When Burger King Japan first brought out its black burgers, more than a few people were shocked, and even a little intimidated, by their sinister appearance. After diners got over their fear and tried them, though, they discovered they were pretty tasty, and they’ve now become a welcomed, sporadically appearing item on the chain’s menu.
Seeing how well that gamble played out, Burger King has decided to spin the roulette wheel once again, but this time they’re betting on red with two new sandwiches with crimson buns and cheese. So how do they taste? We decided to grab the pair and try them for ourselves.
Before getting to the taste-test, though, let’s pause for a little pre-meal Japanese lesson. In Japanese, the word for “red” is “aka,” and so the two sandwiches are officially called the Aka Samurai Beef and Aka Samurai Chicken.
▼ The “samurai” part is just there because it sounds cool.
Both items went on sale July 3, and I stopped by my local Burger King branch in Shin Yokohama (the site of our previous apple burger taste test) on opening night.
The Aka Samurai Chicken and Aka Samurai Beef are priced at 540 and 690 yen (US$4.30 and $5.50) respectively. Tossing down another 100 yen gets you a Coke or Coke Zero, and paying 330 yen more than the à la carte price gets you a medium-sized order of French fries and choice of soft drink (so Burger King Japan’s whiskey highballs aren’t an option, unfortunately).
I put in my order, and the staff immediately grabbed one of the bright red buns and started putting the sandwiches together.
Operating under the logic that beef is best, and also that you save the best for last, I started with the Aka Samurai Chicken.
Burger King didn’t lie, and the sandwich really is a vivid red. The bun gets its color from being infused with tomato powder, but even if you’re the sort that can’t stand the vegetable-like fruit, it’s not a deal breaker. Despite completely changing the bun’s appearance, the effect of the tomato powder on the bread’s flavor and aroma is so slight that unless you knew about its presence ahead of time, you’d probably mistakenly assume the bun looks the way it does because of simple food coloring.
▼ Looks unusual…
▼ …but tastes pretty normal.
Everything I said about the bun goes for the cheese, too. Being made with tomato paste gives it the color of a tomato, but it tastes pretty much like what you’d expect from a fast food cheeseburger.
▼ The tomato, though, does actually taste like itself.
There’s one other red component to the Aka sandwiches, though, and that’s something Burger King is calling “Angry Sauce.”
▼ Apparently they were so angry that they had to use the English word.
Angry Sauce is essentially tobanjan, a hot miso paste used in Chinese and Korean-style dishes. Burger King adds even more spice in making its Angry Sauce, though, and it definitely looks, and smells, the part.
Bite into the Aka Samurai Chicken, and the Angry Sauce brings the heat, though not outright fury, to your tongue. It’s relentlessly spicy, and combined with its slightly bitter aftertaste and tannic properties will soon have you reaching for a drink, so you’d better hope you ordered the combo.
Unfortunately, by the time I finished fighting my way through the Aka Samurai Chicken’s spiciness, the Aka Samurai Beef had been sitting wrapped up for quite a while, meaning its bun was looking a little deflated.
The story here is pretty much the same as with the red chicken sandwich: tomato-boosted bun and cheese, plus a generous slathering of Angry Sauce.
Aside from swapping a beef patty for a breaded chicken cutlet, the Aka Samurai Beef also replaces the Aka Samurai Chicken’s tomato slice with grilled onions. Because of how much sauce there is, you won’t miss the tomato’s moisture, and the onion’s sweetness actually blends a little more smoothly with the Angry Sauce’s flavor.
▼ The Aka Samurai Beef: less likely to make you breathe flames than the Aka Samurai Chicken!
So really, while it’s the buns and cheese that are getting all the attention in Burger King’s scarlet sandwiches, it’s their sauce that’s really the star attraction. If you love spicy food, or if you’ve got a spice-averse friend you’re looking to punish gastronomically, the Aka sandwiches will be available until mid-August.
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