Chef Thai Phi Makes the Phô Mai Burger | Video

Pink Bellies' Pho Mai Burger

Thai Phi was born in a refugee camp in Thailand to Vietnamese parents. His family eventually immigrated to the United States where Phi passed his time between San Francisco and Sumter, South Carolina. After graduating from the College of Charleston with a master’s in business administration, he opened the Pink Bellies food truck which went through a couple iterations before settling into its brick-and-mortar space in the heart of downtown Charleston.

Phi applies his East Asian roots to his Americanized cuisine, especially in the restaurant’s acclaimed phô mai burger. Named after the Vietnamese pronunciation of “fromage” during the time of French colonization, this play on the classic cheeseburger gives you just a taste of the fun-loving chef’s style and personality. The double-stacked, juicy burger is topped with sweet and salty bread-and-butter pickles, savory onion jam, homemade yum yum sauce, and gently cured jalapeños that melt into the American cheese. The final touch is a perfectly fried egg, with a flaky crust on the bottom and runny yolk on the top, that gets sliced open at the very end to send a river of yolk over the entire ridiculously tall burger before being topped off with a toasted brioche bun. 

“A burger should always be just a little bit messy, you know, super fun.” – Thai Phi 

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1 serving

    For the onion jam
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 4 pounds yellow onions, sliced
  • 1⅓ cups light brown sugar
  • 1¼ cups balsamic vinegar
  • For the Japanese white sauce*
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¾ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • *also available in stores as yum yum sauce
  • For the cured jalapeños
  • 3 jalapeños, sliced
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • For the oyster glaze
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ¾ cup oyster sauce
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ⅛ cup fish sauce
  • For the burger
  • 1 milk bun, sliced (alternatives: brioche or King’s Hawaiian bun)
  • 2 tablespoons onion jam
  • 2 tablespoons Japanese white sauce or yum yum sauce
  • 5-6 bread and butter pickles
  • 2 (4-ounce) beef patties
  • 1 cup sliced red onions
  • 2 tablespoons oyster glaze or teriyaki sauce
  • 2 slices American cheese
  • 8 rings cured jalapeños
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 bunch of chives, finely sliced
  • Black pepper

Make the onion jam:

In a large pot over medium heat, add oil and sauté onions until golden brown. Mix in sugar, balsamic vinegar, and 1¼ cups water, and cook, stirring occasionally until only a small bit of liquid remains at bottom of pan. Store in container and refrigerate until use.

Make the Japanese white sauce:

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients with 1 to 2 tablespoons of water, depending on desired thickness, and mix together evenly. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the cured jalapeños:

Cover jalapeños with vinegar for 5 minutes; drain liquid and set jalapeños aside until ready to serve.

Make the oyster glaze:

In a large pot over medium heat, combine all ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally until sugar and oyster sauce have dissolved.

Make the burger:

  1. In a dry skillet, toast bun until each side is crispy and brown. Spread 1 tablespoon of onion jam on each half and drizzle with white sauce. On bottom bun, arrange an even layer of pickles.
  2. In same skillet over medium-high heat, grill both patties. When liquid starts to form on top of patties, flip; top each patty with sliced red onions and oyster glaze. Place cheese on top of onions and then cured jalapeños on top of cheese so they melt into it.
  3. Once cheese begins to melt, stack grilled patties. Remove from pan and rest for 2 minutes.
  4. While patties rest, heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil in a small nonstick pan, until pan is hot and begins to slightly smoke. Carefully crack egg into pan and immediately turn off heat; residual heat will crisp bottom of egg while leaving top perfectly cooked for a sunny-side-up egg. Cover egg white with chives and freshly cracked pepper, leaving egg yolk exposed.
  5. Transfer patties to bottom bun with pickles. Place egg on top bun and use a steak knife to make a sharp incision through egg yolk and drizzle yolk over patties. Flip top bun with egg onto burger patties and stab steak knife through top bun to hold everything together.

Video by: Jonathan Boncek

Edits by: Jack McAlister

Production by: Maggie Ward

Location: Charleston Wine + Food

  • Recipe By
    Thai Phi of Pink Bellies in Charleston
  • Contributing City
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