I finally ate the truest form of vegetarian fast food recently: a battered veggie burger from the local chip shop. It had all the attributes I associate with real junk food: it cost £2, it was greasy, it made me feel too-full and happily lethargic. The batter was puffy and crunchy, the burger contained mainly mashed potato with a few bits of chopped carrot and green beans for texture. I didn’t understand how it was made, nor did I want to; this is what makes for great fast food.
Although there are now loads of vegetarian fast food options, it’s not that easy to find that perfectly indulgent, makes-you-feel-a-bit-greasy-but-I’ll-eat-more-anyway experience. There are some greasier options to be found within increasingly popular street food markets, but these cost as much as a restaurant meal. High street fast food chains have begun to sell vegetarian equivalents, but they tend to be plant-based and marketed as an attempt to save the planet rather than to cater for people who want to eat something greasy that doesn’t contain meat. Making ethical choices isn’t at the top of my list when looking for junk food.
In London, I've tried cauliflower chicken wings for the same price as the real chicken wings sold on the same stand; the price could be explained by incredibly high quality cauliflower or poor quality meat – realistically it's just a high-margin item. There’s Dirty Burger which does feel quite dirty, though their name for the vegetarian option - The Dirty Cop Out - is a little shaming (though yes, I see the humor and hope I’m a vegetarian that’s able to take a joke). I tried a vegan macaroni cheese pizza fritto at Southbank Market once; it was delicious, but I couldn’t help wondering if it would have been better with real cheese.
I’ll finish this with a shout out to the IKEA hotdog stand, for always selling veggie hot dogs (and warm cinnamon rolls). The hot dogs used to be made from some sort of mystery protein and resembled meat hot dogs (perhaps they were), but the recipe is slightly ‘healthier’ now. They’ve always cost the same as the meat option (around 60p) - the novelty of the price alone gets me excited - and are always worth the twenty minute queue with all the dad’s ordering refillable ice cream for their screaming kids.