Lukas Volger’s Mushroom Barley Burger in all its glory
With all the delicious vegan fare options these days, I haven’t actually had a veggie burger for a long time. To me they’re more like the default menu option when traveling outside of vegan meccas or when having to make dinner from a box while camping. But lo and behold, people are still eating them, as evidenced from three recent New York Times stories. According to one of the articles, “across the country, chefs and restaurateurs have been taking on the erstwhile health-food punch line with a kind of experimental brio, using it as a noble excuse to fool around with flavor and texture and hue. As a result, veggie burgers haven’t merely become good. They have exploded into countless variations of good, and in doing so they’ve begun to look like a bellwether for the American appetite. If the growing passion for plant-based diets is here to stay, chefs — even in restaurants where you won’t find the slightest trace of spirulina — are paying attention.” (Ah yes, the writer worked in a spirulina reference, conjuring up the tired concept of vegetarianism being the territory of crusty hippies with a fondness for adding strange green powder to their food. Ho hum.)
The article listed some interesting ingredients in a variety of veggie burgers that chefs have created, including beets, which gave one patty a color reminiscent of rare meat (because, really, isn’t that what vegetarians want to visualize while eating mashed vegetables shaped into a patty?), prunes for sweetness and stickiness, wheatberries, and eggs (vegans beware — eggs were referenced as a way to hold the burger together and cheese was added for flavor by some chefs).
In the Diner’s Journal article the writer spoke with Veggie Burgers Every Which Way author Lukas Volger who gave by far the best quote of the three articles: “This isn’t just an approximation of a meat burger. It’s an expression of a vegetable.” The recipe for Volger’s Thai Carrot Burgers was included though the the egg whites would need to be substituted to make it suitable for vegans. For guidance, I’ll go consult Isa or Terry’s cookbooks. I did however find a recipe for Lukas’ Mushroom Barley Burger excerpted on the Ultimate Veggie Burgers blog that looked well worth checking out — and no ingredient swapping necessary for this one.
The third article offered a dining guide to veggie burgers in Manhattan, in which not one vegetarian restaurant was mentioned. It’s beyond me why they didn’t just go to the source and find out which veg restaurants are making soy-based burgers, mashing vegetables and grains together or grilling a portobella and serving it on a nice bun. And so I turn to my fellow SuperVegan readers to fill in the blanks: which veggie burgers, either served in a vegetarian restaurant or pre-packaged from a store, are your favorite expression of a vegetable?