Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ghar Ghar Burger Shurger Hoye !

Beef - the official food of the USA.

Ok, I may have made that up; but it isn't too far from the truth. The average American adult consumes 270 lbs - yes, more than their own body weight (or is it ?) - of beef each year (source: NPR). McDonald's - the premier hamburger giant - is the largest publicly traded food company on the stock exchange, closely followed by Burger King and Wendy's. The beef section in the grocery store spans 4 aisles. There are restaurants that have only one item on the menu - beef.

My point is - USA is beef country.......

.....with a Hindu population of 1.2 million. 

While some desi immigrants have taken to beef, most still consider it taboo, for reasons both religious and cultural. Even for largely non-religious people like me, beef remains out of bounds, simply because trying out a new food is tricky territory. Some of my food adventures (raw oysters, caviar, smoked salmon) have left a bad taste in my mouth long after the meal was over. It also represents a kind of cultural leap - from being a "desi" desi to being a transitional American - a leap I'm not willing to make.

A small but growing population here in the US is beginning to realize that there are other, healthier meats out there - poultry, seafood, turkey - that have remained under-utilized for decades. But none of these comes close to replicating the mouth-feel of a good, juicy burger - chicken and seafood can't be ground up and made into patties; turkey dries out and is bland.

The Indian answer has always been the potato patty - the delightful "tikki" - mashed up potatoes, peas, onions and lots of spices, grilled on a flat pan and handed out with generous doses of chutney, sometimes sans the bun, often as a tea-time snack. I wonder how long it will take McDonald's to realize that its Indian version sells a potato-patty burger that could be a delicious veggie option on their US menu.

The American answer to the beef substitute isn't potatoes (they use potatoes as a side anyway); it's the humble bean  ! Black, red, soy or kidney - ground up beans can hold flavor and moisture, and can be made into a patty ready for the grill. The patty looks surprisingly similar to a beef burger, goes perfectly with cheese melted on top, and fits snugly into a toasted bun. Vegetarian heaven !

Black bean burger at a local joint in G'ville
About 6-7 years ago, when I first visited USA, I could only find these patties at specialized stores, frozen. I would bring them home, along with a bag of buns, and get grilling. To my surprise and delight, they have made their way into mainstream culture, and can now be found at most restaurants. I don't see bean burgers at fast food chains yet, though (Mc Donald's current "vegetarian" burger is lettuce and tomato on a bun). 

Ah well, someday. Until then, I'll head to the frozen section.

1 comment:

  1. Chicken makes awesome patties, just needs some eggs as lue to hold 'em :) McD's India runs on aaloo, chicken and paneer patties....