I find it hard to believe that the edibles at 7-Eleven stores in Bangkok would make the locals, who are surrounded by far better and fresher foods, salivate. But the ubiquity of these stores in the city makes me question my sentiment. Whether or not it makes sense to you and me, people regularly buy things from them, and apparently they are doing very, very well.
Having observed how the various pork and chicken sticky rice burgers seem to fly off the refrigerator shelves at my neighborhood “say-wen” during my last trip to Thailand, I decided that the only way to find out why was to try them. After all, as far as I know, these are not the kind of stuff you can find anywhere else on the streets. So I did.
To my surprise, they weren’t bad at all. The laab (RTGS: lap) sticky rice burger was the most questionable of all the available flavors, but even that wasn’t too shabby. In fact, if not for the hint of fake lime flavoring in the meat, I’d say it’s pretty good.
1. I soaked 1 1/4 cups of raw Thai sticky rice for 3 hours in the morning (you kind of have to plan ahead).
2. I steamed it (you must cook Thai sticky rice by steaming it with vapor; you cannot cook it in water) on the splatter guard like I usually do.
3. While the rice was cooking, I added to one pound of ground lamb (you can use beef, pork, chicken, or turkey) one tablespoon of fish sauce, 2 tablespoons of lime juice, 2 teaspoons of ground dried red pepper, 1 tablespoon of toasted rice powder, 1 tablespoon finely-chopped shallot (onion’s fine too), 1 tablespoon of finely-chopped mint leaves, and 1 tablespoon of finely-chopped sawtooth coriander (coriander/cilantro can also be used). Then I formed the mixture into 4 patties weighing a little over 1/4 pound each (cheeseless Quarter Pounder?*).
4. When the rice was about 3/4 of the way cooked, I started pan-frying my lamb patties (until this thing goes away, I’m not grilling my burgers outside). By the time the patties were cooked, the rice was ready.
5. I formed the sticky rice “buns” using a pancake ring (which I never, ever use to make pancakes with), packing it down with the back of a damp spoon.
6. I assembled the burgers, wrapped them in some parchment paper, and served them right away. No need for any sauce; there was enough flavor in the patties for me (besides, who eats laab with any sauce?)
7. In retrospect, I should have asked my friend to help make some Thai green papaya salad while I was frying the patties. That way, we would have had some fresh vegetable to go with these. But, oh well.
*Royale with(out) Cheese in France?