Vietnamese-Style Turkey Burgers with Quick-Pickled Vegetables

February 23rd, 2010 at 1:01 pm

I’m overwhelmed. Not with a hectic schedule or long to-do list, but with recipes.

I made the mistake of buying three food magazines last week and reading them all in one weekend. I also spent an afternoon at the library and left with a big stack of cookbooks wobbling in my arms. To top it off, I decided my office was past due for a good dusting, which led me to my bookshelves. Which led me to my cookbook collection. Which led me to drooling over the recipes I’d long forgotten were even there. 

So I now find myself up to my eyeballs in recipes and feeling quite overwhelmed by them all. But you know what they say: how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. So that’s what I intend on doing. Taking each recipe one at a time and gradually checking them off my list. Before I know it, I’ll have made a good dent in them and can then move on to another stack of cookbooks that I’m sure I’ll have collected by then.

Today’s recipe was inspired by one in the January 2010 issue of Bon Appetit. The original recipe for a Pork Meatball Banh Mi (a French-Vietnamese sandwich) did not, at first glance, look like something I would make. I don’t eat pork, I rarely eat sandwiches (the whole gluten-free thing doesn’t groove with sandwiches very well), and I’m not big on super spicy flavors (this recipe packs a double punch with spice: sriracha hot sauce and jalapeno pepper strips). The recipe also calls for Asian fish sauce, a potential source of gluten and MSG, and quite a bit of sugar as far as savory recipes go.

The overall concept of the banh mi was actually pretty healthy, though: protein topped with tangy veggies.

Instead of pork meatballs, I opted for turkey burgers. I combined the lean ground meat with fresh parsley, garlic, and ginger to add that Asian flavor while keeping the burgers moist. For the vegetables, I chose to do mix of grated carrots, scallions, and cucumbers. Instead of marinating them in sugar and rice vinegar (another potential source of gluten), I whisked together some honey and red wine vinegar along with a pinch of salt on the stovetop until it was boiling. Pouring this hot dressing down over the vegetables and letting it sit while you’re making the burgers helps them to soften up just a tad and absorb that sweet-tart flavor quickly.

All that was left was assembly: start with a bed of lettuce, add the spiced up burger, and spoon the quick-pickled veggies on top. What I ended up with was a pretty big deviation from a banh mi that offered unique Eastern flavors in a healthier but still indulgent way.

So. One recipe down. Dozens more to go. Stay tuned.

Vietnamese-Style Turkey Burgers with Quick Pickled Vegetables – Serves 4 

For the vegetables: 

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

2 tbs. honey

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup seedless cucumber, cut into matchsticks

1/2 cup scallions (whites and greens parts), thinly sliced on an angle

For the burgers:

1 lb. ground turkey (turkey breast, thigh, or a combination will work)

4 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated

2 tbs. fresh ginger root, grated

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground coriander

1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped

Romaine or Bibb lettuce, for serving

Make the pickled vegetables: in a small pot bring the vinegar, honey, and salt to a boil. While that’s coming to a boil, combine the carrots, cucumber, and scallions in a heat-safe bowl. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the vegetables and toss to coat. Allow to marinate at room temperature while you proceed with the recipe.

Make the burgers: combine turkey, garlic, ginger, salt, coriander, and parsley in a mixing bowl and use your hands to mix it all up. Form the mixture into four patties of equal size about 1/2 inch thick. Cook in a skillet or grill pan (with a splash of olive oil if the pan is not nonstick) until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side.

Arrange lettuce on plates. Top with burgers. Spoon some of the pickled vegetables on top of each burger and serve.

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.


  1. That sounds really good! I love Vietnamese food but have never learned how to cook it. Maybe I’ll start with something like this.

  2. I really love Vietnamese food! What a great a idea to translate all those yummy flavors into a burger, I love it! Thanks!

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