~AFFotD Food Critic, John Goodman
Depending on what non-affotd corners of the internet you choose to spend your free time perusing, you might have heard recently about Burger King ramping up the gross factor on their food by offering a black bun, black cheese burger called the Kuro, or Black burger. This burger re-issue (yes, they tried it before, more on that later) used squid ink and bamboo charcoal to create an all-black burger. Black cheese, black ketchup, black soul are combined for fast food connoisseurs in Japan (because of course this is happening in Japan), leading to a whole slew of internet chatter of “lol, Japan is crazy” (which, duh) and “ew, this looks gross so I tried it oh by the way I’m also a white 24-year-old living in Japan currently while maintaining a blog about my travels.”
What we find most surprising about this burger has nothing to do with its mere existence. When talking about Japan, nothing surprises us anymore. No, upon doing some digging, we discovered that Japan’s Burger King does not have a monopoly on this particular brand of culinary insanity. So, get ready to see a lot of unappetizing pictures of a type of food you once loved, because we’re going to delve into…
The (Terrifying) Black-Bun Burgers of the World
Listen, objectively we know that making the bun of a burger black isn’t necessarily something that will create a gross product. Off the top of our heads, we could imagine someone trying something interesting with rye or pumpernickel bread (spoilers: no one in this article came up with that same epiphany) and sure, we might trust an artisanal approach to this weird-looking burger. But let’s face it, black burgers look gross, they look weird and artificial and the fact that they’re only made by fast food joints operating outside of the United States doesn’t exactly leave us anticipating a revolution in how we look at hamburgers.
And, so far as we can tell, these burgers are gross. They look gross, they taste weird, and they serve as reminders that America should be the only ones trusted to make hamburgers, because everyone else just ends up fucking everything up. Don’t believe us? Look below. And weep.
Burger King’s Kuro Burger
Aghhh oh God kill it kill it with fire! As mentioned in the intro, the Kuro Burger in Japanese Burger King locations is the reason why there’s been so much chatter on the “eww gross food” sectors of the internet about black burger buns lately. They’re not the first to do it, or even the most recent (that one goes to McDonald’s) but they did manage to milk some publicity out of it when they re-released this terrifying burger at the end of last year.
In 2012, Burger King released the Kuro Premium Burger, which used bamboo charcoal to blacken the bun while addressing that one nightmare you keep having a bit too specifically by slathering it in jet black “ketchup” that’s colored with squid ink. The burger was “premium” because it still came with all the standard toppings you’d expect on a burger (lettuce, mayo, tomato, onion, pickle, sadness, a stain on your shirt when it drips while you eat it crying alone in your car), which really goes to show that we need to stop being so flippant with our use of the word “premium.” It sold for 450 Y-with-two-lines-through-it, or about $5.75 in real-money, with a $10.10 price tag if you wanted to make it a meal.
The Kuro Burger was available for a limited time to celebrate the 5-year anniversary of Burger King re-opening in Japan (they operated in Japan from 1982 until 2001, only to re-open in 2007 with a new business model of “fuck it, you want crazy, Japan? We’ll give you crazy), but it was so popular they brought it back as a yearly thing, sort of like the McRib only the McRib is a nightmare concoction that actually tastes good. For the 2014 version, Burger King added black charcoal cheese to the mix, and offered two versions of the nightmare burger. The Kuro Pearl gives you a bare-bones option, with just the patty, cheese, and black ketchup, while the Kuro Diamond gives you “toppings” (listed above as the “premium” ingredients of the 2012 edition).
As for the taste of this marketing gimmick? The most accurate and comprehensive review we’ve seen sums it up nicely. “It’s a burger, but grosser.” Because goddamn it, Japan, you’re doing it wrong.
McDonald’s Ikasumi Burger
The suits at Japanese McDonald’s heard about Burger King getting all this press with a black burger, and so they took a long line of cocaine, shouted, “Two can play at that game!” and released the Ikasuma (which means “squid ink”) burger as a Halloween gimmick, though they thankfully had the wherewithal to limit this burger’s release to just three Tokyo-based locations. The burger comes with two patties, yellow cheese, a squid ink sauce as well as a chipotle sauce, and fried onions, and apparently costs less and tastes better than the Burger King variation. That’s our polite way of saying “at least it’s cheap but it still tastes like hot trash.”
Honestly, one of the things that this burger has going for it resides in the actual color on the burger. There’s yellow cheese! There’s neon-orange chipotle sauce we’d rather not think about the origins of! There’s fried onions that look good in promo shots but look like this in real life! The problem with black burgers, especially all-black burgers, is that appearance is kind of important to us. It’s why you might like mashed potatoes, but you kind of have to eat it on a plate with other, colorful things. This is just how the mind works.
But ultimately, just remember. This burger is fucking gross. All of these are fucking gross. Do not defend them, it’s not worth your time.
Humbah’s Hakooka Burger
You probably haven’t heard of Humbah, and if you have, holy shit, really? You went to Kuwait and decided to track down a fast food burger joint there? Wow, you’re either the people that wrote the website where we yanked this photo from, or you have a very specific interest in foreign culture fast food. But, for the rest of you, Humbah bills itself as “Kuwait’s favorite burger joint.” As far as we can tell, there’s one location, though their twitter feed as of writing this has been inactive for about five months so we can’t say for sure if it’s still alive and kicking, ready to give us super strange black-bunned burgers. According to this commercial, the black bun here was inspired by The Dark Knight, but also according to this commercial, it was either made by a high school student trying to artificially make his voice deep on a Macbook Pro, or Humbah really doesn’t have a lot of money set aside for marketing costs.
It’s frustratingly hard to find reviews of this burger, and while it basically seems to comprise of cheese, lettuce, tomato, and the standard burger toppings, we’ve seen multiple “iffy English” reviews that say it comes with a “crunchy sauce” that we saw described (again, iffy English) as “the hard part of rice thats [sic] on the bottom of the pot when you cook it.” Okay! Sure! Crunchy rice on a burger sounds strange, sure, and we’re a bit worried that we can’t find anyone to answer the question of “how did they make the bun black?” but the handful of people who have reviewed it seem to like it. It’s entirely possible that they’ve never eaten a hamburger before, sure, but at least the Hakooka burger presents itself as “not depressing wilted trash.” Hell, this cross section of it looks downright not-vomit-inducing. We trust this might be the only entry on the list that can make that claim.
Quick’s Dark Vador Burger
We wrote about this burger (kind of favorably!) three years ago where we somewhat incorrectly attributed the burger to France (it was available in France, but not based out of there. Sorry Gizmodo, that’s 100% your fault) and we actually did geek out about the black bun aspect of things. Upon time and reflection, we’ve realize we were wrong, and also probably drunk, so consider this our mea culpa. Black buns on burgers are stupid and gimmicky and normally gross. This entry to the genre, made by the popular Belgium restaurant chain Quick, came about because of the re-release of The Phantom Menace, which you might recognize as “a thing that does not warrant celebration.” Four burgers (types, not total patties) were made—the boring Jedi burger, the oddly-appealing Darth Maul burger, and the Dark “we don’t know how to spell” Vador burger, which you see above.
We’ll admit, this one looks like it could have potential. Ignoring the black bun (which always looks very disconcerting once you’ve taken a bite into it and exposed the lava-cake-looking horrors inside) it seems to be a spicy, jalapeno-laden burger, which, sure. Sure we’d eat that. It just doesn’t need to be a gimmick. Give us a spicy burger at a fast food restaurant, and call it the “tasty spicy burger” (we’re not the best at names) but you don’t have to slap a black bun on it and misspell a Star Wars villain to make us want it. Have some faith in your tasty spicy burger product, Quick. Otherwise, you’re just trying too hard.
McDonald’s Black and White Burgers
photo credit to Rocketnews24 for actually daring to eat these nightmares.
We felt compelled to include both the distressingly artificial looking black burger as well as the equally worrisome white burger that Chinese McDonald’s forced upon the world’s most populous nation back in 2012, partly because the burgers came together as a package deal, and also, Jesus Christ, look at that white burger, look at all of that, we’re so very frightened.
These burgers don’t have the decency to die quietly involve beef, which leaves you with a chicken sandwich for the “white burger” and a pork patty for the black one. The black bun is covered in sesame seeds so that you can see some specks of light in the darkness of your soul, which is then covered with chopped onions and a black pepper sauce, and some sort of additional light-colored special sauce. It looks like this on the inside (cue screams). The chicken slider (don’t call it a burger, be honest with yourselves, McDondald’s) has black sesame seeds on the bun because #marketing.
Evidently, the concept of the black and white burger comes as a play on a Chinese phrase “heibai liangdao tongchi” which either is the result of us mashing our head on the keyboard, or an adage to describe people who are well-connected with both the government (the white) and organized crime (the black). So basically, it’s a burger dedicated to Illinois politicians.
The Black Bun Frog Burger at the Orbi Yokohama Museum
No. No way. Jesus Christ, Japan. This fried-frog-legs “burger” can be found for a limited time at the café of the Orbi Yokohama museum (listed as the 110th best thing to do in Yokohama by tripadvisor!) to promote their Deadly Poison Exhibition, and also to ensure that you never sleep soundly again. This burger has the added benefit of being weird, gross looking, and also wildly impractical to eat. This actually came out after we had initially finished writing this article, as if Japan sensed that we had written a 3,000 word article about how bad black bun burgers are and decided to say, “Not so fast, AFFotD, you haven’t even see us begin to get weird with this.”
Just look at that. The dangly legs…do they want you to eat the bones? They want you to eat the bones, don’t they?
This burger costs the equivalent of about $6.50, by the way. Japan is very weird and might want to consider changing up their medication, ‘cause it’s clearly not working as well anymore.
Burger King’s Kuro Ninja Burger
This might seem like the same burger as the Kuro, and in some ways it is—it’s a Burger king black burger. This 2013 incarnation, however, differs from the 2012 and 2014 releases of this burger in that it’s a black ninja burger, which, if we go off what their promo images seem to state, earned that name because ninjas like to eat burgers with a massive, unwieldy, distressingly-human-tongue-looking strip of bacon just hanging out of it. Jesus Christ, look at that nightmare. We’d say “Goddamn it, Japan, you’re doing it wrong” but we’re honestly too afraid—we’ve seen enough Japanese horror films to know that there is a 90% chance that the burger in this picture gains sentience at some point and just begins murdering 19-year-old schoolgirls.
Make no mistake, this sandwich is actively evil. Not “ha ha, we’re making a joke” we’re being deathly serious. This was created out of pure malice to cause discomfort and sadness. This tries to ruin lives for no other reason than its own morbid amusement. This also includes hash browns as a topping.
Take solace, America. You live free of this black hamburger bun tyranny. A land of freedom, whiskey, and pretzel rolls. That is why we must rise up, in unison, and decry these hamburger travesties. Because the moment we become complacent in our culinary vigilance, our favorite foods become infested with “well, it worked in Japan, why not here.” Don’t let that happen. Don’t let hamburgers follow in the footsteps of pizza. Fight back.
Say no to charcoal black buns. For America.