Wtf is an Australian Burger?
October 30, 2017 7:54 AM   Subscribe

This comment has opened my eyes to a whole new world. I have a few recipes open in different tabs, and I read the Buzzfeed article, but please enlighten me more. Is the Australian Burger as delicious as it sounds? What is The Right Way to make one? Should I eat it upside down for a more authentic experience?
posted by Grandysaur to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I believe it's a burger that includes (among other toppings) pickled beetroot and a fried egg as a topping. NYTimes.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:01 AM on October 30, 2017

Is the Australian Burger as delicious as it sounds?

I thought the description sounded terrible. And the word beetroot hurts my ears. And what, now you're adding a pineapple???? errm, no.

But "anything once", and... I thought eating the burger was heaps awesome or whatever they say in Australia.

Do no skip the egg; it is necessary.
posted by sleslie at 8:09 AM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Ur aussie burger has a beef patty, slices of pickled beetroot, a fried egg with lacy edges and a runny yolk, melted cheese, tomato slices, fried onion, crisp lettuce, tomato sauce/bbq sauce/mustard(NOT GRAINY)/some combination of the three, on a white roll. Seeds on top are optional, but should be sesame if present.

Acceptable additions are a ring (or more) of pineapple, either uncooked, grilled, or possibly battered but not rolled in cinnamon sugar (or god forbid crumbed), bacon, more cheese, another patty, a potato scallop.

The fried things (potato scallop, pineapple fritter) are more uncommon, but delicious.

(this might be regional specific, but is at least basically what I'd expect if I ordered a works burger around here, in southeast/southern qld)
posted by bagheist at 8:13 AM on October 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I worked at a chippy for a year and here's my expert opinion on burgers with egg and beetroot:

Okay, so down here we have fish and chip shops that sell, besides fried fish and chips, things like potato scallops, fried saveloy sausages on a stick (battered sav), Chiko rolls (a type of large cabbage roll) calamari rings, seafood sticks, and the like. They're basically a staple, with most suburbs having at least one chippy and people get very possessive about their chippies. They often have a pinball machine or an arcade cabinet - the one near home when I was a kid had Mortal Kombat.

They almost always also sell burgers, larger than what you get from McDonalds, on a large sesame seed bun. A good shop will fry the bun a little first, often by glazing with margarine and popping it in a grill while the meat cooks. Burgers are usually steak, mince, or sometimes seafood, and if you're lucky you might find somewhere that does a sort of bubble-and-squeak style vegetable patty for us vegetarians. Toppings are varied:

Standard: Tends to be the patty, cheese, (on top of the patty so it melts) tomato, lettuce, onion (fried or fresh), and beetroot, a sort of soft pickled beetroot from a tin. Sometimes grated carrot is involved but I'm of the opinion that's too much like health food.
Bacon and Egg: Meat, cheese, plus bacon and egg - I actually made a mean enough bacon and egg burger that people would bring their friends!
Tropical: As with the standard, but also with a ring of grilled pineapple, also from a tin and cooked to the point of being caramel on the outside.

Other sub-variants exist, but those are typical. So you'd get a steak, bacon and egg burger, or a tropical seafood burger, or whatever.

Then there is ...The Lot.

The Lot is literally everything you got. Slab of meat(sometimes both steak and mince patty), cheese, lettuce, tomato, grated carrot, pineapple, egg, beetroot, bacon, fried onion, loads of sauce. I've seen The Lots that have coleslaw on them, calamari rings, banana fritters, pickles (not common in Aussie style burgers, in my experience). Loads of sauce and mayo. Usually held together by a wrapping of white grease paper like a gusset to stop the damn thing exploding. You gotta use both hands and really go for it. The Lots tend to be huuuuuuuuuuuge, like, true double fist food. A good Lot Burger will be as big as your actual face. The egg must be just a little bit soft, not quite runny, but soft enough to be almost custardy and a nice compliment to the saltiness of the meats, the tang of the beetroot and pineapple and the softness of the bread. The lettuce absolutely needs to be iceberg to even things out.

What you wind up with is a flavour adventure. You get the immediate yield from the bread, the heaviness of the meat, and then it sort of clears with the crispness of the lettuce, the egg offering a rich creamy note that underscores the piquant fruitiness of the pineapple. You really do need the acid from the pineapple to cut through the saltiness of the meat and bacon - on a burger the side of a toddler's head, a single pineapple ring doesn't overwhelm. These puppies are big.The beetroot sort of serves in the same role as a pickle on an American style burger, just much larger, and with a more mellow sort of flavour. If it's sauced right you've get the juices mingling through the lettuce after a few bites. By the end of it you've just got this lump of escaped salad, dressed with tomato sauce and pineapple juice, which is a nice finisher if you can make it that far and the paper has held up.

A true Aussie chippy's Burger with the Lot kicks seven shades of shit out of McD's or other fast food burger chains. Even fancy pants gourmet style burger chains pale in comparison, though they do tend to ape the form. It's got to be huge, fresh, and cooked by someone related to the owner by blood, law or the friend-of-a-friend sort of nepotism that transcends mere blood ties. The sort of employee who gets paid a bit extra under the table if they do a good job. A proper chippy burger is a work of art.
posted by Jilder at 8:19 AM on October 30, 2017 [58 favorites]

Incidentally the burger described in the New Yorker article Endsofinvention linked to is close, but is a bit wanky. You just do the egg on the grill at the same time as the meat, you just add it to the grill a few minutes before you go to serve. And while runny enough to soak the bread is okay, if it's just a bit firmer you get the same sort of mobility from the yolk without losing it out the side.
posted by Jilder at 8:24 AM on October 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Having eaten a few in Australia, yes, they are as delicious as they sound. Although American beef is better; the Aussie versions had kind of dry chewy meat. Perhaps that was sampling error.

As Jilder says the key thing about the beet is that it's pickled. It is in place of cucumber pickles in the American version. My memory is it's one relatively thick slice of burger-sized beet which creates some structural differences.
posted by Nelson at 8:37 AM on October 30, 2017

I have had one - it is "ok". Sigh, the only thing pineapple is good on is pizza....

(runs, ducks for cover...)
posted by jkaczor at 8:45 AM on October 30, 2017

As Jilder says the key thing about the beet is that it's pickled. It is in place of cucumber pickles in the American version.

Growing up in an Indian household where we pickle all kinds of things (mango, pickle, green peppers, carrots). I can get on board with this. Pickling a vegetable and eating it as a garnish on the side is definitely a PLUS in my column. Would love to try this if given the chance.
posted by Fizz at 9:04 AM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sigh. Imminent homesickness for the food of my people. I was born and grew up in SE Queensland and Jilder is right on the money. Just an explanation for anyone who needs it: a potato scallop contains no seafood. It's a thin, flat potato cake, basically, and I never worked out how the texture was achieved--it's more like pastry than mashed potato. Incidentally, pickled beetroot is not particularly sour--more like sweet and sour.
posted by Logophiliac at 9:10 AM on October 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

it's one relatively thick slice of burger-sized beet

Proper hamburger beetroot
Proper hamburger pineapple
posted by flabdablet at 9:52 AM on October 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

a potato scallop contains no seafood. It's a thin, flat potato cake, basically, and I never worked out how the texture was achieved--it's more like pastry than mashed potato.

The texture is achieved by cutting thin slices (6mm or so) from the tropical regions of a huge peeled potato, blanching them, then deep frying in a nice beer batter. The rest of the potato can get turned into chips.

Also, people who call a potato cake a potato scallop are just wrong.

Scalloped potato is what you get after cutting spuds in half, slicing them 6-8mm thick, not blanching them, standing the slices up in an oven dish round side up alternated with 2mm thick slices of brown onion, adding full cream milk to half the depth of the slices, sprinking with salt and fresh ground black pepper, then baking the whole lot until the tops brown and the milk's almost gone and the kitchen smells like heaven. Also good if you replace every second potato slice with similar sized slices of butternut squash.
posted by flabdablet at 10:06 AM on October 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Flabdablet: note that both Jilder and I are from SE Qld. As the ABC article makes plain, in SEQ they are scallops. I remember in Canberra in the early 70s hearing one of my colleagues, from Victoria, calling them potato cakes and finding the term novel.
posted by Logophiliac at 10:16 AM on October 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Then there is ...The Lot.

The Lot is literally everything you got.

It is now, in 2017 where nobody has any respect for the language any more.

The standard choices in fish and chip shop hamburgers until the eighties ruined everything were plain (your basic fried onion, beetroot, lettuce, tomato and optional tomato sauce); cheese; bacon; egg and bacon; The Lot (cheese, egg and bacon) and The Lot With Pineapple.

As a pedantic little kid it always used to annoy me that The Lot With Pineapple was even a thing. Now as a grizzled old curmudgeon it annoys me that this extraordinary linguistoculinary construction is getting harder to spot in the wild.

Jilder is spot-on about the toddler's-head dimensions of these things, and obviously I agree with that paean to their flavours. Those pathetic excuses for hamburgers they serve in all the American chain restaurants are not a patch on a proper one.

The most hydrocephalic hamburger I've ever eaten was the Laura Cafe's Laura Burger, a monster containing two patties, a chunk of steak-sandwich steak, a completely excessive quantity of bacon and cheese plus the customary remainder of The Lot With Pineapple. Bloody marvellous.

My local boutique brewery offers a rather more pretentious thing on a much bigger bun that needs to be pinned together with a bamboo skewer because not even two hands can hold it all together at once, but only because they'd lose too many customers to coronary occlusion if they just glued it together with as much cheese and grease as a Laura Burger.

note that both Jilder and I are from SE Qld

I'm from Victoria, so it's clearly you lot that are wrong. Next you'll be trying to tell me that thongs are "flip flops" or some bloody thing.
posted by flabdablet at 10:39 AM on October 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

The scallop/cake/fritter division is one of the few significant local vocabulary differences that Australia has, so the factions tend to be particularly defensive about it.

To further your chip shop/milk bar education, a few musical selections:
The Whitlams - I Make Hamburgers (1994)
The Herd - Scallops (2001)
posted by zamboni at 12:07 PM on October 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

And the word beetroot hurts my ears.

Why don’t they just say a slice of pickled beet? Is it a different vegetable? Or just a different English language?
posted by LeLiLo at 1:11 PM on October 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Why don’t they just say a slice of pickled beet? Is it a different vegetable?

Yes, that's a common misconception- the vegetable found on the Australian burger is a different vegetable entirely from the common Beta Vulgaris. Even the etymology is different. The full name is actually the Garn Beatroot, after it's original breeder, Garn Theblews, who developed it from a root vegetable native to Australia. If left to its own devices, like the Tree or Walking Onion, the Garn Beetroot propagates by sprouting new roots from the top of the plant's fronds. Eventually the weight of the new root bends the frond over, letting it take root in a new location. Theblews, who was a nautical man, thought this mode of locomotion reminiscent of 'going', tacking or 'beating' against the wind. The appearance of the immature Garn Beatroot sprout is quite suggestive of male anatomy, hence the 'root' portion of the name, and why you never see the Garn Beatroot in seed catalogues.

Some sources say that Theblews' financiers actually bowdlerized the name from the salty sailor's original version, which was reportedly the Garn Go Get Fucked.

Yes, it's the same vegetable. We call it that because that's it's name.
posted by zamboni at 1:47 PM on October 30, 2017 [28 favorites]

As an American who just spent some months in SE Qld, I have additional burger observations beyond beets & fried eggs (and 'beetroot' is a perfectly sensible construction; beet greens exist, after all). I have no idea which if these are Aussie universals and which are specific to Brisbane in 2017.

-'Burger' seemed to refer to anything served on a burger-shaped bun, including solid slabs of meat or fish or vegetable, as opposed the American usage where unless specified, burgers are made of ground beef (mince); and even variants like turkey burger or veggie burger are assumed to be patties of ground components. (I once went to an event that was billed as a 'Burger Night' and was sort of jokingly apologetic when I ordered a fried chicken sandwich, thus from my perspective violating the theme, and was rewarded with blank stares because fried chicken sandwiches totally count as burgers there.)

-Beef burgers seemed much more likely to include seasonings mixed into the meat, and many of them were essentially what I would call meatloaf. (As in this recipe for a "basic" burger.) It may have just been a current food trend thing, but the US approach where you just lightly shape some ground meat and cook it seemed not common.

-Possibly because of the meatloaf factor, burgers tended to be cooked well done, but then there's this tricky thing where the beetroot drips red juices that mimic the experience of eating a rare burger.
posted by yarrow at 2:13 PM on October 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Why don’t they just say a slice of pickled beet?

Because we love a good root.

Also, 'beetroot' is two syllables and 'a slice of pickled beet' is six, and the slices are all different sizes and one of the arts of making a hamburger is knowing how many you need and where to put them in the hamburger stack.

In the beginning, there was the takeaway hamburger. It had a patty made of mince (ground beef), probably running around 20 per cent fat, and it came with tomato and lettuce (always iceberg, usually finely shredded) and beetroot and salt and pepper if you nodded when they asked and tomato sauce and that was it. If you didn't want beetroot you had opt out, not opt in if you did like beetroot.

It came on a big, soft but slightly dry and not at all sweet sesame seed bun from one of the big baking companies that was best if lightly toasted on the hotplate so the edges were extra dark brown and a bit crispy and it went into a white paper bag with a serviette or, if you were lucky, they wrapped it in paper before it went in the bag so you could stop the fillings from sliding out the bottom. You can get some chips or a S C A L L O P yeah you heard me chucked in the bag as well or get them in a separate paper cup in its own bag.

The bags have their own particular aroma when heated by the hamburger steam and are part of the experience. The patty should be put straight on to the lettuce so it's still crisp but some of it is warm and wilted. Beetroot below the lettuce, against the bottom bun - if you put it on top of the patty or between the patty and the lettuce then it's going to slide out. The beetroot needs to be seriously well drained or the bottom of the bun with get soggy.

If the takeaway place was a bit shit then the mince had been adulterated with bread crumbs and dried herbs and was more of a runover rissole with irregular cracked edges and fuck that. The patties were sometimes cooked from frozen and were also faintly seasoned and probably even had cereal binders but they didn't taste like rissoles and they were springy rather than crumbly and that was fine.

You want cheese? That's extra, and it's Coon cheddar, and it's probably not melted on the patty. You want onions? It's probably free, but it's optional, and they'll be fried. You want barbecue sauce? Fine, we can probably swing that. You want 'tropical'? That's pineapple, and that's extra. You want bacon and egg? That's extra.

You want the lot? That's a hamburger with added bacon and egg and cheese except perhaps not, inexplicably in some cases, the pineapple, which might still be extra. This shits me no end.

You want an 'Aussie burger'? For some reason, that's egg on a hamburger, and maybe bacon (I disagree but I'll let it go), but not often with pineapple. I'd argue it's the beetroot / egg / tomato sauce combo that defines Australianness, not bacon, and not pineapple. Pineapple is tropical.

I reckon we don't really have 'cheeseburgers'. We have burgers that have cheese on them.

You can usually get a burger and a 375ml can of drink as a package. You can sometimes upsize this to a 600ml bottle of drink. If you're really bloody hungry there might be a 'chips and drink' deal, but then you've got to pay extra for sauce for the chips, and if the place is erally shit, an extra 20c for chicken salt.

I rarely see cucumber or grated carrot on a hamburger and if I do they are an abomination. It's a bloody hamburger, not a ham and salad sandwich (which also has beetroot).

If it's on a hamburger bun it's a burger. Chicken? Chicken burger. A big bit of battered fish? Fish burger. Round patty made of vegetables and fried in the same beef and bacon fat as the other burgers so it actually tastes good? Vege burger. A sandwich is made with something approaching quadrangular bread.

We don't put beetroot on sausage sandwiches, though I may have once blended a bottle of tomato sauce with a tin of drained beetroot and it might have been pretty amazing but trademark copyright dibs.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:47 PM on October 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

The bacon, is it streaky or is it the round one?
posted by jadepearl at 10:26 PM on October 30, 2017

The meat patty has to be almost blackened in places, and have a good enough fat ratio to compensate.
posted by geek anachronism at 1:43 AM on October 31, 2017

As far as the bacon goes, both. The chippy I worked at got it in bulk. It basically looks like a letter P, right? Both the round and the streaky bit. Fold it over.

I did tell you those things are huuuuuuuuuge, right?

And it's scallop, you southern peasants. I was a professional chippy fry chef, I got a certificate and everything.
posted by Jilder at 4:54 AM on October 31, 2017 [4 favorites]

Appropriate bacon

Jilder is 100% trustworthy on hamburger construction and I bet she makes excellent potato cakes as well.
posted by flabdablet at 8:15 AM on October 31, 2017

Beets have two parts, both edible: The root, and the greens. I suppose that has something to do with the name ‘beetroot,’ although to my ears it sounds like ‘carrotroot’ or ‘applefruit.’
posted by Sys Rq at 7:01 AM on November 5, 2017

Although American beef is better

I have been to the US and I would say those are fighting words if they weren't so laughably far off the money.

A burger from a chippy is one thing, and I don't mind them, but for me the best Australian burgers originate in pubs. Same ingredients mostly, better quality, hotter and less soggy. The food of the gods. To be washed down with beer.
posted by deadwax at 12:38 AM on November 6, 2017

Dagnabbit, flabdablet.

It's a scallop. It is a singular unit of scalloped potato that has been blessed with batter. A potato cake is potato that has been mashed, usually with like, cumin seeds, and then deep fried. Aloo tikka if you are lucky enough to have it cooked by a cook versed in Indian cuisine.
posted by Jilder at 4:58 AM on November 7, 2017

Sounds good. I'll have three of those, please, and a minimum of chips.

Actually a minimum is too much. Just a bag, thanks.
posted by flabdablet at 1:51 PM on November 7, 2017

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