The hearty, flavorful, savoury veggie burger can be a real thing if you cook it right. However, that’s where problems start, because few people can actually make a tasty burger.
Despite the seeming simplicity, cooking a veggie burger can be more challenging than the meat version. The veggie patty has to have a nice texture with lots of umami taste and smoky flavour. It has to hold its shape so that it won’t fall apart from the bun and of course it has to be complemented with other great plant-based ingredients and sauces so that everything together can be a stunning experience.
No strict rules
And that can be very, very hard to achieve. Of course, these are not the strict rules for everyone –– only one of the ways. The world is huge and many people have their views on what is a proper veggie burger. In India, for instance, you can have a vada pav –– a real carbohydrate monster that consists of mashed potatoes (with added classic Indian spices, dunked in batter and deep-fried) inside a bread bun smothered with different chutneys.
Get your shrooms
Vada pav is literally filled with carbohydrates. And while this is not a problem per se, a more balanced, nuanced type of dish is usually more preferred. And one of the classic nowadays veggie burger ideas (and there are dozens more out there, just go and search) is the one with a mushroom patty.
Mushrooms add a lot of heartiness and umami (the fifth official taste that people register) – the reason why they appear here and there all the time. But not only them, cooks love to add different products of fermentation to the recipe in order to enhance the overall flavour and, again, to add savoriness, and umami. Try to make the patty the following way.
Let’s make some patties
Heat the skillet over medium-high heat, add 2 tbsp of olive oil with 2 chopped shallots (or 1 regular medium-sized yellow onion) and saute them for two minutes. Then add 500 g of chopped mixed mushrooms (portobello, shiitake, matsutake, etc.), generously salt them and continue cooking the mixture for another 8-10 minutes, constantly stirring. To that add 2 tbsp of soy sauce, 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and 1 tsp of maple syrup. Stir everything, then add 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 tsp of hot sauce of your choice, 1 tsp of smoked paprika. Mix well, take away from the heat, and let cool a little.
Then transfer the mixture to a food processor and add 2 cups of cooked rice (we need it to make the final mixture sticky and easier to form), 1 cup of breadcrumbs (preferably, panko) and ½ cup of walnuts. Pulse until all ingredients are well combined.
You should be able to mould a patty that will hold its shape. Form 8 or 10 patties, put them into a cooking tray and transfer to a fridge until you are ready to hit the grill. Of course, you can always use the stove in a cast-iron skillet.
Now all you have to do is to buy the buns of appropriate size and decide what to stuff them with to compliment your cool veggie patties. Guacamole or pickled cucumbers and onions? Homemade rosemary aioli or store-bought chipotle? So many options, so few patties.