Western Food in Thailand – Bar Burgers or Barbecue?

This is one of my favourite pictures from the thousands I have taken in Thailand. Strange and rather ordinary you may think but let me explain. I love cheeseburgers so that’s a good start and the photograph was taken in Nong Khai which is a favourite place of mine to visit. I also think the burger in the forefront and the slightly out of focus scene behind it make a good mix. It’s also the perfect photograph to bring me to the topic of this post.

Do You Prefer Bar Burgers or Homemade Ones?

The photographs above and right were taken at the Thasadej Bar in Nong Khai which sits right on the edge of the city’s famous Indo-China Tha Sadet Market. The market’s that close you could take the top half of the burger bun, throw it, and hit it. The bar is my favourite one in Nong Khai and is worth visiting just to sample the cheeseburger in the pictures. They’re absolutely delicious and the bar is a welcome relief from the hustle, bustle and intense heat of the market. That’s my excuse anyhow. The beer’s pretty cheap there too.

I think I’m right in saying most western people enjoy eating burgers from time to time. Not everyone, but in general a lot of us like a burger in a bap filled with any combination of fried onions, cheese, relish, tomato sauce and salad. If the burger joint we buy from is to our liking then we’ll invariably go back time and time again when the mood takes us. But are bar/restaurant and snack stall burgers (i.e. Denmark burgers) as good as homemade ones? And as much as I hate to include them, McDonald’s and Burger King have their fans too, but can they match a burger fresh off the garden barbecue grill.

When I say homemade burgers I mean buying everything, burgers included, from a supermarket or wherever and also buying ground beef and making your own. I’ve tried the latter, but like batter they are a bit beyond my basic culinary skills.

The two cheeseburgers in the photo above were cooked on an electric barbecue grill and despite my love of a good bar burger, homemade ones are streets ahead for me. I’d rate Denmark style stall burgers third with McDonald’s and Burger King a very distant fourth.

The beauty of a home cooked burger is that you can grill or fry it exactly how you want. If the Buddhist belief of rebirth is right then one of my previous lives must have ended in the Great Fire of London in 1666 because I like a lot of my food burnt. A slightly blackened burger with a thick layer of melted cheese and crisp black onions between a soft bread roll make a perfect burger for me. Ronald McDonald would become a clown with a frown if you asked for that combination.

So what are your own burger preferences? Here’s a poll to find out.

Thank you for voting.

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I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

16 Responses

  1. How says:

    Martyn, Now you have started my craving for a burger at 800am, I don’t know where I will get a good one in Ubon at this time of the day. Isaan Style recommends TC Kitchen but I have yet to try that. I have attempted home made burgers but they fall apart in the cooking process but like what you say with fresh mince beef you can cook them as you want. My favorite is the Double Angus Steak Burger at Burger King which I only get when travelling through Suvarnabhumi. Next time will be in June 🙁 No#2 has to be the Hard Rock Legendary Burger.

  2. Martyn says:

    How – I actually buy my burgers in Udon Thani. I tried making them once before. Everything was going well, big round fat burgers which I popped into the fridge to gel and harden a touch. When I went to cook them on a Thai charcoal cooking pot and grill I slapped them on and walked away. I returned five minutes later to find they’d sunk into the grill and it all turned into quite a mess.

    I live (here in the UK) about five minutes from a Burger King but I’ve only ever used it about three times in the ten or more years it’s been there. Maybe number four will be today.

  3. Catherine says:

    “Do You Prefer Bar Burgers or Homemade Ones?”

    Homemade, especially in Thailand. I like my beef to be all beef. Many restaurants in Thailand add fillers to their hamburger meat. So do grocery stores, but I’ve long sorted out which ones are worse.

  4. Martyn says:

    Catherine – I hope you’re enjoying the UK rain. Fingers crossed you won’t get more of the same on your return to Thailand.

    I like homemade too, but by that I mean buying the burgers whole and cooking them to my own taste. I’ve tried making my own but without any success, see my reply to How’s comment.

    If you’re going out, don’t forget your brolly.

  5. Your post just made me go cook a hamburger. Delicious.

  6. Martyn says:

    Lawrence – I’m currently getting my cholesterol level down, I’m doing well, but I’m sorely tempted to give Burger King a bash which is something I rarely, rarely do.

  7. Catherine says:

    Hi Martyn,

    The premade hamburger patties are often filled with non meat bits. And not just in Thailand either. I’m picky about the extras as I love decent meat and not so much what the cat dragged in.

    I haven’t been out much this trip so I missed the one sunny day we did have (so far). But that’s ok. One of the many benefits of Nootropics is that you get a hankering for order and this flat is in desperate need. When I moved in I gave away the furniture that didn’t fit, made everything look decent, and then shoved the smaller bits in closets (forget being able to hang clothes) and cupboards. I’m coming across things I’d forgotten about years ago.

  8. That’s too bad. The other day I made a burger with cheese, bacon and a fried egg, I was thinking about making some onion rings to put on top and slathering it in bbq sauce, but it was too much work. Guess that wouldn’t fit into your diet though.

  9. Martyn says:

    Lawrence – I adore battered onion rings, and battered mushrooms are even better. Sometimes Wilai cooks vegetables in batter plus a few mushrooms as well. I think my cholesterol is going to rocket during my Thailand trip next month.

  10. Catherine says:

    What’s up with Brits putting fried eggs on burgers? It’s like… not… natural and all.

  11. Martyn says:

    Catherine – I’m used to eating what the cat dragged in. I try to avoid what the cat dragged in and is leftover. That’s not always easy when shopping at Thai rural markets.

    I can never understand why people put eggs on steaks. The two don’t go hand in hand to me.

    Spring cleaning….it’s good you’re getting it done because surely the sun has to shine soon and you’ll be able to enjoy it with a spring cleaned mind.

  12. Hey I’m not British! I don’t typically put an egg on my burger, I was just trying out something different. Not bad, not great as long as it is really fried and not dripping yolk, otherwise it would be messy and gross.

  13. DanPloy says:

    I have two claims to fame: I was once on a TV program with Patrick Moore and I have never even been inside a McDonald’s. I just don’t get the appeal. I managed, whilst enduring three years in Canada, to not eat at Wendy’s, Arby’s, McDonalds, A&W’s, MOS Burgers, Burger King or Harvey’s as well.

    There are more delicious and nutricious things to eat if you find yourself caught short, like knawing on your own hand or chewing on a fence post. If you are in Thailand it is inexcusable to eat in these establishments, (and that goes for all fried chicken and pizza ‘restaurants’ too). If you don’t want Thai food then just pull a leg off a soi dog – just the same but without the processed cheese; (and have you ever wondered what that process is!).

    I do eat burgers but I make my own, ground beef plus about 20% ground pork so it is not too dry, lots of herbs and chilli, an egg to bind it and away you go.

  14. Martyn says:

    DanPloy – I intend giving it another go and trying to make my own burgers when I’m in the village next month. Last time I didn’t add the egg and they just sunk. I’ll miss out the chilli but will try a few herbs.

    I rarely eat a McDonald’s or Burger King. I thought Harvey was a six foot white rabbit. I’ve never heard of the joint (Harvey’s).

  15. Catherine says:

    Martyn, your post on burgers was on my mind so I went for a stroll to the Imperial pub (Whetherspoon) just down the road and had a Mexican burger with avocado, jalapeños, salsa, and cheddar cheese (chips and onion rings on the side). Not too shabby.

    This Whetherspoons is housed in a Georgian mansion. The Orangery, where I always sit, is quite the experience. Here’s the history – (mostly b&w photos; none really do the setting justice): http://www.exetermemories.co.uk/em/_pubs/imperial.php

    Bangkok has quite the hamburger scene so perhaps on your next trip you could write a review?

  16. Martyn says:

    Catherine – Swindon has two Weatherspoon pubs as far as I know and they are both renown for their cheap booze and decent food. The largest one, The Savoy, was the town’s major cinema for many years and I remember going there (the cinema) when I was a kid.

    I had a look at The Orangery link, quite impressive, and in my opinion even more so since the side walls were bricked. I see their was a murder enquiry there in the 1970’s. I’m sure Inspector Morse and Lewis would have enjoyed themselves investigating that one.

    I won’t be going to Bangkok on this trip and as far as food reviews go I’ll probably select one or two restaurants in Udon to write about. The only burgers I’m planning on eating will be barbecued ones at the village house.

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