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The burgers (Image: Tina Tiller)
The burgers (Image: Tina Tiller)

KaiAugust 22, 2023

All the Indian-inspired WOAP burgers, reviewed and rated

The burgers (Image: Tina Tiller)
The burgers (Image: Tina Tiller)

Seven reviews, seven ratings and a few tips for those making Indian-adjacent burgers.

Wellington on a Plate (WOAP) had its first run in 2009 and has grown into the largest culinary festival in the southern hemisphere. Burger Wellington is one of its highlights. The competition started in 2010, offering just 30 burgers. In 2023, over 200 burgers are competing for the top spot. This year, Burger Wellington (presented by Garage Project) is running from August 11-27. 

WOAP has always featured several Asian-inspired burgers but they usually draw from Japanese or Korean cuisines. Following last year’s Dabeli win, more Indian-inspired burgers have been entered into Burger Wellington. 

Some burgers on this list are inherently Indian while others draw loosely from the cuisine. Four of the seven burgers are vegetarian, which makes sense since a large percentage of India is vegetarian. None of them were consumed alongside their recommended Garage Project matches because I’m just not a beer gal. 

But I am a gal who hails from Mumbai, Maharashtra; a city where the residents live to eat and the street food is world famous. In performing my sacred duty to my South Asian community, here are all of the Indian-inspired WOAP burgers, reviewed. 

Halkatraz by Chaat Street by Vaibhav Vishen 

$18

7/10 

A portmanteau of “Alkatraz” and the Hindi slang word “halkat” (degenerate), the Halkatraz is a burger that is proud to be vegetarian. At $18 a piece, it’s the most affordable burger on this list. 

This was my first jackfruit burger so I had both curiosity and reservations. The jackfruit wasn’t shaped into a patty but held a similar texture to pulled meat. Jackfruit retains moisture the same way that mushrooms do, resulting in a juicy filling that holds its own and isn’t simply trying to be a meat substitute. It was seasoned well but the flavour overpowered some of the other elements. 

The green chutney was nice and pickled vegetables (onion, carrots, and what I assume was daikon) added acidity and bite. With its soft sesame milk bun and succulent fillings, Halkatraz was a bit slippery and messy to eat. Chaat is often served with crunchy toppings, like fried chickpeas, spicy boondi or crispy sev. If one of those textural elements was added into the Halkatraz, it might have prevented the same-same mouthfeel. 

Butter Me Up by Dirty Burger, Upper Hutt 

$19

8/10  

Butter Me Up is an elevated Indian-ified fried chicken burger, and I’m so here for it. 

I loved the generous usage of makhani sauce. It’s a tomato-based sauce used in many curries that is creamy and buttery (makhan = butter, hence the name Butter Me Up). Raw onions are usually too pungent and astringent for my liking but the onions in this burger were mild enough to handle and seasoned well with Kashmiri red chilli powder. I enjoyed the addition of chaat masala into the fried chicken, which had a good crispy dredge. 

All the components of Butter Me Up meshed really well together, but I was left wanting a heavier drizzle of the mint mayo. I also wished there were more fresh vegetables and acidity to add some lightness and brightness to the burger. Dirty Burger Upper Hutt operates mainly as a takeaway and I’m happy to report their burger retained its crunch even after the half hour drive back to my home. 

Goan Chicken Ros Pao by One80 Restaurant

$29

9/10 

The Goan Chicken Ros Pao wasn’t just a burger, it was a complete dish. 

It’s a twist on a popular street food served in Goa, where a light green chicken curry is served with an omelette and bread. One80 has presented it in burger form and added onion yoghurt, pickled onions, smoked havarti cheese, and a whole pickled chilli. The burger was served with a side of shoestring fries, lightly (too lightly, in my opinion) seasoned with vindaloo spice and a chilli-garlic-coriander mayo. 

Traditionally it’s a messy dish to eat, with ros (curry) often running down your hands. To make sure diners get the complete experience without sacrificing comfort, ros is cooked into the chicken and extra ros is provided on the side in a jug. I took sips between my bites and it was delicious, albeit a little mild. While the juicy chicken was the star, my favourite element had to be the poe bun, a bread that reflects the Portuguese influence in Goan cuisine. Made of 100% New Zealand wheat, it was structurally stable enough to soak up the ros without getting soggy or falling apart. 

I appreciated the attention to detail in this dish and how well balanced the flavours were. If I had to pick a miss-able element, I’d go with the sauce for the fries. While mayo was tasty, I preferred to dip my fries in the jug of ros. One80 was generous enough to serve my table multiple complementary starters while we waited for our burgers. But a heads up for anyone with a large appetite – the Goan Chicken Ros Pao is on the smaller side so I’d recommend ordering a side to go with it. 

Chat-Pata by The Jaya’s Wine Bar 

$25 

8/10

Fans of the winning Dabeli burger from 2022 will enjoy the Chat-Pata.

The patty is an aloo tikki (aloo = potato, tikki = patty) which is tasty and well-seasoned. 

The green chilli in the tikki slowly built heat at the back of my mouth, making it the only burger on this list to actually be spicy. The crumbed coating of the tikki is crispy and a bit hard but provides structure to an otherwise mushy patty. 

The potato milk bun has spinach in it, making it a vibrant deep green to emulate the leaf plates that aloo tikki is sometimes served in. The tamarind chutney is the right level of sweet and the yoghurt is deliciously creamy. There’s also spiced chickpeas, radish, carrot, beetroot, ginger, green chilli salad… Chat-Pata has a lot of elements to it. Not all of them can be individually distinguished, but they do work really well together. 

I liked the concept of onion rings as an accompaniment. But the burger itself was light and needed a substantial side to make it filling, yet the Chat-Pata only came with three rings. 

Batata Wada from The Butcher and Brewer 

$24

5/10

While the burger is named Batata Wada (batata = potato, wada = croquette), it’s actually a vada pav (vada = croquette, pav = bread). You may think I’m being pedantic but the dish is native to Maharashtra, so this is personal. 

Instead of making one big batata vada, the burger contained three small vadas. I liked that the chickpea coating wasn’t too thick or thin, but just right. Typically, vada pav contains a spicy wada and is served with one spicy chutney, one sweet chutney and a neutral bun. This Batata Wada has a sweet brioche bun, a sweet tamarind chutney, a tasty but mild green chutney and a mild vada. The balance was thrown off which resulted in an unintentionally sweet burger that lacked punch. It was also served with a side of straight cut fries that only had masala on a third of them. 

Ind-ulge by Sushil’s Musclechef Kitchen and Cafe 

$28

8/10 

I love lamb but in very specific scenarios so, much like the jackfruit burger, I had my reservations. But one bite in, my scepticism vanished. Ind-ulge is a gorgeous burger. The slow-cooked lamb is perfectly spiced and melts in your mouth. The savouriness of the lamb is balanced with the sweet mango chutney. I enjoyed the raita and wished there was more of it. There were, however, ample fresh veggies in the burger, as the cafe is focussed on health and nutrition. 

Because the lamb filling was so soft and moist, the milk bun fell apart while I was eating the burger and I would’ve preferred a denser bun. There also wasn’t nearly enough masala on the “masala” fries, which also lacked salt. There’s a pattern here, people. If you season your fries with something special, please be generous with that seasoning.

Hands down, my favourite part of this dish was the pale yellow saffron aioli. Saffron is a delicate flavour but Sushil’s managed to infuse it into the aioli so effectively, I’d like to buy a bottle of the stuff. 

Bombay Bhaji by The Jolly Pub & Kitchen

$26

4/10

There are no bad burgers on this list, this is just the least good out of the seven. 

The mixed vegetable bhaji was tasty but a bit too salty and a bit too greasy. There was no crumb or coating to hold the bhaji together so it didn’t retain its structure but did retain enough oil to make me a wee bit queasy. The two most flavoursome elements were the Kewpie mayo slaw and the bhaji. I couldn’t taste the coriander chutney much. The “spicy” mascarpone wasn’t spicy but was yummy, and the blood turnips added a fun pop of colour to the burger. 

The pumpkin brioche didn’t hold up well with the bhaji. There’s another pattern here, folks. If your burger has a soft filling, try not to pair it with a soft bun. While I’m generally a sucker for soft and sweet breads, they don’t always make for structurally sound burger buns. I was also disappointed that the fries and aioli were an afterthought of a side, as nothing elevated them or tied them to the dish. 

Burger Wellington runs until August 27.

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