When I say “zero carb” burger, I mean what I say. If you don’t believe me, I’d say go ahead. Touch those buns. Give’em a good squeeze. You just started reading this post a few seconds ago, but before you read any further I’d like to ask you to just take a moment and imagine your typical breakfast. Think about why that’s your breakfast. I’m gonna go out on limb here and guess the food you just pictured wasn’t a burger, am I right? Burgers aren’t breakfast. Even the Hamburglar knows he can only steal sausage McMuffins and orange juice before 10:30 AM and 11 on weekends. Now I’d like to ask you to imagine that the burger I’m holding up there on the platter is being served to you. Take that first bite in your mind. If you’re vegetarian, make it a veggie burger. If you’re allergic to avocado (*poof*), it’s gone. You’re still chewing on that first bite. Now I want you to know that you’re eating this burger at 8 AM in your pajamas. Yup, breakfast is served. How does that make you feel?

Now I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. That’s not a real hamburger bun. Why not scroll back up and have a closer look…

Let’s make a deal. First off, I’m not gonna be the jerk that doesn’t tell you what the bun is made of. Just read on, or skim, finger stroke (or whatever it’s called) your iPhone down to the very bottom. It’s there. Now about our deal: if you read this entire blog post and it changes the way you think about breakfast, then that’s my greatest reward. This is the deal. If you’re inspired enough to replicate one of these new breakfasts and make it your own, I just ask you to never change the name I’ve given it. My ego-indulging fantasy is to one day walk in a restaurant twenty years from now and see a “No Carb Tokyo Burger” on the menu or to open an inflight magazine to a two page spread on “Crabby Eggs with Upside Down Asparagus”. Then I’ll know there’s a God. That would be so fricken awesome.

That’s our deal. Pinky promise.

And I promise you, if you swap out your corn flakes and toast for one of these new low carb breakfasts for a week, you’ll lose about one kilogram (2.2 pounds). Not a bad deal.

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

J. Krishnamurti

crab scrambled eggs

Hokkaido Scrambled Eggs

 

Hokkaido is the northernmost prefecture of Japan– I just so happen to be there right now. If Japan is shaped like a dragon, Hokkaido is its big fire-breathing head. I just had an eight piece sushi lunch set at Hanamaru Zushi in the Susukino “entertainment district” in Sapporo. It’s my third day in a row of undercooked fish. Take my word, it would be a waste to fully cook seafood this good. The miso-glazed seared salmon… OMG. But at least back in Tokyo I can get very good salmon from Hokkaido in a pretty glass jar. Add two scoops to your eggs in the morning and now you have your very own Hokkaido scrambled eggs.

Ingredients:

HOKKAIDO EGGS

  • eggs
  • Hokkaido salmon flakes
  • vegetable oil

SPINACH

  • fresh spinach
  • water
  • salt

AVOCADO

  • avocado
  • olive oil (bottled in my friend Michele’s backyard in Puglia, Italy. Thank you!)
  • salt

When you are shopping around for salmon at your local grocery stores, make sure you are buying wild caught salmon, not farm-raised. Wild salmon are full of mega healthy omega-3 fats because of what they eat in the wild. Farm-raised salmon are typically fed grain and therefore produce very little to no omega-3 fat at all.

traditional Japanese breakfast, salmon

Japanese "IKEA Breakfast"

 

If you added a bowl of miso soup and white rice, this could more or less be considered a traditional Japanese breakfast. However, here I’m breaking some ettiquite rules by putting all the food on one IKEA plate. They’re nice plates, no? The fundamental philosophy of Japanese cuisine is “one soup, three dishes.” The correct place setting in Japan is: bowl of rice goes in the lefthand corner closest to your left hand (place of honor), miso soup goes in the righthand corner closest to your right hand, grilled fish or main dish goes in the back on the right side, chopsticks go in front horizontally with the sharp pointy ends facing to the left to make it easy for right-handed people. (Note: right-handers are jealous of us lefties and taunt us in various subtle ways around the world.) On an IKEA plate, the beans always go on the left to make it easier for lefties to pick them up with chopsticks as retribution. This is a RULE– don’t break it ! !

Ingredients:

SALMON

  • salmon fillet
  • olive oil

KOMATSUNA GOMAE

  • komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach)
  • white sesame seeds
  • soy sauce
  • sugar
  • sake
  • mirin

HIJIKI SALAD (store bought)

Crabby Eggs with Baked Avocado and Upside Down Asparagus

 

Are you having a rough morning like I am today? Crabby eggs will help. Promise. If you wake up in a real terrible mood, you could make these using real crab. If you are like me, you see the price tag and decide that your mood isn’t quite so bad and decide imitation crab will do. The secret to making the eggs moist and fluffy is adding dashi (soup stock) and gently turning the eggs towards the pan center with a small utensil. The trick to upside down asparagus is making sure the stalks are all pointing upside down. If you make a mistake, turn the plate 180 degrees. Yes, I’m kidding. And the third trick: thinly slice your avocado horizontally while it’s still inside the shell and then carefully scoop underneath the slices with a spoon before baking. It makes it much easier to eat.

Ingredients:

CRABBY EGGS

  • eggs
  • fake crab
  • nira (garlic chives)
  • dashi

ASPARAGUS

  • mini asparagus
  • olive oil
  • salt

BAKED AVOCADO

  • avocado
  • raw walnuts
  • cottage cheese
  • olive oil

 

chicken and kimchi

One Eyed Monster

 

This dish is technically inspired by Korean food that’s eaten in Japan. I got the idea from buta-kimuchi, which means pork with kimchi. I swapped chicken for the pork to replace the red meat to make it healthier. And a fried egg on top of pretty much anything makes it better. Now that I am looking at it again, it kind of looks like that green one-eyed monster in Monsters Inc., Mike Wazowski. (I had to confirm this name with a second grader.) The lettuce kind of looks like eyelashes, if monsters were made out of vegetables. Fermented foods like kimchi or natto are super healthy and are typically missing in Western diets. On my first trip ever to Asia, I stayed with my friend’s family in Seoul, Korea and we ate kimchi every morning at around 8 AM right out bed. I’m not a parent, but if you attempt to trick your ‘not Korean’ child into eating kimchi and vegetables for breakfast disguised as “Mike Wazowski”, please let me know how it goes!

Ingredients:

CHICKEN

  • chicken
  • kimchi
  • soy sauce
  • sesame oil
  • egg
  • vegetable oil

SALAD

  • sunny lettuce
  • salad dressing (optional)

 

teriyaki chicken lettuce wrap

Teri-dactyl Wraps

 

These authentic teriyaki chicken wraps look like flying dinosaurs to me. This is probably what cavemen ate made with real pterodactyl, raw because fire wasn’t invented yet. That means folks on a Paleo diet can eat these minus the teriyaki sauce because cavemen didn’t have that, which sucks for them cuz it’s awesome. I make my own teriyaki sauce. It’s so easy to make and much better than pre-made teriyaki sauce in a bottle. FYI, the word teriyaki is derived from the Japanese root words teri (照り), to shine, and yaki (焼き), to broil or grill. Teriyaki should look shiny after you grill it. Feeding on these carnivorous, lettuce-winged pterosaurs in the morning will make you shine definitely. You’ll feel light as a flying reptile monster. (I recommend playing the theme song from Jurassic Park for full effect.)

Mmm-mmm delicious, just don’t forget to keep one eye over your shoulder…

Ingredients:

“TERI-DACTYL”

  • chicken breasts
  • soy sauce
  • sake
  • sugar
  • mirin
  • vegetable oil

WRAPS

  • lettuce
  • carrot
  • cucumber
  • avocado
  • nori (seaweed)

Your local Asian supermarket should have most of these ingredients:

Japanese style salad

Green Samurai Salad (G.S.S.)

 

Eating salad with breakfast may be a totally foreign concept for you. In Japan, it’s totally normal. If you truly want to be healthy, I’d add some form of green vegetables to your breakfast daily. Or drink veggie smoothies– I have mine after work. You can read more about smoothies in this post. If you have this salad with two eggs, edamame, and a handful of mixed nuts, you’ll feel like a green samurai warrior. Eat a breakast like this every day and you’ll start looking like one!

Ingredients:

SALAD

  • sunny lettuce
  • cherry tomatoes
  • momen tofu
  • daikon radish sprouts
  • shiso

SALAD DRESSING

  • olive oil
  • soy sauce
  • sugar

 

low carb pancakes made with oyakodon ingredients

Parent and Child "No Carb" Pancakes

 

I was really proud of this invention. At the time I was comparing recipes for oyakodon, a traditional Japanese classic. Oyako  (親子) means “parent-and-child” (親= parent 子=child).  Don, short for donburi, implies that there’s a bowl of rice underneath the chicken and egg. Do you get it? Chicken and egg… parent and child. No matter which cookbook I looked at, the recipe for oyakodon pretty much looked the same– nothing really inspired me. During the same trip to the bookstore, I was thinking about what ingredients I could use to make “no carb” pancakes. At one split moment, my neurons must have gotten tangled and the parent and child pancake was born. It’s for everyone to enjoy, guilt-free.

Ingredients:

OYAKO PANCAKES

  • ground chicken
  • eggs
  • onion
  • mitsuba (Japanese wild parsley)
  • nori (seaweed) powder
  • thinly sliced momen tofu (the “butter”)
  • warm sesame oil (the “syrup”)

“BACON STRIPS”

  • thinly sliced eggplant
  • miso
  • soy sauce
  • a splash of Suntory whisky

 

low carb hamburger

"No Carb" Tokyo Burger

 

Do you remember our deal? Just checking. This is your last chance to guess what the bun is made of. On purpose, I left this guy till the end. If you guessed right, you very well deserve to give yourself credit in the comments section below. Guessing buns right is like getting the high score in Pac-Man at the arcade– enter your three initials for everyone to admire.

Like the pancakes above, again I somehow felt guided when I was at the supermarket looking at different kinds of age-dofu that I could possibly use as a no carb version of hamburger buns. By the way, the bun is made out of fried tofu. I was in a rush to get home and try out this experiment while I still had enough natural light to take a picture. And the first supermarket I looked at just so happened to have bun shaped age-dofu in single packages. Low and behold, for the first time ever: I proudly present to you, on a white platter from IKEA, the Tokyo Burger.

Note: It’s called the Tokyo Burger because I had to go outside on the balcony, freezing my buns off, to get enough light to take this picture. Tokyo was the backdrop.

Ingredients:

BURGER

  • ground chicken
  • miso
  • soy sauce
  • baby kale
  • baby arugula
  • carrot
  • avocado
  • salt & pepper
  •  olive oil
  • age dofu 

 

Which of these dishes is your favorite? Which one would you want to try to cook at home? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.