The nine best veggie burgers in Hong Kong, chosen by a meat-eater and a vegetarian

Firmness, moistness and density are the keys to a great meatless burger, and for some a meaty taste matters too. We take to the streets in the search for Hong Kong’s finest

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 May, 2017, 12:32pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 May, 2017, 11:56am

Forget about the best way to grill beef on a barbie – some of the tastiest burgers are meat-free. Still, there’s an art to creating a great veggie burger. From tasty to terrible, firm to falling apart, I’ve tried most on offer in Hong Kong and know what makes a winner.

In my search for the city’s best, the main criteria were firmness, moistness and density. A veggie burger should be chewy but not tough, juicy but not squishy, and must hold together when the bun is chomped on.

Many vegetarians don’t give a hoot whether their burger tastes like meat; some, though, wake up in the small hours craving a juicy steak, so similarity to meat also played a part in my search. For extra scrutiny, I invited along devoted carnivore and music critic Chris Gillett.

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According to nutritionist Wynnie Chan, the advantage of having a veggie burger is that it’s usually higher in fibre, vitamins and phytonutrients than the normal meat burger. “However, beware that some veggie burgers can be equally high or higher in calories, fat and salt,” she warns.

Our taste test gave us great faith in Hong Kong’s ability to pull off a magnificent meat-free burger. Here they are in ascending order based on taste.

BLT Burger – Veggie Falafel

Price: HK$82. Fries? No, purchase as an add-on for HK$48

With a wholegrain bun and grain-packed patty, this is a healthier alternative to some of the other options we tried. Falafel can be dry, so we ordered an extra Portobello mushroom and a fried egg, but they didn’t help. The first few bites were tolerable, but chewing soon became a slog. The patty was stodgy and we couldn’t eat more than half of the burger.

Flavour rating: 5/10. Comparison to meat: “Don’t even go there,” said Chris.

Shop 301, Level 3, Ocean Terminal, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui; tel: 2730 2338

Burgerman – Roasted Portobello Burger

Price: HK$58. Comes with fries? No. Purchase the “combo”, which includes waffle/French fries and a soft drink, for an extra HK$20.

This local restaurant has two locations – in Sham Shui Po and Tai Kok Tsui. There was some confusion over the menu: the burger as described on screens above the counter was different to that which we were served, lacking as it did the promised rocket, roast pepper or mozzarella.

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Instead, it was made with simple ingredients, reflecting the price. The mushroom was fat and squishy, squirting juice down our arms. The “cheddar cheese” was that cheap, nasty stuff that looks like plastic, and the sesame-seed-sprinkled bun was quite sweet. Nevertheless, it was hard to fault it for the price – think one step above McDonald’s – and we left satiated.

Flavour rating: 5.5/10. Comparison to meat: “It looks convincingly meaty, but it’s just a mushroom with little extra flavouring and has very few similarities to beef.”

95-97 Ivy Street, Tai Kok Tsui; tel: 2331 3973

Butchers Club – Beyond Classic

Price: HK$100. Fries? No, purchase as add-on from HK$20 to HK$30.

Butchers Club set out to recreate its original beef and bacon cheese burger in vegan form. It succeeded in making one of the most interesting burgers we’ve tried, thanks to the much-hyped “Beyond Meat” burger patty, which, it’s claimed, is almost indistinguishable from the real thing. The patty, made entirely of plant protein, had a smoky, fresh-off-the-grill flavour, which left a slightly frankfurter-like aftertaste. It had a satisfying chew factor, and outer searing held it together well.

A soft, floury bun, gherkin and tomato slices made for an authentic burger experience, while the restaurant’s signature dried, pickled beetroot slices added a moreish, pepperoni-esque saltiness. A big dollop of “vegan special sauce” on top gave a slight kick, and vegan cheese gave the arrangement the prerequisite grease. Revolutionary stuff!

Flavour rating: 7/10. Comparison to meat: “Texture-wise, this is very similar. It has a mouth-watering smell and long-lasting meaty aftertaste.”

82 Stanley Street, Central; tel: 2347 0777

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Veggie SF – Kobe’s Favorite

Price: HK$178. Fries? Yes, three wedges.

Hardened meat-eaters won’t miss flesh when they sink their teeth into one of the five burger options at this vegan restaurant in Central. We tried them all and the Kobe’s Favorite was our champion. A thick, chewy vegan beef patty had us licking the tangy barbecue sauce from our fingers, while a side salad of cherry tomatoes and lettuce gave the meal a healthy halo. The crispy, cob-style bun was packed with more tomatoes, fried red onions and a big handful of alfalfa.

This is the burger for the steak lover looking to do their bit for the environment. The price was reasonable, but we were stunned by the stingy serving of just three potato wedges.

Flavour rating: 7.5/10. Comparison to meat: “Extremely meat-like in texture, a good substitute for beef.”

10/F, 11 Stanley Street, Central; tel: 3902 3902

The Diner – Hippie Burger

Price: HK$149. Fries? Yes, skinny ones.

The earthiness of the beetroot in this burger came through strongly but, thanks to cheese, fried onions and lots of mayo, we didn’t feel like we were making a sacrifice in the name of health.

Although it didn’t add much flavour, the cheese held the patty together and gave a pleasurably filthy junk food feel. Caramelised onion lent a juicy tanginess, while gherkins added a sour crunch and an authentic US diner taste. The overly sweet and stodgy brioche buns left us divided, though. We abandoned the bread to enjoy the great filling.

Flavour rating: 8/10. Comparison to meat: “The look and texture of the patty is very similar to beef, thanks to a meaty, charred outer layer.”

Shiu King Court, 4-8 Arbuthnot Road, Central; tel: 2562 3181

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Mana! Fast Slow Food – Babylon! Burger

Price: HK$88. Fries? No. Go for the HK$128 combo of fries, salad and a dip.

This heavyweight burger came packed with rice, beans and tempeh, topped with gherkins, enoki mushrooms, lettuce and tomato inside a spelt wheat bun. The patty – earthy and slightly spicy – was stodgy, so we added a fried egg, which lifted the flavour.

Even the combo option is great value and could fill you up for the day. Mayonnaise spread on the bottom of the bun added an indulgent creaminess, and an extra pot of “garlicnaise” took care of the skin-on fries. Three-quarters of the way through the meal, we knew we should probably stop eating, but couldn’t. We blame the garlicnaise.

Flavour rating: 8/10. Comparison to meat: “Slightly softer than meat, but had the same dimensions and depth of flavour as a beef patty.”

92 Wellington Street, Central; tel: 2851 1611

Beef & Liberty – Beetroot Burger

Price: HK$98. Fries? No, purchase as add-ons from HK$30 to HK$53.

A big-hitter when it comes to burger know-how, Beef & Liberty showed its expertise can be applied to meatless treats.

The earthiness of the beetroot and subtle aroma of the cumin came through in a burnished, glazed brioche bun, stained pink by the soft, juicy patty. Brown rice blended into the cake made it substantial, but not heavy. Fresh lettuce and more beetroot slices gave each bite crunch, and strong, tart goat’s cheese added greater depth of flavour.

Our only gripe was the crumbliness of the patty, which disintegrated after the skewer was removed.

Flavour rating: 8.5/10. Comparison to meat: “I’ve always hated beetroot with a passion, but I was pleasantly surprised by how it blended with the other ingredients and wasn’t overpowering.”

3/F California Tower, 30-32 D’Aguilar Street, Central; tel: 2450 5778

The Globe – Halloumi Burger

Price: HK$165. Fries? Yes, great thick-cut ones.

Of two non-meat burgers offered by this SoHo gastro pub, the Halloumi easily came out on top. A thick wodge of Cypriot cheese – a vegetarian’s fallback – came with a crispy outer dusting of breadcrumbs. The bun was one of the best: big, soft, floury and toasted on the inside, with minty tzatziki spread on the top half and hummus on the bottom.

Within the burger was a shredded, slightly spicy mix of carrot, spring onion, and white and red cabbage. A green chilli and lemon wedge came skewered into the top. A hearty portion size made up for the high price: most would struggle to finish this towering meal.

Flavour rating: 9/10. Comparison to meat: “Texture-wise, this burger mimics meat perfectly. With the cheese’s chewiness and breaded outer layer, it felt very similar to a chicken burger.”

Garley Building, 45-53 Graham Street, Central; tel: 2543 1941

Morrison Cafe & Bar – Veggie Burger

Price: HK$98. Fries? Yes, skinny ones.

We didn’t come here with high expectations, but were blindsided by an absolute scorcher of a burger. The best value of any we tasted, it was comforting, possibly because of the truffle mayo spread on the sesame-seed-topped bun. The patty, a soft mash of potato, chickpeas and carrots, was slightly spicy, reminiscent of Jamaican street food. It held together well thanks to a cheese slice and generous condiments. Frizzy kale leaves proved far superior to the usual iceberg lettuce, and slices of tomato completed the stack. This was undoubtedly the best burger we tried, though the dry, cold fries were disappointing.

Flavour rating: 9.5/10. Comparison to meat: “Nothing like it, but it doesn’t matter because it tastes so good.”

284 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan; tel: 2851 0890