burger banter Food

Craft burger sauces: don’t reach for the ketchup

Fresh sauce being poured over a burger

Fresh sauce being poured over a burger   | Photo Credit: aislan13

It’s time to get snobbish about burgers, via the current artisanal boom, powered by global flavours, local ingredients and imagination

Only the right kind of burger will have you willing to nearly dislocate your jaw to get every scrumptious layer in a single bite. Who cares about potential injury when it’s all for a good meal?

The craft burger movement, powered by strong flavours and fresh ingredients, requires a good binding agent; and in the case of 2019, it’s got to be the right sauce which keeps those layers packed with flavour. Be it creamy Russian dressing with flavourful kosher dill pickles or something surprisingly local like a tamarind ketchup, eateries across the country are aggrandising these little condiments and giving them a namesake in their kitchens.

Chef Rishim Sachdeva is acquainted with burgers of all sorts

Chef Rishim Sachdeva is acquainted with burgers of all sorts  

These sauces are a great way to upcycle ingredients that are delicious and edible but sadly unused in the mainstream dishes flying out of the kitchen, such as parts of mushrooms or beetroots, or even animal stock.

Chef Rishim Sachdeva of Olive Bar & Kitchen Mumbai, who’s overseen his fair share of burger competitions over the course of his career, gives a thumbs-up to this aspect of sustainability. “We’ve created an XO sauce, which is fermented. It uses meat remains as well as ginger and garlic, which get cooked for four to six hours; we then let that sit outside for 10 to 12 days. As a result, an acidic taste develops. With a red meat patty and fresh lettuce, it’s just delicious.” He recommends pairing it with kewpie aioli for its versatility with any patty; a dash of sesame oil for sharpness and richness.

Chef Mrinmoy Acharya, culinary head at Ciclo Café, carefully monitors a small pan with golden, melted butter and pale-green strands of leeks, giving off a mouth-watering aroma. “Given the mild onion-like flavour profile of leeks as well as their fallibility, the lengthwise-cut stalks are cooked at a very low temperature. The slow-cooking facilitates that fondue consistency. The fat from the butter is added flavouring to complement the tartness of the leek.” The result is set into Ciclo Café’s chicken mince and cheddar burst burger, giving the whole thing an extra oomph.

A meal on its own

“The burger is unique in dining culture because it’s a meal on its own, fries or sides aside,” says Japtej Ahluwalia of pan-Indian restaurant Double Roti, “You have to make an impact in the first bite, and the sauce crafted for this is extremely important. It has to be well-balanced.”

2019 drizzles
  • There’s no limit to the sauces with which one can experiment. Here are a few options:
  • Harissa yoghurt: Hot and peppery meets calm and creamy textures with welcome speckles of garlic.
  • Tamarind ketchup: Yes, there’s the k-word again, but a home-made tomato sauce with the sweetness of a little tamarind simmered nicely will make any burger worth the money.
  • Whiskey sauce: TGI-Fridays offer meats bathed in their famed Jack Daniel’s sauce. But we can dial its origin back to early Scottish cuisines. The alcohol is cooked off and the resulting reduction is creamily rich with a satisfying after-taste.
  • Beer cheese: While we’re cooking off alcohol, take your favourite Belgian blonde beer and combine with marmite, grated cheese and butter, and you can keep a keg of this ready.
  • Chipotle feta: It’s only a matter of time before Chipotle takes over mainstream kitchens — feta is already a go-to for many. Combine the two and you’ll get a match made in bun-heaven.
  • Truffle mayo: Up your mayonnaise game with a bit of truffle oil, truffle mushrooms and a bit of mustard to bind that burger up nicely.

The texture is also key; and don’t be afraid to open out the burger. At Double Roti, their Mexican burgers come with an in-house nachos and salsa sauce which, rather than having the diner embarrassingly catching bites falling out of their mouth, will make for a pleasing meal.

But sometimes it doesn’t go according to plan because demographics are, well, everything. Mrinmoy and Japtej aver that the level of experimentation can only go so far. “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve tried a new sauce and it just doesn’t sit well with Indian diners. Indians want more spice and less of sodium,” says Mrinmoy, shrugging. Japtej agrees, adding, “We once experimented with maple bacon, which is huge internationally, but it was poorly received here.”

Given how we love our comfort zones, not all of us want to step beyond our kitchens for the perfect burger — sometimes, it’s been in front of us all this time. Rishim is all about empowering what’s already in the kitchen. “We like to work backwards, seeing what’s already there, like with the XO sauce. The ingredients can’t be plated but they’re fresh and delicious. That usually turns out great results.”

There are some big no-nos to look out for. The ultimate burger sauce sin is ketchup. “I think ketchup should be banned,” laughs Mrinmoy, “It just tastes synthetic — you can feel the preservatives in it — and when you put that in a craft burger, where a lot of the fillings have been carefully considered, it’s a lot of hard work gone to waste. Opt for a tomato sauce made from scratch, which has the heartiness a well-farmed tomato can offer.”

Ciclo Café’s chicken and cheddar burst burger with leek fondue sauce

Ciclo Café’s chicken and cheddar burst burger with leek fondue sauce  

The performance of the sauces is dependent on the rest of the burger too. It’s a team effort; one person can’t save the whole venture, after all. Japtej says everything, from the quality of the bun, to the side sauces is responsible. Rishim agrees, adding he prefers a brioche bread for a slight sweetness to complement the rest of the stack.

If one overcooks the protein of the burger, be it tofu or tenderloin, it becomes dry. Watch out, some kitchens may cover up by overcompensating with the sauce to add moisture back into the burger, ultimately throwing everything off course. So think twice before reaching for that easily-available ketchup and don’t be afraid to ask your burger chef to bring your burger game to an A-plus.

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 4:14:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/craft-burger-sauces-dont-reach-for-the-ketchup/article25788428.ece

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