It is hard to imagine the size of the night out that led to the invention of the cheeseburger spring roll. It must have produced a hangover so monstrous that neither a Chinese takeaway nor a dirty burger alone could begin to solve it. A craving for junk and comfort so intense that someone must have deemed the burger’s bread – the bread! – too healthy, and conjured up an acceptable way to deep fry it instead.
Whichever brave soul suffered for the concept, their work has not been in vain. At Manchester restaurant Solita, cheeseburger spring rolls are bestsellers (and as a place that has been known to put deep-fried lasagne burgers on the menu, they probably know what they are talking about when it comes to artery-clogging mashups). On the other side of the world, you can enjoy a platter of cheeseburger spring rolls at the Wharf hotel in Melbourne while sitting in your own private igloo, just to take the fusion element somewhere even more WTF. And at Disney World, the delicacy has earned itself a cult reputation, with some food bloggers celebrating when it returned to the Magic Kingdom’s menus.
Quite where the idea came from is hard to trace, although it has been suggested that its roots may lie in post-second-world-war Japan, when US troops brought American staples to east Asia and they were absorbed into the country’s cuisine.
I sample some at RedFarm, the famed New York dim sum spot that has just opened its first London restaurant. It is a place that likes to have fun with its food – one menu item consists of a sweet potato Pac-Man chasing four sumptuous prawn “ghost” dumplings, each one decorated with sesame seed eyes. Their cheeseburger spring roll, however, was apparently just the result of someone messing around in the kitchen while the restaurant prepared to open: “It was delicious, so we put it on the menu.”
In some ways, the concept sounds unappealing and not one I would normally think to order. Perhaps it is the use of the word “cheeseburger”, a food item so perfectly judged that to dismantle it feels rather like making a collage out of the Birth of Venus. Ignore that term and there is no reason why a mixture of beef mince, onion and pickle wrapped in stringy cheese shouldn’t work as a spring-roll filling. RedFarm serves a pair of them (£10 as part of their dim sum menu) with a traditional burger sauce on the side for dipping.
It is not so much more than the sum of its parts as exactly the sum of its parts – something delicious, combined with something else delicious, to make something that is roughly, by my mathematical calculations, twice as delicious. The crisp exterior works perfectly against the moist cheese and mince, while the pickles provide a satisfying acidic hit that cuts through the gluttony. I instantly want more, and this is after barely one cocktail – just imagine how good they could become as the night goes on.