I need to go back to Hawaii. Not for the warm, aqua ocean, nor for the shave ice, but for the loco moco. OK, just kidding, I’d go back for the beach and ice, but I really need some loco moco. An infinitely riff-able dish, loco moco is one of those breakfasts that’ll keep you full for hours (and hours). Eggs, rice, and a beef patty slathered in rich gravy—sounds like something hungry kids would throw together, right?
Well, that may actually be part of how the loco moco was invented. According to lore, the dish was created in 1949 at a restaurant in Hilo, Hawaii. Apparently, a group of teens came into the restaurant and were looking for something cheap and fast—less time consuming than traditional Japanese food and more flavorful than plain American burgers. The restaurant’s proprietors isolated the rice and hamburger patties from dishes on their menu, combined that with brown gravy, tossed it all in a bowl and added an egg. Unsurprisingly, the kids loved it, immediately naming the dish after one of their friends, whose nickname was "Loco."
Start with a mound of white rice. You can make a batch right now, or do as I do and walk to the closest Chinese or Japanese restaurant and purchase a large container of rice for $2. Works every time. Pile the rice on your plate and fry a hamburger. If you don’t have a burger, use whatever you have on hand: Spam, bacon, shredded chicken or pork, you get the idea.
Turn the burger or meat out onto the rice and in the same pan make a quick gravy. You can use the beef drippings as a jumping off point, adding flour and water or stock by the spoonful, whisking all the while, until the mixture thickens. Alternatively, use a packet or gravy starter. We’re really just trying to get breakfast on the table.
Spoon as much gravy as you feel gives you joy over the burger and rice. Next, fry 2 eggs in olive oil and plunk them on top of the plate.
If you’d like, top the dish with quick pickled shallots or onions (thinly slice and let soak in red wine vinegar and a spoonful of sugar for 15 minutes). Get loco.