Tocino Burgers

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It's no secret why this burger is the signature dish for Paolo Dungca and Tom Cunanan at Pogiboy in Washington, D.C. Who doesn't want a purple burger bun?! Enjoy the balance of richness from the pork and the acidic crunch from the achara, plus a creamy secret sauce that brings it all home. Each layer of this show-stopping burger is delicious on its own, but combined, they come together as one to create a craveable bite with just enough sweet to balance the savory.

Tocino Burgers
Photo: Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Kay E. Clarke
Active Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 55 mins
Servings:
8

Two juicy, highly-seasoned tocino and pork patties, sandwiched in a bright purple ube bunwith caramelized pineapple, crisp and acidic green papaya achara, and a creamy "secret sauce" add up to the Tocino Burger, the signature dish at Pogiboy in Washington, D.C.

The burger is inspired in part by the chori burger (aka chorizo burger) enjoyed in the Philippines and chef Paolo Dungca's memories of eating sautéed tocino with garlic rice for breakfast as a child. The sweet and slightly peppery pork belly is cured in spices and seasonings like soy sauce, anise wine, and annatto. When sautéed, it develops a beautiful, caramelized coating. Through incorporating tocino into the pork patties, "we wanted to bring that comfort and nostalgia to the burger," Dungca says. "Filipino food comes from the heart.This recipe is very personal to us because it brings so much comfort and joy for us to be able to share our heritage and cuisine with everyone. This makes us so proud to be Filipino chefs cooking Filipino food."

Ingredients

Green Papaya Achara

  • 1 small (2 1/2-pound) green papaya, peeled and seeded

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided

  • 2 cups shaved red cabbage (from 1 small [1-pound] cabbage)

  • 1 small (6-ounce) red onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

  • 1 small (5-ounce) red bell pepper, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)

  • 1 medium (3-ounce) carrot, peeled and cut into 1/8- x 1/8- x 2-inch pieces1

  • 1 (1 1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/8- x 1/8- x 1 1/2-inch pieces

  • 5 teaspoon black pepper

  • ¾ cup white vinegar or sugarcane vinegar (such as Datu Puti)

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

Secret Sauce

  • ¾ cup mayonnaise (such as Duke's)

  • cup cornichons (about 1 1/2 ounces), finely chopped

  • cup banana ketchup (such as Jufran)

  • 1 tablespoon chile vinegar (such as Datu Puti)

  • 1 ¼ teaspoons Korean chile flakes

  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper

  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste

Tocino Burger Patties

  • 1 pound marinated cured pork tocino (such as Magnolia or Lucia

  • 12 ounces 80% lean ground pork

  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugarcane vinegar (such as Datu Puti) or apple cider vinegar

  • 2 ½ teaspoons annatto oil (such as La Favorita)

  • 4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon)

  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Additional Ingredients

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, divided

  • 8 Ube Buns, split horizontally (see Note)

  • 8 (1/4-inch-thick) slices fresh pineapple (from 1 [16-ounce] peeled and cored pineapple)

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

Directions

Make the green papaya achara:

  1. Cut papaya into 1/8- x 1/8- x 2-inch matchsticks to yield about 6 cups. (Reserve remaining papaya for another use.) Toss together papaya matchsticks and 2 tablespoons salt in a large bowl. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

  2. Transfer papaya mixture to a colander, and rinse under cold water. Using a clean dish towel, squeeze papaya mixture to remove as much excess moisture as possible. Toss together papaya, cabbage, onion, bell pepper, carrot, ginger, and black pepper in a large heatproof bowl. Bring white vinegar, granulated sugar, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high, stirring often to dissolve sugar. Pour hot vinegar mixture over papaya mixture; toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate until mixture is softened and vibrant in color, at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days.

While papaya mixture chills, make the secret sauce:

  1. Stir together mayonnaise, cornichons, banana ketchup, chile vinegar, Korean chile flakes, black pepper, and salt in a medium bowl. Season with additional salt to taste.

Make the tocino burger patties:

  1. Process tocino in a food processor until finely chopped, about 20 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl; add ground pork, brown sugar, sugarcane vinegar, annatto oil, garlic, salt, and black pepper. Using your hands, mix until evenly combined. Divide mixture evenly into 16 balls (about 1 3/4 ounces or 3 tablespoons each). Flatten each ball to a 3-inch-round, 1/2-inch-thick patty. Set patties aside.

  2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium. Place 2 ube buns, cut sides down, in skillet, and cook until golden and lightly crisp, about 2 minutes. Remove from skillet. Repeat process 3 times with remaining 3 tablespoons butter and remaining 6 buns. Set toasted buns aside. Increase heat under skillet to medium-high. Working in batches, cook pineapple slices in skillet until browned and starting to char on both sides, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer pineapple to a plate. Do not wipe skillet clean.

  3. Add canola oil to skillet, and reduce heat to medium. Arrange 4 tocino burger patties in skillet, and press firmly with a spatula to flatten to about 1/4-inch thickness. Cook until browned on both sides and a thermometer inserted in thickest portion of meat registers 160°F, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm. Repeat process with remaining 12 tocino burger patties (no need to add more oil in between batches).

  4. Spread about 1 tablespoon secret sauce on each top ube bun half. Top each bottom bun half with 1 pineapple slice, 2 tocino burger patties, about 1/3 cup green papaya achara, and top bun half. Reserve remaining green papaya achara for another use. Serve burgers with additional secret sauce, if desired.

Notes

Associated Recipe: Ube Buns

Datu Puti vinegar, annatto oil, and banana ketchup are available at most Asian markets or on amazon.com.

Make Ahead

Green papaya achara and secret sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator. Tocino burger patty mixture can be combined and refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1 day before shaping into patties.

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