“Vijay Vargals” and unfair exchanges!

“Guess what happened at school today?” asks Arch bursting with news as she comes back home.


“Deepshika actually wanted one of my burgers at lunch!” – comes back a shocked, horrified response.

“So, did you give her one?” I ask – innocently. After all, I had packed four large and four small burgers – to be shared out with her friends at lunchtime!

“How, Amma? They were BURGERS!” as though I had asked her to gift away the family heirlooms! Come to think of it, Arch would probably have gifted these away quite happily – if it came to a choice between the heirlooms and a burger!

“Well, i packed enough for you to share around, didn’t I?”

“But then, I’d have gone hungry!” she protests..

“Well, if you were still hungry, you could have asked her to share some of her lunch with you” – i proffer.

“”But, but….”, she says, spluttering with indignation at a mother who doesn’t GET it, – “she brought thayir saadam”!!! (Thayir saadam being curd rice – something which at age ten, they thought very infra dig!) And in comparison with a burger, well, it didn’t begin to figure! Only a mother could have thought it was a fair exchange – said her expression!

Some of the best burgers I’ve eaten were at a tiny hole-in-the-wall shop off Abid Road in Hyderabad when I was at college. There was a Punjabi guy with a blackboard sign outside his shop which said “Vijay Vargal” along with the menu. Thinking he’d named the shop after himself, I addressed him as VIjay-ji (he was well over fifty by the looks of him) and he looked quite blank. I pointed to the sign and asked him “Isn’t that your name?” “Duh… Why would i name myself after a dish?” he responds. My turn to look blank… then i got it… Vijay Vargal was the Indianised Vegetable Burger!!

Ah well, I can’t hope to compete with a Vijay Vargal but here’s the second best veggie burger!


  • Burger buns – 1 for a normal person. 4 big + 4 small for hungry, growing ten-year olds!

For the patty:

  • Boiled mixed vegetables – potatoes/carrots/peas/one piece beetroot if you want red patties/tender beans – 3 cups
  • Minced green chilies – 2 – 3
  • Chopped mint leaves – 2 tbsp
  • Chopped coriander or parsley – 1 tbsp
  • Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Chat masala – 1/2 tsp
  • Lemon juice – 1 tsp
  • Cornflour – 1 tbsp
  • Salt
  • Oil to shallow fry
  • Breadcrumbs to coat ( I usually freeze the end slices of bread and blitz them in the mixer with a few basil leaves – you get an interesting basil-flavoured crumb)
  • Mash all the vegetables except the peas. Gently mix in the peas and everything else. Work the cornflour in gently. Shape into large patties. Roll in the crumb. Fry on a shallow tava with a few drops of oil. Set aside. You should have about 4 large patties (1/2 ” thick)

For slaw:

  • Mayonnaise – 1 cup
  • Fresh ground mustard – 1.5 tsp (this is not difficult at all – grind the mustard in a stone mortar with a few drops of water – you’ll never use store-bought mustard again!
  • Shredded cabbage/lettuce/carrot/onion/apple mixture – 2 cups
  • Minced chili – 1
  • Chopped mint or coriander or basil – 1 tbsp

Mix together. Set the slaw aside.

Ketchup and lettuce leaves – 1 or 8 🙂

Sliced tomato / cucumber -1 large each

Cheese slice – if you want it

 To assemble:

Tawa fry the burger buns after slicing in half horizontally, with a little butter. On the bottom half, smear ketchup. Place a lettuce leaf and pile on the slaw. Place the patty on top. Add sliced cucumbers/cheese slice/tomatoes. Cover with the top half of the bun. Pack them in a ten-year old’s lunch box!!

( pic courtesy internet)