I live in Las Vegas, which is often called the 9th Island because so many people have moved here from Hawaii, including my husband’s family.
Just the other day, they were talking about how they miss Loco Moco and how they were looking for an original version that didn’t sway too far from the comfort food they remembered from back home.
With all the glitz and glamour in Vegas, chefs can make things a little too fancy here sometimes.
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History of Loco Moco
But Loco Moco is meant to be simple food with simple ingredients. It starts with a bed of sticky white rice and is topped with a hamburger patty, brown gravy and a sunny-side-up egg.
Loco Moco was created in the 1940s, when some boys dining at the Lincoln Grill in Hilo, Hawaii, asked the waitress to serve them a dish they could afford. They threw out the idea of rice, beef and gravy, and the rest is history.
My version starts with Certified Angus Beef® brand ground beef patties. Go with the 80/20 meat-to-fat ratio. You’ll need that fat to make the gravy.
And because you need the fat, the patties should be cooked in a skillet, not on the grill. This way you can preserve the drippings.
For each pound of beef you use, divide the meat into four and shape each quarter into a patty. You can make them as thick or thin as you like.
Season them with salt and pepper on both sides. Let those spices rest on the meat while you heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-heat. You can do this on a grill or stovetop.
Cook the patties for about 4 minutes. Then, flip and cook for 4 more minutes.
You want to develop a gorgeous crust on them.
Just look at that char. That right there is flavor.
Since the pan is hot and the burgers are juicy, the grease will splatter. To avoid this, place a piece of foil loosely over the pan while the patties cook.
I find this works better than a lid, because it allows the air to escape. A lid would trap the steam, and you definitely don’t want steamed burgers.
Once you remove the burgers from the pan, you’re left with liquid gold – beef pan juices.
Let’s make the gravy.
There are 3 easy ways to avoid lumpy gravy
For this loco moco recipe, I use the roux method. Add flour to the pan drippings and allow it to cook for 30-60 seconds. Then, incorporate about a half cup of the beef broth. Once that is well blended, add the remaining broth. It’s finished with butter for a smooth consistency.
Another method would be to create a slurry. To do this, blend the flour with about a half cup of beef broth. Stir the two together until combined. Heat the remaining broth with the drippings, and add the slurry to thicken.
The final method is a beurre manie. This is a French technique that involves rolling flour and butter together into a ball. Deglaze the pan with all of the beef broth. After a few minutes of reducing, add the butter ball to the pan. It will gradually thicken the gravy.
The Show Stopper – Loco Moco Topper
Although the egg wasn’t included in the original version of the Loco Moco, it’s definitely a staple to the Hawaiian dish now.
Be sure to cook it sunny-side up. The bright golden yolk is like a morning wake-up call, especially when it oozes into the gravy.
When cooking an egg sunny-side up, look for the whites to cook while making sure the yolks stay runny.
If you’re having trouble getting the whites to cook through, you can add a lid for a few seconds. The steam will warm them up. Just don’t leave the lid on for too long, or the yolks will cook, too.
What rice to use for Loco Moco
Rice varieties are almost as diverse as wine. There’s white rice, brown rice, wild rice, jasmine rice, etc. Among those types there is also long-grain, medium-grain and short-grain rice.
For this Hawaiian dish, I recommend either using short-grain sushi rice or medium-grain calrose rice. Both have a higher starch content, which allows the rice to stick together.
To cook the rice, start by rinsing it a few times. While this step isn’t’ required, it’s just what Lola taught us to do.
I almost always cook my rice in a rice cooker, but you can also cook it in a pot on the stove with a lid. Using one cup of water for every cup of rice is a pretty tried and true method, or you can follow the method my family uses.
Place your rinsed rice in a rice cooker and add enough water to cover the rice. Stick your index into the pot, so it touches the top of the rice. Continue adding water until it reaches the first line where your finger bends.
I don’t know how this method works when we all have different size fingers. It just does. The rice will be perfectly tender every time.
Plate your Hawaiian meal
Now that all of your ingredients are cooked and ready, it’s time to plate your loco moco.
You can either serve this as a single patty portion or go all out and serve it up with two patties and two eggs.
Start by placing the rice on the bottom. You can use a circle cookie cutter to shape it all pretty, if you’d like, or just spoon it on the plate. Then, add a cooked patty on top and smother with gravy.
Finish with that beautiful sunny-side up egg and garnish with some sliced green onions.
Loco Moco - Hawaiian Comfort Food
From the islands to your dinner table, Loco Moco is Hawaiian comfort food made with rice and a burger smothered with rich gravy and a runny yolk.