Ever notice that special dish or two on your favorite non-Asian restaurant’s menu that you can’t quite order at a straight ahead, traditional Asian joint? “Asian Persuasion” is a once-in-a-while segment highlighting those chefs and restaurants that don’t specialize in Asian cuisine but occasionally dabble in cooking influenced by Far Eastern foods. But please don’t say fusion. Oh, no. Instead, let’s call it an Asian Persuasion. Doesn’t that sit better on the palate? Plus it rhymes.
When chef/owner Ernesto Uchimura of West L.A.’s Plan Check makes a burger, you can expect a little kitchen wizardry. The guy used to be Executive Chef at a little joint called Umami Burger, after all. Ketchup leather is his tomato-y, signature sleight of hand.
The creative ketchup condiment mimics a fruit roll-up and is Uchimura’s innovative method for tomato sauce delivery by way of a solid. When the meat’s heat and savory juices mingle with the ketchup leather, the condiment sheet dissolves, flavoring the patty. Bingo: burger magic.
Uchimura has applied the same ketchup dehydration technique on another crazy popular condiment—sriracha.
Warning: Objects are spicier than they appear. Although this sriracha leather looks like a square strawberry fruit snack, a confetti-sized bit of the stuff can sting. This is concentrated heat, but it burns so tasty.
Plan Check’s frequent special-of-the-day called South East Asian Pork Belly Burger is a sandwich that was created as an excuse to eat the sriracha leather. The porcine burger is piled with special stuff, most notably a house cured pork belly that’s been braised in fish sauce, kelp, lemongrass, cilantro, ginger, and other ingredients. Tag teaming with the belly is a patty made from ground pork shoulder.
An irresistible spread is forged from the remaining braising juices and pork belly fat. And, of course, this caboodle is bookended by Plan Check’s famous crunch bun, a soft bun studded with Panko crumbs.
If Uchimura continues with this leather thing, I might have to dust off my leather pants. Please don’t make me —I haven’t worn those since the ‘90s.
Plan Check, 1800 Sawtelle Blvd, West L.A. (310) 288-6500