Chili and garlic burgers with vegetables fried rice Chili and garlic burgers with vegetables fried rice

In the white chocolate, lemon and poppy seed cake post, there was a question about whether poppy seeds were added to the cake for appearance or taste. I told her it’s 90% flavor and 10% appearance. Come to think of it, the visual appeal of poppy seeds is just coincidental.

It’s a very Generation Y question, I suppose. In an age when everyone’s scrambling to photograph just about everything he eats and post the images on his social networks, restaurant cooks strive to prettify food in the hope that the cam phone snapshots shared on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or wherever will translate to more customers.

I remember an incident at a food competition where I was one of three judges. A contestant presented his entry and, on the side of the plate, was a beautifully cut bell pepper in the shape of a blooming flower. I stared but said nothing. I just scored accordingly. Low score. One of the other judges, a chef and cooking school instructor, articulated what I felt was too impolite to say out loud. He asked the contestant what his intention was in placing the bell pepper on the plate. The contestant said it was for decoration. The chef said ninety-nine per cent of diners won’t touch that pepper and the contestant just added unnecessary cost to the dish. Amen.

It makes more sense to never add anything to a dish that doesn’t increase its intrinsic value. And by intrinsic value I mean either nutrition, flavor, aroma, texture, bite, mouth feel or all of them. Even the judicious sprinkling of parsley, scallions or toasted garlic bits spells added flavor and texture. In short, when you want to add visual appeal to a plate of food, aim to do something intelligent instead of trying to fool the diner into thinking that the food is better than it is because it has been decorated to the high heavens.

And that brings me to this burger and rice dish. If you find the pale and neutral rice too visually unexciting, then, color it by all means. But opt for color that adds flavor or aroma, or both. Want red rice? Try adding paprika. Want yellow rice? There’s turmeric. You can even mix and match spices. And never underestimate the power and value of fresh herbs.

The burgers, half ground beef and half ground pork, were flavored with chopped onions, chilis and garlic, panko was added as binder, then they were pan grilled. Instead of the usual ingredients list, I’ll give you this list of tips instead:

1. Firm juice burgers
2. How I grill my burgers

For vegetarians:

1. Vegan mushroom burgers
2. Bean burgers with guacamole

If you need more inspiration, see the burger archive.

Below, the rice recipe: Chili and garlic burgers with vegetables fried rice

Recipe: Yellow rice with broccoli, zucchini and carrots


  • 3 tbsps. of butter
  • 1/4 c. of broccoli florets, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 c. of zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 c. of carrots, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. of minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. of ground turmeric
  • 2 c. of cold, cooked rice, stirred to separate the grains


  1. Heat the butter in a frying pan.
  2. Add the broccoli florets, zucchini and carrot cubes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir fry for about 30 seconds. Pour in a tablespoonful of water to create steam in which the vegetables can properly cook without burning in the butter. Cook for another 30 seconds which should be enough time for the water to evaporate.
  3. Add the garlic and turmeric. Stir fry for another 30 seconds.
  4. Add the rice. Season with more salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the rice is heated through.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 7 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2


  1. Crisma says

    “It makes more sense to never add anything to a dish that doesn’t increase its intrinsic value.”

    I wholeheartedly agree with this, Connie. You couldn’t have said it any better. And if we think about it, simply– why add, if the resulting value of the food would be lessened. Parang, when we write a story, or a screenplay, di ba we have to make sure na when we add a character or an element , it will be used or it will figure significantly in the story’s value?

    That’s your best way of saying, too, that there should be nothing wasted, especially precious ingredients.

  2. says

    There is a culture obsessed with the “perfect” look. We see it in the way magazine covers are photoshopped, in the obsession with make-up and hairstyle… that culture, I think, has permeated into how we see food. Just look at the overdecorated cakes and cupcakes flooding the global market.

    • Crisma says

      Oh yes, I see what you mean by that, Connie. And that culture is several streets away from reality.