#culture /dining


3 Buns Chef Adam Penny on Coming to Hong Kong

Sep 13, 2017

3 Buns mastermind, chef Adam Penny

Burger buffs rejoice! You don’t have to wait until Shake Shack finally opens to get your hands on a juicy, gourmet burger, because JIA Group is bringing Three Buns out for a month-long pop-up! A favourite in Singapore and Jakarta, this mini-chain, part of the Potato Head family, is all about burgers done right: honest ingredients, neighbourhood vibe and great drinks all served with love. Burger legend, chef Adam Penney, has helped make the concept what it is today by combining his classical training with his love of homey, delicious fare. We got to speak with him ahead of the pop-up to find out the answer to life’s greatest questions: why is brioche so bad, and what makes the perfect burger? 

Are we in a burger renaissance? People seem to be obsessed? 

For a long time, burgers have been a staple comfort food designed for eating on-the- go, but they don’t have to be just cheap processed sandwiches made up of waste cuts of meat, rubber cheese, and everlasting buns. Great ingredients make great burgers, from the breeds and cuts of beef, to beautiful hand crafted buns, with gloriously melted cheese. The public is craving and demanding better quality food more than ever, and burgers made well equal a fantastic and nostalgic food. 

The ultimate burger stack

You’re already in Jakarta and Singapore, is a Hong Kong location in the works? 

A location in Hong Kong would be something we would be interested in looking at. It is a city of fabulous food, and there are already burger offerings here. It’s going to be a great market to introduce Three Buns to, partly because we take a distinctively different approach…I am not interested in just buying an ingredient or a sauce just for the sake of it - everything we make is for a reason and to give our guests a ‘flavour bomb’ as they eat. Three Buns are fun unique restaurants, which at the core, offers amazing comfort food and great drinks.

Brioche buns get a lot of hate from some burger aficionados - what qualities, in your opinion, makes the perfect bun?  

I agree! Brioche buns can’t really withstand all the ingredients in a burger - they don’t have the density needed to not disintegrate when eating. We mainly use a Demi brioche bun, which is a dough blend of brioche and white bread - it is rich with a hint of sweet. It is buttery, but toasts beautifully and can withstand the sauces, pickles & patty when being eaten. But also depending on the ingredients being used, a wholemeal bun works well, as do classic sesame or rice ones. 

Naughty fries

Will you be changing anything up with your burger choices or drinks selection for Hong Kong? 

We will be using a new grass fed beef patty from the United Kingdom – seriously good beef with none of the nasty bits some patties contain. We are in the midst of trying out new cheese right now, and for the Hong Kong burger special – using an excellent pork patty sourced from the UK. 

Onto the good stuff: what is the perfect burger? 

One that awakens all the senses - from the smell and the look when you unwrap it, to picking it up, feeling the squidgy shiny bun that boasts just the right amount of weight. The melted cheese should be oozing out, and you can see flecks of the caramelised meat, pickle and ketchup, poking out from the toasted buns. Heaven. You should never skimp on good quality ingredients, just because it’s a humble hamburger. You want to use the best quality grass fed meat that has been dry aged and need to integrate 10% fat that’s been coarsely ground when cold and brought together by hand. The bun should be half the weight of the patty and the same in diameter for the correct meat to bun ratio. There is nothing worse than having a small patty and big bun.

The Baby Huey, a 3 Buns classic

Can you give us some tips for when we’re grilling up a storm? 

Remove the patty from the chiller 10 minutes prior to searing – this will help you get a beautiful crust. After cooking always allow the patty to rest, for around two to three minutes. 

Is there a certain order we need to stack our ingredients to achieve burger nirvana? 

Yes, you need to get your layers right. We build the burgers up in order of sweet, salty, creamy and acidity. For example - ketchup, patty, cheese, mayo and pickle.

How can we avoid the dreaded ‘slippage’ factor in a burger, when the pickles or tomatoes slide out with every bite? 

Cup the burger with both hands and try to keep it level when eating. Burger chefs should think about how each item holds up in a burger, it should be a joy, not a challenge.

What’s a must-have spread at Three Buns: burger, sides, drink - the whole works. 

For someone who is a first timer to Three Buns, the Baby Huey - our house cheeseburger, featuring 150g Black Angus beef patty, cheese, ketchup, pickles & spiced mayo in a toasted demi brioche bun. You also need to order a side of Naughty Fries, our famous animal style fries. Drinks wise at the pop-up it would have to be one of the new season cocktails by Tom Egerton who runs the bar at Potato Head Hong Kong.

The Three Buns pop-up will be at Potato Head Hong Kong, and will run from 20 September - 19 October. Answers have been edited for length and clarity. 

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Sarah Engstrand