If you think that a Hamburger belongs to the junk food fraternity popular only with kids or it is a toxic product exported by the neo-imperialist USA weaponizing food to conquer the world, then you are mistaken. The patty in the bun that started its journey on a pushcart or kiosk in NY more than a century back has come a long way. Today, in India, it is pushing gems from royal kitchens off the high table.
Forget the Golden Arches that mass-produced (like T-Model Ford cars) the aspirational Mc Dee that defined with Coke quintessential America. Its price may continue to be used as the convenient measure of ‘purchase power parity’ to compare the state of the economy in different countries but it can no longer claim to be the gold standard.
The Age of Artisanal Hamburger has dawned, and the Gold Draped Louis Burger has arrived. Don’t be misled by the name. It is a khalis deshi child of this soil. It’s a creation of Zorawar Kalra, who has conceived this as a tribute to Louis Lassen who introduced, some say seduced, the world to burgers.
India has never felt shy of making its own influences and ingredients received from diverse sources and Royale is no exception. The 24-carat drape is not just eye-candy it announces subtly that what is undercover is an assortment of expensive, exotic ingredients imported cheeses- Swiss Emmental, English Cheddar, Italian Parmesan – Truffle Oil laced Mayo, Japanese Shitake and Shimeji mushrooms.
The Golden Hamburger revived memories of lost recipes from the Nawabi kitchens in Awadh. Kundan Qaliya used to be the Jewel in the Crown. The gravy was fortified with the noble metal the delicately carved cubes of meat glittered with a glow imparted by the sone ka warq. The dish had a reputation of a refined aphrodisiac. Chandi ka Warq (edible silver leaf) was more common. People without a drop of blue blood in their veins could indulge in sweets covered with small bits of the stuff or Shahi Tukrha adorned with it.
Our thoughts also turned to the plebian miniscule hamburger served at the PRRM (Price Rise Resistance Movement) Coffee House set up by ex-workers of India Coffee House. It was located in the Central Park in CP in the Capital that is the home under greenery to Rajiv Chowk Metro station. It was priced 27 paise in the mid-1960s!
The hamburger served at the upmarket Gay Time Grill enclosed a fried patty within a soft dinner roll (again lightly fried). It was Nirula’s that brought the grilled patty and sesame seeds studded buns to town. It would be decades before Mc Donaldization of India could begin. Keeping the food taboos in mind the company had to compromise. Quarter pounder beef burger was a big No! NO! Even the starred hotels made it clear what they were offering were Lamburgers.
Fish Fillets, Chicken were other options. The vegetarians had the Aloo Tikki option. Not too exciting but it was a burger, not bun-tikki. With the passage of time, other fast-food chains entered India and offered their takes on the Hamburger.
The Artisanal burgers are in a different league, even without the ‘sunehra naqab’ (golden veil). There are 100 per cent plant-based Vegan burgers and the ‘no frills’ mega burger manages to sneak in ‘Hashed Buff’ patties in place of the prohibited unmentionable meat. The plot is thickening in Hamburgerland.
Along with this, Louis Burger offers a variety of plant-based burgers too. The ‘Vegan Gratitude Burger’ is your guilt-free, power-packed indulgence complete with beets, beans, sweet potato, jalapenos, confit tomato and vegan mayo.
To add to that imperial touch sone ka varq (edible gold leaf) adorns this burger, making it totally unique. The ‘Louis Grand Royale’ is a robust double patty buff burger with exotic shimeji mushrooms, truffle, special Louis sauce, English cheddar and gold varq.
As authentic as Elvis Presley’s music, as classic as Vogue and as exciting as a Marvel movie.