As Americans, we may think that because we (MAAAAYBE) created some of the best foods in the world, that we've perfected them, and that there's nothing else that can be done to improve upon their greatness... except maybe adding bacon. Welp, we might just be wrong about that -- take the burger, for instance. Sure, we popularized it and made it a fast-food staple, but so many other great nations have put their own unique spins upon this mighty foodstuff. Here are some of the most intriguing, sometimes donkey-filled examples of the burger's global cousins.
GERMANY - HAMBURG STEAK The German Hamburg steak is a kind of proto-hamburger, without which the sandwich we all know, love, and relentlessly consume today would never have been developed. Essentially, it's just steak that has been chopped into tiny pieces and formed into a patty, a cooking style adapted from Russians back in the 18th century. So who's really responsible for the advent of the burger patty? Probably the Mongols, who preferred the ground-up meat as a bun-less, portable alternative to other meals, which allowed them to raid and eat on the go. They also probably invented Go-Gurt. But it was zee Germans who brought it to the next level.
MEXICO - HAMBURGUESAS MEXICANAS While international burger chains are pretty ubiquitous throughout the entirety of Mexico, there exists a burger that's entirely Mexican: the hamburguesa Mexicana. This burger is almost identical to an American burger from the States, except for the addition of ham and cheese fried on top of the burger, as well as such traditional Mexican toppings as jalapeños or avocado slices. Basically, Fuddruckers owes Mexico a thank you note.
AUSTRALIA and NEW ZEALAND - BURGERS WITH "THE LOT" Stateside, a burger with "the works" will usually net you some tomatoes, lettuce, red onion, and pickles. In Australia and New Zealand, however, there are even more accoutrements involved -- and they call it "the lot" because they're fancy Commonwealth nations. "The lot" involves the aforementioned toppings, in addition to (usually) pineapple, sliced beets, a fried egg, and bacon, and if you add 'em all, you've got one ace sanger, mate. (We have no idea what we just said.)
EAST ASIA - RICE BURGERS Owing to the huge quantities of rice available there, many burger joints in East Asia (China, Vietnam, and Japan in particular) have opted to replace the traditional, bready burger buns with compressed rice patties... and the burger patties themselves with things like shrimp fritters, fried burdock, grilled pork, and strips of beef. Hey, they still call them "burgers", so we're going with it!
INDIA - CHICKEN OR VEGETABLE BURGERS Since both beef and pork are not widely consumed in India (due to the large populations of Hindus and Muslims), burgers at most chains use either chicken or vegetable patties. Even perennial beef-loving chain McDonald's uses chicken in its "Maharaja Macs", which are exactly the same as their Big brethren otherwise, except "two all-chicken patties" completely disrupts the flow of that song. Another popular burger variant is the vada pav, which features a deep-fried potato patty with mint chutney and green chilies.
DENMARK - BØFSANDWICH Meaning "beef sandwich", the bøfsandwich is Denmark's answer to the hamburger: served with ketchup, French mustard, and THREE types of onions -- raw, grilled, and crispy roasted ones. Some regional variations within Denmark add pickles, remoulade & cabbage, or beets & gravy.
SERBIA - PLJESKAVICA Serbia's traditional minced meat dish, pljeskavica, is usually made with two or more different types of animal, which can include beef, lamb, pork, or veal with onions. It's usually eaten on its own, but because of international trends favoring the burger-ification of pretty much everything, it can now be found in sandwich form along with cheese, bacon, ham, and chopped hot peppers.
CHINA - DONKEY BURGER The province of Hebei in China is famous for its local specialty, the donkey burger, which -- you guessed it! -- is made using ground-up donkey, and, thankfully, not Guy Fieri's famed Donkey Sauce. It's traditionally served in a flaky, layered flatbread called a shao bing, along with cilantro and/or green pepper. It's eaten at a variety of temperatures and dates back to the Ming Dynasty, when people decided that they preferred the donkey meat to horse. Consider switching today!
PAKISTAN - SHAMI KEBAB BURGER There are tons of fast-food stalls popping up throughout Pakistan, and one of the most popular treats they're slinging now is known as the shami kebab burger, a loose approximation of burger made with a patty that combines lamb meat and lentils on sweet bread. Some common toppings are onions, ketchup, ginger, and scrambled eggs.
CANADA - HOT HAMBURG SANDWICH Arguably the one burger preparation on this list that's more badass than the original is the Canadian hot hamburg sandwich, which is basically a normal hamburger topped with hot brown gravy and served with steak fries. It's like the poutine of burgers. And it's awesome.
Adam Lapetina is a food/drink staff writer at Thrillist, and now has some more leverage when customizing his burger at the local Five Guys. Read his musings on Twitter at @adamlapetina.