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The concept of 'going out for a burger' has its origins in ancient Rome, where the poor living accommodation meant that it was hazardous to cook at home. As a result, street stalls selling the equivalent of 'meat in a ciabatta' rapidly became popular. The hamburger as ground meat can be traced back to the time when the Mongols (c. 1209) carried flat patties of lamb or mutton as a food source. Mongol riders would place the meat under the saddle; the saddle would tenderize the meat and the meat would be eaten raw. It gave the Mongols the ability to carry food, and eat it, all without dismounting from the horse. When the Mongols invaded Moscow, the hamburger was also brought and in turn was adopted as a cuisine named steak tartare after the invading Mongols (who were also known as the Tartars). Later, the German port of Hamburg had ships that visited a Baltic (by that time Russian) port and thus brought with it the new "tartare steak" as they would later call it. Ships from Hamburg, Germany coincidently shipped to New York also, and brought what is now known as the Hamburg steak.
In the Middle Ages, Hamburg was an important center of trade between Arab and European merchants. The theory is that Arab traders introduced Kibbeh, which is ground lamb mixed with spices, often eaten raw. The locals then adapted the dish by replacing the lamb with pork and/or beef, and more significantly, by cooking it to make a filet of ground meat, such as a "Hamburg Steak" or "Hamburger" as it eventually came to be known. From this they made a new and unique kind of Rundstück warm that came to be strongly associated with the city.
There is still a German tradition of making ground beef sandwiches, thought to descend from the original "Hamburg Rundstück," and which tend to be elongated like an American sub sandwich, and feature very different condiments than the typical modern hamburger. These are often referred to as "German hamburgers" outside of Germany, and are served in many German-food restaurants.
Within Germany, the specific connection between the food and the city of Hamburg became lost as the sandwich spread throughout the country and became a somewhat common dish. In other countries, the historical term "Hamburger" remained in popular usage to describe ground meat rolls and sandwiches. In modern times, the term hamburger may refer to the meat patty used to make the sandwich or to the sandwich itself.
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