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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.

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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.


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The comfort of a Fried Egg


I adore eggs. I could eat them any way. But my favorite has to be a warm oozy runny fried egg.

Having said that, its a love I’ve grown into. Growing up, a runny yolk would make me squirm. The lingering eggy smell (especially around the rim of a glass or mug I was sipping milk or tea out off) would make my stomach churn. But now, if its a fried egg, I can’t have it any other way. It has to be runny and it has to be oozy.

This love was taken to a whole other level when I discovered Nasi Goreng many years back on my first trip to Indonesia. For the first time, I saw my beloved served without toast. It sat atop a steaming pile of sweet and spicy rice, with a side of sambal ulek, fried onions, cucumber and krupuk kulit. I squished the yolk into the rice, let the gooey mess run in and coat every grain. I scooped it up with the crispy krupuk and mopped its every last trace at the very end from the plate with the cucumber. I was in heaven.

I had only loved fried eggs until then, but that meal I discovered the delightful and comfort of it.

From then on I’ve tried to experiment with various starchy beds to crown with a fried egg. I’ve sat it atop the usual Hakka noodles and fried rice. I’ve even gone as far as putting it on top of poha and upma. (It works brilliantly, trust me. You wont need a chutney or sauce ever again)

But on this particularly long day, I needed some eggy comfort. Plus I had been teased by post after post of eggy beauties by thedelicious on instagram. I needed to crown a more worthy bed of flavours and textures, than what I had been doing so far.

Thats how this stir fried noodles with mushrooms and purple cabbage, chilli chicken with cashews, chargrilled French beans and shallots on the side, finished off with a runny oozy fried egg, happened.

This was made with whatever I could find in my pantry and fridge.

Ingredients for the stir fried noodles:
3 nests of egg noodles
1/2 an onion, sliced thinly (I used the white part of 4-5 shallots)
1/2 a head of purple cabbage, sliced thinly
4-5 mushrooms, cut into chunks
1 tsp ginger, chopped finely
1 tsp, garlic, chopped finely
2-3 tsp of oil
Soy sauce (I like Kikkoman)
Rice wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Ingredients for the chilli chicken with cashews:
250 gms of chicken breast, sliced thinly
2-3 chillies, i used some local green peppers
1 1/2 tsp ginger (I like the stronger flavour of ginger here, you can adjust it as you like)
1 tsp garlic
1 tbs cornstarch
2-3 tsp of oil
7-8 cashews
Soy sauce
Rice wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Ingredients for the side of shallots and french beans:
10 french beans, cut into bite size pieces
4-5 the green part of the shallots

Finally, 2 eggs!

Step 1: Heat a pot of water with plenty of salt and cook the noodles as per the instructions on the packet. I usually like to take it off the stove a little before its done because the noodles will cook some more in the wok.

Step 2: Now while that’s happening, chop everything up and marinate the chicken with some soy sauce, 1/2 tsp of ginger, the cornstarch and some salt and pepper. Make sure the chicken is evenly coated. Set aside for 10-15 minutes.

Step 3: For the stir fried noodles, heat a wok with the oil until it almost starts smoking. Now you need to be quick… add the onions, toss a bit until it starts changing colour. Add the ginger and garlic. Cook till you can smell the perfume of the two. Now add the mushrooms and a few seconds later, the cabbage. Toss them around a bit. The idea is to soften the cabbage a touch, but not wilt it down. Now add some salt and pepper to season the base along with a touch of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. Now add the drained noodles. Toss the whole thing together. Add a touch more soy sauce to coat the noodles well. Check and adjust the salt and pepper. Voila, the noodles are ready.

Step 4: In another wok or pan heat some oil on medium heat. Add the cashews, toast them for a bit until they are golden. Now raise the temperature of the pan. Add the ginger and garlic. Let it splatter about for a bit. Add the chillies and toss for a few seconds. Now add the marinated chicken. Keep stirring. The chicken will tend to stick because of the cornstarch. After about 2-3 minutes, add a touch of water, some soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Let it cook for a little longer. It should take another 5-7 mins.

Step 5: On a lightly oiled hot skillet grill the french beans and the shallots for 2-3 minutes. The idea is to get some brown edges. Season with some salt and pepper.

Step 6: Put it all together in a bowl – the stir fried noodles on one side and the chilli chicken on the other. You’ll be able to make two big bowls out of this.

Step 7: Crack open the 2 eggs on a medium hot skillet with some oil in it. Let the egg cook for a minute at this temperature, then bring down the heat. The latter will cook the whites through while making the yolk nice and creamy. Add some oil to the sides if you think the edges are seeming dry. Divide the eggs into 2 and serve them on top of the heap of stir fried noodles and chilli chicken.