There were times in my Bengali fish-eating teenage life where I believed that the concept of ‘vegetarian’ was something I will never confess my love towards. As I grew up I realised life was not that simple; what about the people in my life I hold so dear who have an immense love for this kind of food, the food I was nearly condemning my whole life.
As a meat eater vegetables per se have never been a bone of contention but having preference over them was and still is. I have spent the last few years living in parts of Maharashtra and South India which necessarily did not force me to appreciate the love for the veges but made me aware how the vegetarian fare can be expansive as opposed to what north India has offered me during my days of growing up in Delhi.
Growing up in a Bengali household I did know about the vast range of vegetarian dishes my mum churned out of the kitchen but I started recognising them a lot later in life. Ironically, what came out that the vegetables used in the vegetarian dishes of South Indian food and Bengali food were very similar. I explored the differences and distinctions between South Indian cuisines, which I was barely aware of as a Bengali living in Delhi for about two decades of my childhood and young adulthood.
My vast culinary experiences in South India have been great. I have explored the meats as well, but it is the vegetarian I have fallen in love with. The beef, the pork, the mutton, the fish have all been great experiences down south but it is the venn pongal, the coconut rice, the pesarettu which have been incorporated into my daily diet. Exploration with the southern part of the country also led me to experiment with vegetarian dishes which earlier were not on my bucket list as a gastronomic enquirer.
A conversation with my brother a few weeks back about our love for a hearty meat burger led us to think about how do the vegetarians manage the ordeal? It is not that they are not aware of the concept of burger because they are vegetarians! The fast food chains have mainly concentrated only on potatoes as part of the base for a vege burger. The vege burger lacks character in many international chains in India even when there are many vegetarians who visit these chains on a regular basis. Why have other predominant vegetarian fare like the beans not been considered? Normally, a good burger needs a portion of crispiness and softness for a patty, the problem with a potato base patty is that it becomes soggy after a couple of minutes and it does not accompany well if you want a side of fried with it. Just imagine a whole meal made out of just potatoes!
A few more culinary questions and Google searches led me to believe that, beans, lentils etc make the best base for a good vege burger. The belief was reinforced when I did a few experiments in the kitchen thereafter.
Getting Vege with It
For the Patties
- 1 cup chickpeas
- 1 cup kidney beans
- 1 tsp whole Black pepper
- 1 tsp Cumin powder
- 1tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- Half small chopped onion
- Chopped Coriander Leaves
- Olive oil
For the Dip
- 1 cup yogurt
- Chopped jalapenos
- Chopped Tomatoes
- Chopped de-seeded cucumber
- 4 tbsp chopped green olives
- ½ cup chopped coriander leaves with stem
For the Patties
– Soaking equal portions of kidney beans and chick peas for about a day.
– Mix this in a grinder with black pepper and salt. Grind it to a paste, do not mix water and mix it till it has a dough like consistency.
– Put the cumin powder, coriander powder, paprika, onion, salt and coriander leaves.
– Mix all of this in a ball, form patties of about an inch thickness.
– Heat olive oil in the pan and fry the patties. Fry each side on medium heat for about 3 minutes.
For the Dip
– Mix all the ingredients together
– Assemble the dip with either tortilla or burger bun with the patties snugly inside them.