After living in China for a while, I learned there were quite a few dishes that the Chinese liked to call “Chinese Hamburger.” Fortunately, none of these involved a trip to McDonald’s, but unfortunately if you don’t speak Chinese, you really don’t know what you’re going to get if you do ask for a Chinese hamburger. This is because essentially anytime they stick some meat and any other foods inside some sort of bread or bun, they call it a Chinese Hamburger. One night in Shanghai, we were invited out by a buddy of mine to eat at a Shanxi-style restaurant (not to be confused with Shaanxi, its neighboring province) called Sanjinxiaochu (三晋小厨) near People’s Square in Shanghai and encountered an interesting variation of the Chinese Hamburger.
The meal was filled with some pretty tasty food served on a Lazy Susan and eaten family style. Eventually, a platter filled with baozi (Chinese steamed bun), bok choy and some sort of meat was brought out. My Chinese friends told me it was Chinese Hamburger and although it looked nothing like and Chinese Hamburgers I’d ever seen before, I was intrigued. Upon closer inspection, I found that the meat was some thick, fatty pork belly and looked delicious. Although I usually like my pork belly in bacon form, this looked damn good.
I grabbed a baozi, opened it up and put the ingredients in. You’ll notice I didn’t avoid the bok choy, despite it being a vegetable. This isn’t because I particularly enjoy bok choy, but because when I travel I am willing to try out just about anything, even vegetables. Otherwise I get concerned that I might miss out on something amazing. Anyway, the bok choy and pork belly filled the boazi perfectly and I bit in. This was not your momma’s hamburger. The pork belly was cooked so tenderly that it basically melted in my mouth. The flavor was so strong and delicious that this was one burger that had no need for ketchup. And to be honest, the bok choy wasn’t awful. In fact, it was kind of good to have it there as a buffer for the strong taste of the pork belly. Of course cheese would have been better, but at least it wasn’t as bad as having lettuce on a real hamburger. The baozi was a great bun and helped keep that juicy Chinese Hamburger together.
The Shanxi-style Chinese Hamburger was certainly an interesting eat and something I would be up for eating again, but it is definitely not for everyone. If you don’t like eating fat, you won’t go near this thing, for even though it’s probably less fatty than your average hamburger, the fat is just out there for everyone to see rather than being ground into the rest of the meat. But if this does look like your type of think, just be careful if you order a Chinese Hamburger somewhere, because the odds are that you won’t see something like this.