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Link - Article by Chris Mitchell of Travel Happy, and A. Abrams
McDonald's Around The World: Marvels Never Cease, Especially in Asia
If you think McDonald's sells the same burgers and fries everywhere in the world, think again – here in Asia they’ve had to make some concessions to local tastes and come up with some peculiar fast-food variations on Asian favourites.
It all started with the Samurai Pork Burger. I saw this advertised outside a McDonald's in Bangkok back in 2004 and was somewhat perplexed. Why is it a Japanese name when I’m in Thailand? And what do Samurai have to do with pork? Actually, why is it called Samurai at all? Sadly, I never actually found out any of the answers, but it made me start paying closer attention to McDonald's every time I went to another country in Asia.
(Samurai Pork Burger, Bangkok, Thailand (left) and Thai Spicy Fish McDippers (right) - photos via)
Perhaps more traditional for Thailand, the Thai Spicy Fish McDippers (image above right) are a piscine breadcrumb and chili overload. Incidentally, don’t actually expect to eat your fast food in Thailand fast – you will inevitably be handed your burger but have to wait five minutes for your fries, which will be dutifully brought to you – by which time, of course, you’ve eaten your burger…
In Singapore, the national obsession with rice extends to having rice cakes in your burger.
(Rice Burgers, Singapore)
I expected lots of interesting stuff in a Japanese McDonald's – McTentacles perhaps – but the menu was disappointingly ordinary.
Although there were these – Seaweed Flavoured Fries. Also, see below-right: the tasty tentacle snack from Japan. Yum.
In Hong Kong, I nearly got arrested for taking this photo of the Green Tea and Red Bean Ice Cream Sundae. Didn’t realise they guarded their secret bean recipe quite so zealously.
(Green Tea And Red Bean Sundae, Hong Kong)
In Indonesia, as the world’s largest Muslim country, chicken is far more popular than beefburgers (and, of course, the Samurai Pork Burger would be completely taboo). Hence you get combo sets of chicken, rice and Coke:
Chicken, Rice and Coke, Jakarta, Indonesia
Perhaps my biggest WTF moment (Weird and Troubling Food, naturally) in a McDonald's was in the Philippines, when I spotted the clotted mess that is McSpaghetti. (McDo indeed). My Filipino friends explained to me that it was incredibly popular and basically consisted of spaghetti soaked in sugar. Ewwww.
Let me repeat this: Spaghetti - Soaked In - Sugar!.
I also seem to remember that when I first went to Australia in 2003, there was a Billabong Burger that had tinned beetroot between two patties. Sadly (or perhaps thankfully), I don’t have any photographic evidence, though it tasted as grim as it sounds. There was also a similar one called McOz with only one patty (plus the tinned beetroot that is ubiquitous in Australia – fresh beetroot isn’t nearly as popular).
Spam, Spam, Spam, Eggs, Bacon, and Spam
David Gardner shares his experience: "Did you know you can get Spam, eggs, and rice for a McDonald’s Breakfast in Honolulu? Yup. Right there on Kalakaua St facing Waikiki. Totally cool!"
See this classic Monty Python sketch to truly appreciate the irony.
(images via 1, 2)
In the middle of Moscow, on a busy Arbat street, you can get a take-out for your horse:
(image credit: Kotofei)
Big Macs are a Big Unknown in Chongqing, China
My most memorable experience of McDonald's in Asia, however, is stumbling onto a MaccyDs in Chongqing, China. I’d just completed an excruciating trip up the Three Gorges on an overloaded passenger boat that played earsplitting soap operas the entire journey, and I was in need of comfort food. Chongqing is a vast city with a mind-boggling 31,000,000 inhabitants – and that’s just the official figure. Arriving there just as dusk began to fall was somewhat intimidating to say the least. Things were not helped when I arrived at the front of the McDonald's queue dishevelled and hungry, and found, much to my horror, that the universally understood phrase of “Big Mac” was not understood here.
Managers were summoned despite (or perhaps because of) my increasingly strident pointing at the overhead menu, until a Chinese teenager behind me stepped up and got me exactly what I wanted in 20 seconds flat. He spoke a little English, and I could tell he wanted to practice so I invited my culinary rescuer to join me and we had a great, if slow conversation about his life in Chongqing. “Chongqing is great”, he said. “But I want to go to America”. “Why?” I asked. He broke into a beam of a smile and said “Because I want to meet Christina Aguilera!”
That conversation rescued what had otherwise been a grim day, and makes me smile every time I recall it. And it wouldn't have happened if I hadn’t gone to McDonald's.
Some Other Fast-Food Masterpieces From Around the World
Some are not McDonald's, technically, but very hard to omit when making an article like this. Here is -
Tuna Pie! Seen at Jollibee (Philippines).
This is wonderful pizza jigsaw puzzle, where every piece is a tasty morsel:
(Winter Double King Pizza at Pizza Hut, Japan)
Peas and potatoes make up the patty in the McAloo Tikki at McDonald's in India -
Great travel site Trifter shows more international Mac food variations, among them guacamole (avocado paste) McPollo burger in Chile:
Let us know about other interesting McDonald's offerings you found around the world.
When Looking for McDonald's, Beware of Imitations!
If you’re wondering why I even frequent McDonald's when I’m travelling in the continent of tremendous cuisine, the reasons are threefold:
1) Sometimes you’re so tired or cultureshocked or plain lazy you just want something completely familiar to eat in an air-conditioned, relatively clean environment, however bad it may be for you;
2) McDonald's is actually a great place to peoplewatch because, funnily enough, all the locals go there, and;
3) It irks travel purists no end, so that’s always a winner. (There is a great explanation of why eating at McDonald's while traveling is not to be sneered at by Rolf Potts, with an equally interesting addendum by Pico Iyer, both of which save me having to rewrite it here).
McDonald's Creativity Zoo: Unlimited Imagination from Used Packaging
We wrote about "Bent Objects" sculptures from McDonalds materials before.
(art by Bent Objects)
But now they've got some creepy new sculptures made, right in time for Halloween:
(art by Bent Objects)
But you do not need to use any fast food materials to create monsters: here is how to make (cook and eat) your very own alien caterpillar:
Speaking about post-Halloween cooking, here is another idea:
CONTINUE TO OTHER "WEIRD FOOD"! ->
Other articles by Chris Mitchell Chris Mitchell of Travel Happy, for Dark Roasted Blend:
Komodo Dragons: They Eat Meat
Plain of Jars: Bombs and Mystery in Laos
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