no gas for cooking and only one electric hot plate…what a weird situation). Fry the eggs to preference, but I’d say it improves the dish in appearance and interest if the yolk is runny.
Once you’ve got all your beef cooked, make the drippings into brown gravy if you’re that talented in the kitchen. Or, if you’re like me and you’re not that talented or determined to do this whole thing from scratch, you can use a brown gravy packet! I know you’re trying to pull this off in some foreign land, and maybe I’m the outlier, but brown gravy packets always found their way into our lives when we lived abroad. They were either tossed into a care package with hopes they’d bring happiness during a Thanksgiving potluck or left behind by someone like me who never got around to whipping up microwave gravy for the Thanksgiving potluck. If you don’t have one, you do have the internet, so go ask someone else how to make brown gravy, because mine comes from a packet. However, I do make it extra special for this dish by adding a teaspoon of DARK soy sauce to give it some Asian flare.
Alright, now that we have cooked up rice, hamburger patties, fried eggs and brown gravy, it’s time to assemble our final product. Scoop the rice into a good-sized bowl. Think man-meal when figuring portions here. Next, if you’re walking on the wild side and happen to have “Furikake” Japanese rice seasoning on hand, sprinkle it on top of your rice. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just skip that step. Now, place one of those beautifully cooked-to-perfection hamburger patties and place it on top of the rice. Then, put the fried egg on top of the hamburger patty. Top it all off with a whopping portion of brown gravy and garnish with green onions.
Viola! This is what my Chinese kitchen used to look like when preparing a meal…everything in sight stacked up and covered with mystery sauce. Years of dealing with lack of cabinet space made me an expert stacker, and those skills really came in handy when assembling the perfect “Loco Moco.” Now, take a few pics for Instagram and then chow down!
Have you collected some favorite recipes from around the globe? Please share a recipe and the story of where it came from with us today. I’m itching to try something new!