Sunday, January 1, 2012

Thai Burgers with Spicy Sweet Potato Chips and Asian Slaw

A few weeks ago I had to go back to London for work. No sooner had I made it from the airport to the office, did I get the urge for proper British pub grub. So I dragged a couple of my colleagues off to Smiths of Smithfields in Farringdon, which is a restaurant run by John Torode, serving cracking pub grub at reasonable prices.

When my mum was pregnant with me, apparently she developed an insatiable craving for hamburgers and scoffed them at all hours of the day for most of the nine months. So I am convinced my love for a good burger started in the womb.

Imagine my dismay therefore, when I tucked into my burger and found it to be, well, a bit blah. I’m not blaming this on the burger or the chef. Honestly John, it’s not you, it’s me. I’ve changed since I’ve been in Thailand and I guess I just want other things. I want chillies. I want fresh herbs.  My palette has become accustomed to Thai cooking and I was missing a bit of fire in my belly.

Determined to rekindle my love for the burger, I set about figuring out how to spice things up a bit and Thai-up an old classic. I love this recipe, it’s straightforward to prepare but still lets you play around with new flavours and jazz up a classic dish. I've added a lime and garlic mayo too and also served some sweet chilli sauce.

By the way, if you are looking at the photo and wondering whether the chips are actually green and the burger bun purple, they are. Let me explain. I couldn’t find the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes here in Bangkok which I’m used to from the UK but a variety originating from Vietnam. They’re delicious, just a little on the green side. And I struggled to find burger buns but in the end I found ‘whole grain purple berry buns’ in a bakery chain called S&P. I’m not sure exactly what the purple berries were or why there were there but the buns tasted good. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got!

This is a delicious meal…but don’t take my word for it. I served it up to three of Bangkok’s most strapping and chiselled ex-pats and they gave it a big thumbs up.

Time: 1hr 10 mins
Rating: Moderate. Nothing is very difficult but there are a few components so you need to be organised
Serves 4


500g Good quality minced beef
1 large red chilli (medium spice)
3 cloves garlic
2 inches fresh root ginger, peeled
2 lemongrass stalks – only paler part at the bottom (about inch and a half)
Handful fresh coriander (leaves and stalks)
3 small shallots
1 egg
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon fish sauce
½ tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
25g Handful breadcrumbs (use a few slices of stale bread, brown ideally)

Soft wholemeal or granary rolls
2 tomatoes
1/3 cucumber
Slices of onion
Rocket leaves

3 medium sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon dried chillies
1 tsp Rock Salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Generous slug of olive oil

Asian Slaw:
200g white cabbage cut into thin strips
1 large carrot, either cut into thin strips or coarsely grated
1 large red chilli de-seeded
Small handful coriander
Small handful mint
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
Generous slug of olive oil
Small handful peanuts

Lime and garlic mayo:
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
Zest and juice of ½ lime
1 small clove garlic, crushed


  1. Preheat the over to 200C
  2. Start with the burgers so that they can rest a bit before you cook them and the flavours have the chance to infuse into the meat. Finely dice the shallots and place in a large mixing bowl. Then deseed and finely chop the chilli. Finley chop the ginger and coriander (including stems). Mince the lemongrass. Either finely chop and then mince in a mortar and pestle, or continue chopping until minced. This last bit is important – lemongrass has a fantastic flavour and aroma that to me screams Thailand. But it’s very coarse and properly minced it could feel chewy and unpleasant.
  3. Next prepared your breadcrumbs. Either whiz the bread up in a blender, or chop with a good knife on a chopping board. It’s fine if the breadcrumbs are coarse.
  4. Put all these ingredients into a mixing bowl. Add the mince, honey and crack the egg over the top.  Then combine all of the ingredients with your hands. If you’ve not done this before it may seem a bit gross but it really is the best way to mix all the ingredients.
  5. Divide the meat into four equal portions and with your hands and shape into burgers. You’ll see flecks of colour from the shallots, chilli and coriander. Place the burgers on a plate, cover with cling film and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook them. You can do this several hours in advance, or even several days and freeze the burgers.
  6. Next prepare the sweet potatoes. Chop off the ends of the potatoes and cut away a little from the edge of each potato length-ways so that you have flat surfaces. Don’t bother to peel them, it adds texture and colour and looks nice and rustic.  Then cut the potatoes into chips, about 6cm long and 1cm thick. Take time with the chopping; the chips should all be about the same size so they cook evenly and look neat. Place in a mixing bowl and pour the olive oil over them, mixing so that all the chips are coated. Then sprinkle over the salt, pepper and chilli flakes. Mix again to evenly season the chips.
  7. Place on a baking sheet, making sure they are well spaced out. If they are all piled on top of each other they won’t crisp up so if you need to, divide them between two sheets. Put in the oven to cook. They will take about 40 minutes.  Take the tray out every ten minutes to turn the chips over. Remove after 45 mins or when the chips are soft all the way through and and nicely browned and crispy on the outside.
  8. As soon as the chips are in the oven, start making your side dishes. Firstly, the slaw. First toast the nuts. Put them in a pan over a high heat, tossing regularly. Don’t take your eyes off them as they can burn quickly. Toast for about 3 or 4 minutes until they are nicely browned. Take off the heat and allow to cool. Then coarsely chop them or gently crush in a mortar and pestle. Set aside – add these right at the end so they keep their crunch
  9. Slice the cabbage finely and grate the carrot. Place in a mixing bowl. Coarsely chop the mint and coriander and add to the bowl.
  10. Mix up the dressing for the slaw: combine the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and olive oil in a jar. Finely chop the chilli and add to the mixture. Put the lid on and shake vigorously. Combine all the slaw ingredients and pour over the dressing. Don’t forget you need to be turning your chips!
  11. Next, make the mayo. This is really quick and easy. Crush the garlic very finely and add to the mayo, stirring with a teaspoon. Stir in the lime zest and juice. Spoon into a small tub to serve and refrigerate until ready.
  12. You also need to prep the garnishing for the burger. Slice the tomatoes. And deseed the cucumber and chop into small batons. Finely slice some raw red onion and set aside a few rocket leaves.
  13. So now all of your sides are done and the chips will have been in the oven for a good half hour.  It’s time to cook the burgers. Pour a little olive oil into a frying pan or griddle pan. Place the burgers in the pan once the oil is hot.  Cook over a medium heat for about 4-5mins on each side if you like them a little pink inside. Add another minute or two per side if you want them well done all the way through.
  14. Plating up this dish is fun, you can really go to town on the presentation, using different pots for the various sides. Stack the burgers in the buns with the tomatoes, onions, cucumber and rocket leaves. You can pile up the chips next to the burger or serve them in a small bowl. Spoon the slaw into a small bowl and sprinkle with the roasted peanuts. Serve the lime mayo and chilli sauce in little tubs or shot glasses.


  1. This plate looks amazing! Totally my cup of tea! Thanks for sharing! I am definitely going to give it a go.

  2. Thanks very much! Really hope you enjoy it :-)