Indian Burgers with Grilled Banana Raita

To wrap up AwK’s BBQ month, I was going to share another submission from the Build A Better Burger Book. The final was a winner of a creative award and looked really interesting. So, the burger was made. I had photos. I had materials. I was ready.

Photo courtesy of Build a Better Burger

Then I got busy and forgot from fighting terrorism, blowing up small villages and getting to da choppa with Arnold Swartzenegger. The AwK BBQ month has officially ended, but I’m still going to share this quirky little burger.

As I already said, this burger is the winner of the creativity award in 1996. Most of the creativity award burgers are just that – very creative. When you take your first bite, it’s hard to know what to expect, so keep an open mind. I was looking for something very different when I made it, so I was prepared.

1 1/3 pounds ground lamb
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt

I want to give you a glowing review, but because it’s the creativity award burger, you know it was a little weird. If you walked into an authentic Indian restaurant and asked them to make you a hamburger, this is exactly what it would taste like. Since I enjoy Indian food, I did like the taste – it was just odd having it as a hamburger.

To make the burgers, just take the ingredients and mix them together. Handle the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting it. Grill, turning once until done to preference – 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare.

The burger is to be accompanied by a banana-yogurt sauce called “raita.” Before you get weirded out, just keep in mind that Indian food usually contains a lot of sweet flavors and is usually yogurt or tomato sauce based. The raita, while sounding odd on top of a hamburger, makes sense from an Indian cuisine standpoint.

Grilled Banana Raita
Vegetable oil for brushing on the grill rack
2 very firm bananas, peeled
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

After reading through the ingredient list, you see right away this is going to be very sweet. Most people associate Indian food with 5-alarm spicy, but that isn’t always the case. A lot of their food has a lot of sweet, fresh flavors to balance that out, similarly to what you’re seeing with the raita.

To make the raita, brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the bananas on the grill and cook, turning carefully, until lightly browned all over. The book says it should take 1 – 2 minutes, but on a skillet, it took a little longer. At first I was worried the banana would turn to mush over the fire, but the inside stayed firm. As soon as it turned a little brown, I flipped it over. Any longer than that and it would have been destroyed – so keep watching it while you’re cooking it.

While the bananas are cooking, place 1 teaspoon garam masala and the cumin in a fireproof container and toast on the grill for about 1 minute. Since I was using the Foreman, I didn’t do this part.

Dice up the banana into small cubes and mix with the rest of the raita ingredients. Stir well and set aside until the burgers are finished cooking.

To assemble: On each bun bottom, place 4 cucumber slices, a tomato slice, a patty and an equal portion of the raita. Add the bun tops and serve.

Here’s a shot of my finished burger as I was serving.

This concludes the Build A Better Burger series. If you liked what you saw, go pick up a copy!

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