Why do so many of us consume so much meat daily? The answer is in the power of hamburgers to capture our imagination: One planet united between two buns. Its business model is built upon inexpensive industrial ground beef. This is why we Slow Down for Meatless Monday. Remember, we did not saddle-up with Meatless Monday to replace industrial ground beef with industrial ground soy.
While the rise of the veggie burger is an extraordinary story of massive shifts in consumer behavior, the substitution for one processed food for another is not a reason to be cheerful. However, in speaking with Slow Food’s International Councilor from the Philippines Pacita Juan, there is an indigenous alternative to the veggie burger. It is healthy, and relatively easy to make.
Pacita Juan is concerned with the Filipino diet: Extremely high in salt and carbohydrates.
Just think of the role that anchovy paste plays in popular dishes, like Kare Kare, together with rice. The middle class is relatively small. However, as with much of the rest of the world, it dreams of wagyu (beef), even though most of the time it can only afford chicken in fast food chains, like Jollibee. Or, to be more precise: Juan describes how eaters “consume the leftover dark meat — legs and thighs — dumped into the local market by the US.” After all, in North America if industry could raise the chicken breast without the rest of the animal, they would.
At the ECHOcafé, Juan has noticed a growing interest in vegetable-centric dishes. With chronic diseases impacting many families, flexitarianism is becoming the new normal: Less beef, less chicken, and more vegetable alternatives. Whereas packaged and processed veggie patties are an expensive drag on food costs for restaurants, Juan makes great use of an ingredient that is familiar to most Filipino home kitchens: The heart (or blossom) of the banana.
High in potassium (good for heart health), it is also local, affordable and ideal for transforming into a patty for veggie burgers. If you’re like me, you’ve seen the blossoms on sale in markets but without a clue as to how to prepare these large, red flowers. Scan Filipino cookbooks and you will see banana hearts as a key ingredient in many stews. Blended with other ingredients, it proves to be an even better carrier for flavor than the now wildly-popular meat substitute, the Jackfruit.
Obviously banana hearts are not easy to access everywhere, but the idea of a meatless-burger is not new and inspiration fills the pages of the internet. Lists upon lists of options to fulfill your meat-less burger craving, some of them you can even grill, which covers the primal need to cook over fire.
Artichokes are similar in texture to banana blossoms. Both have thick outer layers and the potential to deliver a soft heart once cooked. In fact, artichoke burgers have appeared in restaurant menus for a few years now.
If you get your hands on some banana hearts, let us know how it goes. We are eager to hear about!
Banana Heart Burger (or Puso Ng Saging)
Serves 6-12 people
Do you grow your own bananas? If so, which variety? Industrial production is dominated by the Cavendish. Let’s keep biodiversity flourishing. If you grow or purchase bananas (and their hearts), try other varieties. One beloved variety on the Philippine Ark of Taste is the Saging Mondo Banana, but there are many others. In the ECHOcafé, Juan serves the banana heart burger on a typical Philippine bread roll: Pan de Sal. Hers is a squash-tumeric pan de sal. Yum!
ECHOcafé’s Banana Heart Burger: If bananas grow in your region or if you are lucky enough to live in a community with ample Asian shopping options, you will find banana hearts (or blossoms) on offer. If not, you may still find the blossoms canned. If banana hearts are nowhere to be found, then substitute the banana heart with 3 beets and 1 carrot.
- 1 banana heart (approximately 500g) — if unavailable to you, substitute with 3 beets and 1 carrot
- 2 onions
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 2 eggs
- 2 TBSP white flour
- 3 pinches of salt
Pan de Sal
- 2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- ¼ cup warm water
- 1 cup lukewarm milk
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter at room temperature
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 4½ cups all purpose flour
Since both the burger and the bun are popular Filipino dishes, I recommend you to published authorities for instructions. In particular, the Yummy Kitchen video is particularly helpful to learn how to chop and boil the banana heart, then blend with ingredients to fry up in a shallow pan of oil. Follow Yummy Kitchen’s instructions but using Juan’s ingredients. The result is quite astonishing! Another useful site — Filippino Veggie Food — also describes the preparation clearly on its site. You will notice that Juan’s version suggests kaffir leaves. Great idea!
If you are unable to find banana hearts, substitute them with beets, carrot and onion. Grate the fresh beets and carrots. Finely chop the onion. Sauté the root vegetables for 8-10 minutes in enough olive oil to coat the pan. Remove from the heat and drain excess liquid. Once cool enough to work with, combine with other ingredients.
As for the Pan de Sal, it is a perfect accompaniment. Usually served at breakfast, these little rolls are soft on the inside, making them ideal to absorb condiments. Try these two recipes for a useful basis to prepare. You can also adjust to suit your tastes and product choices: The Little Epicurean and Salu Salo recipes.
To learn more about Meatless Monday: Watch the videos about how it is going global; and the tour of Terra Madre. To join us, submit a recipe of your own via email (Richard@ThinkLikePirates.com). If you prepare this week’s