Donna Cho's Meatloaf

Growing up in a biracial household meant that I ate a wide swath of delicious foods throughout my childhood and teenage years. I took for granted at times just how skilled of a cook my mom is - she's a white lady from a working class, suburban town in Jersey, and she somehow makes Korean food good enough that when my Korean friends would be over or I'd bring a Korean girl I was dating home to eat her food they'd all gawk at how delicious it was. 

Really, my mom can make almost anything (fried chicken being her one achilles heel), but one of my favorite things she makes is, believe it or not, her meatloaf. I love it when it's hot out of the oven, dripping with fat and redolent with the smell of bacon and ever so slightly burnt ketchup. It's even better the next day between two slices of toasted bread as a sandwich, and is a good way to use up some the eleventy billion loaves of sourdough you've attempted to make during quarantine.

I was craving both meatloaf and meatloaf sandwiches, I dialed up my mom - Donna Cho,  a name that causes many perplexed looks when she tells people her full name - and jotted down the recipe below. I took a few liberties due to necessity, things like swapping out Kewpie mayo for regular mayo so I haven't had regular mayo in my fridge for about ten years. If you are averse to ketchup or MSG I would not advise following the recipe below or, really, even eating this, but if you like those things then please enjoy!

Donna Cho's Meatloaf

1 small yellow onion, minced
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 pound ground beef - 1.5 lb.

1 egg
1 teaspoon heavy cream
Garlic, amount is to taste (USE A LOT, COWARD)
Seasoned salt (cheating? maybe. who cares!)
Pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon Kewpie mayonnaise
3/4 cup panko (plus more if necessary)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1 strip bacon, diced

5-6 strips of bacon to wrap
2-3 extra tablespoons of ketchup to cover

Mixing bowl
Loaf pan (optional but recommended!)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Sauté the onions in a the oil until they brown up a bit
  3. Get a large mixing bowl and crumble the ground beef into it.
  4. Add everything listed above from the egg to the strip of diced bacon into the bowl with the ground beef, as well as the sautéed onions.
  5. Using your hands, with either cooking-safe gloves on or go totally bare, mix everything together. You want everything to feel incorporated and moist but not wet. If it's feeling a little dry, add more panko and work that in even more firmly.
  6. Form the mixture into a loaf-like shape. If you don't have a loaf pan, ignore steps 7 and 8.
  7. With the uncut bacon, lay them in vertically over the width pan so that the middle sinks down but the ends droop over the sides. 
  8. Put the mixture into the pan and on top of the bacon. Add enough ketchup so that it coats the whole top of the meatloaf. Its okay if it runs down the sides a bit. Lovingly wrap the meatloaf with the ends of the bacon.
  9. If you don't have a loaf pan, simply take your free-formed loaf and wrap it with the bacon; still coat the top with the ketchup.
  10. Put in the oven on the middle rack. Set a time for 45 minutes and wait as the smells start wafting through your domicile.
  11. Remove and let cool for a bit; if you wrapped it with bacon, the fat will have rendered out. Carefully pour this fat into a container that can endure hot oil and set aside.
  12. Using a metal spatula, coax the meatloaf out of the bread tin and onto a cutting board.
  13. Slice into whatever size shape slices you desire.


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