Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A word on Singapore's burgers [Esquire]

photography: Adam Tun-Aung

Grab the August issue of Esquire magazine for a quick column about burgers.  This article had a word limit, so I'll be sharing a full list of burger joints and a cool run down on the burger history here on Gastronommy.com next.  I ate a lot of f*cking burgers for 2 months for you guys.

The internet offers all sorts of legends on how the hamburger came to be – from minced horsemeat fillets eaten by Mongol riders in Genghis Khan’s army, to German immigrants bringing the Hamburg beefsteak to the Americas. One thing is undisputed however; the hamburger in its truest definition—ground beef patty in between a bun—is the quintessential American food product.

The humble hamburger has since been reinvented and refined since its designation as the cheap assembly-line all-American symbol. There’s still an appreciation for fast-food slop, but the New York gospel of what makes a perfect burger has spread even to Singapore’s shores.

The Bun: The taste and texture is crucial. Simple soft potato bread is ideal, toasted on the inside to help prevent absorbency—too absorbent and you’ll get a soggy mess. The bun should be even a bit on the blander side, so the beef flavors can stand out. Pillowy softness is also key. If the bun is too chewy or hard (think baguette-like breads) the meat squishes out the back end whenever you bite into it.

The Patty: I don’t care what kind of fancy trimmings you put on a burger, but nothing can hide the importance of the beef. It is said that the magic ratio of beef –to-fat mixture is 70 to 30 percent. Purists, like myself, believe a real burger is beef, and beef only. Add in fillers such as breadcrumbs and eggs, and the patty by definition, becomes a meatloaf. But there are so-called “shapeists” who are content to accept a burger as long as it’s the right shape—hence chicken burgers, lamb burgers, and even tofurkey burgers. Beyond this, there is no right or wrong when it comes to trimmings like cheese, veggies, and sauces. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Here's the list of mentions:

Shake Shack Reincarnated: Omakase Burger
Omakase’s owners have been inspired specifically by Shake Shack NYC and have recreated the burger to the best of their ability. Omakase also serves beef tallow fries (that is, French fries fried in the beef fat rendered from the burgers).

Gentleman’s Burger: B-Bar at Bacchanalia
The details that go into the creation of the Bacchanalia Burger are something to be appreciated. Chef Ivan Brehm uses three different cuts of beef to ensure both good texture and flavor; aged cheddar for acidity against the beef fat; and semi-dried tomatoes for umami; and a bun that is the right balance of softness and structural hold.

Too Cool For School: Potato Head Folk
Craving a McSpicy but need to maintain your trendy cool? The buttermilk fried chicken burger at Potato Head Folk is your savior. Unlike most chicken burgers, Potato Head Folk’s chicken is juicy, tender, and full of flavor. Order a side of Naughty Fries too, and thank me later.

Sacré Bleu!: The Market Grill
Americana purists may abhor the thought of French cheese in the burger (are French fries not enough?!), but the CW Bleu Cheese burger at Market Grill is simply one of the best in town. The patty is thick with juicy meat, smothered in burnt onion marmalade, salty bacon, and the glorious sweet-tangy stink of reblechon bleu cheese. The raisin walnut bun hug the innards just nicely, completing the burger trance that will leave you silent for 5-minutes as you willfully eat uninterrupted.


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