Thursday November 19, 2015

Ketchup Leather: The condiment revolution is finally upon us

Chef Ernesto Uchimura has created ketchup leathers to combat soggy hamburger buns.

Chef Ernesto Uchimura has created ketchup leathers to combat soggy hamburger buns. (YouTube/Food Steez)

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No one wants to be in a situation where they have to use the adjective "soggy" to describe their food, particularly if that food is an otherwise delicious, all-dressed burger.

Ernesto Uchimura, the lead chef for Plan Check restaurants, has a solution. The small chain of restaurants in Los Angeles specialize in gourmet burgers and Uchimura has created ketchup leather: a drier, flatter version of the popular tomato-based condiment to prevent any possible sogginess.

"Ketchup leather's very simply dehydrated ketchup," Uchimura tells As It Happens host Carol Off. "It dehydrates into sheets very similar to a fruit roll-up texture and consistency, but with a ketchup flavour, obviously."

Ernesto Uchimura is the lead chef for Plan Check restaurants

Ernesto Uchimura is the lead chef for Plan Check restaurants. (Twitter)


​Uchimura dehydrates his ketchup using low-heat ovens and fan system to create a rapid-evaporation process.

"The structure of the cells of the tomato product, plus the sugars and all the other seasonings, dehydrate and they form a very nice, even sheet," Uchimura explains.

When asked whether his product is comparable to the crusty, dried ketchup that collects on the top of the bottle, Uchimura insists, "It's kind of like that, but in a more controlled way and it's more palatable."

Plan Check restaurant burger

"I always found there's a lot juices that come out of the burger so what this does is kind of help keep those juices at bay by absorbing them and rehydrating them," says Plan Check lead chef Ernesto Uchimura. (plancheck.com)

Uchimura came up with the leather idea after trying to combat the soggy-bun problem. He serves his signature burger on a panko-crusted bun and the leather helps preserve the crunchy texture.

"I've been cooking hamburgers for a long time and I always do fresh-ground. I always cook them medium rare," Uchimura explains. "I always found there's a lot juices that come out of the burger, so what this does is kind of help keep those juices at bay by absorbing them and rehydrating them."

The leather is primarily used as a burger condiment, but Uchimura occasionally experiments with other leather recipes.

"Sometimes I take a strip of it and I put french fries in it and I'll roll it up and eat it that way."

There is no mention of potential mustard, relish or mayo leathers, but Uchimura says he would love to see his ketchup invention take off and expand into other restaurants.

"I sure hope it takes off," Uchimura explains. "I'm just happy to kind of create food and invent products that are functional for me and, if they so happen to be picked up by the public or the public gets interested or other restaurants get interested, I mean, then so be it and I'm happy."