Thai Hard: A Burger Experiment

Them's some fresh greens.

Them’s some fresh greens.

Anybody who’s been around a kitchen enough knows it’s never wrong to cook with wine. Pour some in the pan, and some in the glass (then repeat as needed). As important as wine is to the process of cooking, I think it’s imperative to cook with good herbs. Now, hold on—don’t go there. Spices, I’m talking spice, girls. What’s a fish taco without cilantro? Bruschetta without basil? Nothing that tickles my fancy, that’s for sure. Herbs provide food with that extra refreshing kick, taking any dish to the next level. It also helps the food taste authentic, giving it the taste of the region. Down in Mexico they love their cilantro, so adding it to tacos creates the nostalgia of cuisine they may have had while vacationing south of the border. Same goes with the cayenne and flavor of Texas barbeque rub, with the right combination of spices, you can create that signature bite.

There’s no denying, I’m totally hooked on food shows like Triple D, Man v Food, and the many adventures of Anthony Bourdain. I credit these shows for getting me passionate, not only about eating unique foods, but preparing them myself. The episodes are like video cookbooks—they literally show you how to create amazing dishes step by step. The other day I saw an episode where Guy Fieri was showcasing a Thai food truck and the chef put together a mouth-watering lamb burger—and put mint and cilantro in with the meat. She then topped the sandwich with some traditional slaw that you often see on Vietnamese and Thai sandwiches. I needed it. The crunch of the slaw, coupled with a refreshing minty burger, set against hot Thai peppers—yes, please. Before I could begin creating an Asian burger of my own, I was judo-chopped with more inspiration after a visit to Detroit’s Green Dot Stables and sampling their Korean slider. It’s a one of a kind burger, the likes of which I have never seen: topped with mild kim chi and peanut butter on the bottom. Somehow this combination of complete opposite flavors comes together perfectly. The hot(ish) kim chi cooled by the peanut butter to create what can only be described as harmony. There was no need to wait; I was ready to get started on my Thai Burger experiment.

Green Dot Stables' Korean Slider (Detroit)

Green Dot Stables’ Korean Slider (Detroit)

When I think of Thai flavors, peanut comes to mind first. Maybe that’s just because Pad Thai comes with peanuts? But I feel like it’s common there, so I was for sure going to follow the Green Dot’s lead and incorporate it into the burger. After doing some research, I had a list of ingredients put together and went out to the market. For the slaw topping, I gathered red peppers, broccoli slaw, garlic, cucumbers, basil, cilantro, ginger (great taste, but a lot of work to peel/grate), and a sweet red chili Thai sauce to marinate it all in for that extra hi-ya. You mix all of that together, add some salt and olive oil then set aside to cool.

Thai Slaw. Red pepper, ginger, cilantro, basil, broccoli slaw, garlic, and cucumber.

Thai Slaw. Red pepper, ginger, cilantro, basil, broccoli slaw, garlic, and cucumber.

Ordinary mayo wasn’t going to cut it with this theme, so something funky had to be created. That’s where the magic of cilantro comes into play. I’m a big supporter of cilantro. If cilantro cologne were a thing, I’d probably buy it. For this mayo concoction, there wasn’t a lot of creativity needed. Just add some cilantro and basil to the mayo, a squeeze of limejuice, light olive oil and throw that bad lad in the fridge—don’t serve warm mayo, homie (cc: Michael Scott).

Ooo white death.

Ooo white death.

The meat is where things start to really get interesting. Following the recipe of the food truck lady, you start by adding some mint to the ground meat. Not much is needed; mint can be pretty strong (although recommended on dates). Green onions then get added to the party, along with some crumbled Sriracha kettle chips for flavor and to use as a binding agent within the meat. Finish by adding some additional sweet red chili sauce to the equation, mix it all together, and get the grill a-going. When ready, apply peanut butter to the bottom bun, grill the top bun and add your cilantro mayo, then place the burger and top with the slaw mix. If you listen closely, you can hear your taste buds thanking you after each bite.

Finished product.

Finished product.

As Guy would say, these burgers were bomb-dot-com, on point, and approved by the Mayor of Flavortown. You almost forget that you’re eating a burger, because the unique flavors combine to create an entirely different eating experience. You now have all the ingredients needed to make it happen, or I encourage you to watch an episode to get inspired to re-create something on your own.