Very few foods love you back the way a burger does. It smears sauce over your face as you bite into it. It spills and drips over your shirt. And it can sometimes even make your eyes roll back and your toes curl up.
However, my last brush with a burger took this lovin’ back a tad too far. It all started with me feeling peckish at the airport. I weighed all the options and decided to go with greed and the Zinger burger from KFC. The first bite of the burger was familiar. It smeared my lips with sauce. The chicken piece hiding inside was plump and crispy. I even dropped a few lettuce leaves over my shirt as I brought the burger towards my mouth. Expecting every bite to be the same, a quick service restaurant motto, I dug into the burger for a second bite. But instead of my teeth gliding through the soft, crispy inner, it stopped midway when it hit something hard and plasticy. To my horror, it was a plastic cap of the sauce gun KFC uses. Apparently, this one had unscrewed itself as someone behind the counter carelessly slathered my burger with the white mayo like sauce.
When I brought this up with the counter staff and the store manager, they apologised profusely. So did the company over a tweet and an email. Their response felt like good customer service, but somehow the apologies didn’t make up for their carelessness. The kind of loving back I got from this particular Zinger killed KFC for me and their burgers.
For starters… the Zinger isn’t a very special burger per se. But of the fast-food chain lot in India, it was a favourite. What it had got right was the fat piece of whole muscle fried chicken. It felt wholesome and sinful at the same time. Added to that, it didn’t hurt that it also checked the boxes on the smear as you bite and the dripping and falling over the shirt bit.
Now, I’m not one to hold a grudge for too long, especially when it involves food I like. But this incident wasn’t going to get me to hop into the nearest KFC for their Zinger anytime soon either. So to keep the option open of being able to have a Zinger every now and then, I decided to recreate it.
As I thought about how I’d recreate it, I knew I would keep one thing the same i.e. I’d use a piece of whole chicken muscle in my version too. That’s what made the Zinger a Zinger to me. The rest was all up for modification.
For inspiration on the rest, I thought about a few of my favourite burgers. Two in particular stood out for this Zinger recreation.
The first was a burger from my childhood from this bakery / fast-food chain called Croissant’s, etc. While they retailed all kinds of breads, buns, puffs, pastries and cakes, my favourite thing there was the burger counter where they made your burger the way you wanted it. I was undiscriminating, so I’d always get mine with everything. But what made their burgers special to me wasn’t the amount of stuff they put inside; it was their ginormous toasted buns with crisp brown edges. The toasting added a layer of taste and texture that just plain untoasted buns didn’t have. So my version of the Zinger was going to have a big toasted bun.
The other burger was the Whopper. I adore the combination of the smoky flame grilled beef patty with slices of plump tomatoes and crisp onions. The tomatoes give it a nice juiciness while the onions cut the smoky, fatty tastes beautifully. When I can, I always get mine with mustard. So I was going to have mustard in my version of the Zinger along with slices of tomatoes, onions and something smoky (bacon *happy face*).
Thus was born my same-same-but-different Zinger. What makes it same-same is the piece of whole chicken muscle. And what makes it different is everything else.
The Same-Same-But-Different Zinger (or the bacon wrapped spicy chicken bagel with onions, tomatoes and grainy Dijon mustard)
Ingredients for 1 burger:
1 chicken breast
2 strips of bacon
1 slice of emmental cheese
4 thick slices of a nice juicy tomato
3-4 thin slices of onion, cut into rings
1 generous teaspoon of grainy Dijon mustard
1-2 lettuce leaves (I am not a big fan of lettuce in my burger, but they work to keep the bun sogg free)
1 bagel bun
a pinch of chilli flakes
salt and pepper to taste
Step 1: Dust the chicken breast with a generous pinch of salt, pepper and chilli flakes . Keep this away for about 10-20 minutes in a cool corner or the refrigerator to marinate (you can call it that).
Step 2: Once the chicken has had 10-20 minutes to get to know Mr. Salt, Pepper and Chilli, wrap the 2 bacon strips around the chicken breast. Now, grill the bacon wrapped chicken breast on a hot skillet on medium-high. The fat from the bacon will render into the skillet so you really don’t need to add any oil. Grill the chicken for about 5-6 minutes on each side. When both sides are nicely browned, turn the heat off and place a slice of emmental over the bacon wrapped chicken. Cover it with a lid for 2-3 minutes to let the cheese melt all over it. In the mean time you can get the other things ready and start assembling the burger.
Step 3: Cut your bagel through the centre and toast the two slices over a hot pan. If you like, use some butter to make it nice and golden. Once it’s browned and crispy around the edges, you’re ready to start assembling your burger.
Step 4: On the bottom slice slather on a generous teaspoon of grainy Dijon mustard. Next layer on the lettuce. It will act as a rain coat holding back the juices from the tomato slices to keep the bun sogg-free. Now layer on the tomato slices. Sprinkle some salt and pepper to season it. Next place the bacon rapped chicken breast with melted cheese. Follow it up with the thin slices of onions. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper to season the onions. Finally, cap the burger with the other half of the bagel and serve.