(Photos by Jetjaras Na Ranong)
What does it take to make a good hamburger with an American twist? At The Great American Burger Competition in Pattaya, chefs from 10 leading restaurants in the resort displayed their innovative presentation and flavourful recipes including ingredients such as yoghurt, Mexican wraps and beans.
Most Thais are introduced to burgers by Western fast food chains offering simple offerings with ground beef patties topped with onion, pickle and ketchup on a bun.
Organised by the US embassy, the contest required chefs to incorporate American ingredients including American beef, Californian cheese, potato and Washington apples.
Video by Jetjaras Na Ranong and Jeerawat Na Thaland
The assignment might look easy but its execution proved daunting. Some Thai chefs were not used to incorporating American ingredients in their burgers.
Chachaya Raktakanishta, a celebrity chef and school principal of the Thai Cuisine Academy and one of the three judges, said: “The contestants did really well even though some ingredients were not common for them to put inside a burger, such as apple or potato.”
She said judges selected the winners based on preparation, ingredients and hygiene safety, cooking technique, taste and innovation.
“You can put everything there but how can you be sure it will be good? It is quite a challenge,” she said.
What if burger lovers in Thailand want to copy the winning menu but cannot afford Washington apples to make the sauce? Chachaya says there are alternatives. “I would say use something like mango to make the sauce and use salsa to make a good contrast to the flavour,” she said.
The top prize went to the Hilton Pattaya with a mouth-watering burger with black pepper ground beef, apple pickle, barbecue sauce, a hard bun and coleslaw.
The first runner-up was the Waldorf Burger by chefs from Coast Beach Bar and Grill of Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort. Chef Adisorn Sopanasom said he was inspired by the famous Waldorf Salad that was created in New York at the famous Waldorf Astoria hotel back in the 1890s.
“While the original salad consisted only of apples, celery, walnuts and mayonnaise, we had to make a slight twist by using Californian cheddar cheese and a freshly baked dried cranberry and walnut burger bun. That gives it a delightful crunch with a touch of sweetness,” said Adisorn.
“We will be listing this burger on our menu at Coast Beach Bar and Grill. Be sure to visit us to take a bite back in time with this fabulous burger.”
Matthew Dowdell, a chef at the Hilton Pattaya, said the challenge is how to change the burger’s flavour profile and make it interesting.
His recipe is based on a classic burger with traditional ingredients such as cucumber pickle. He refined it with apple sauce by adding just about the right amount of pickle to balance the taste.
Why did his burger win? “Probably the use of apple makes it stand out. We use apples to make the barbecue sauce. It’s very delicious. The coleslaw is creamy. The salty, spicy, sour and creamy flavours make a nice combo.”
Although customers will not be able to buy this special burger at the Hilton, the American chef has provided the recipe for those who want to try.
Dowdell said burgers are easily adaptable. You can add sticky rice on the outside to replace a bun or replace beef with pork.
He believes some ingredients are essential for every burger. “You can use mayonnaise, pickle, sauces or whatever you want, but it has to be a bun and it has to be beef.”