THEY'RE LOVIN' IT, ARE YOU? UNUSUAL MCDONALDS' DISHES AROUND THE WORLD
Nothing screams America more loudly than McDonald’s, yet the iconic fast food joint has become an international phenomenon: those Golden Arches have colonised most of the world. However, they have not been unchanged in the process; McDonald’s restaurants around the world have adapted to the food preferences of the local populations, leading to some interesting concoctions.
Given the popularity of theme holidays, here’s a fun idea: travel the world and see what’s on the menu at the local McDonald’s everywhere you go. Why not? People do culinary tours all the time! Hey, this could turn out to be a thing. There could be a Hall of Fame for individuals who log the most varied McFood in the shortest period of time...
But first, here’s some background knowledge, which you're going to need to help you persuade your friends that a Worldwide McDonald’s Tour is a must.
THE MCDONALD'S ORIGIN STORY
McDonald’s originated in 1948, the brainchild of brothers Dick and Mac McDonald, in southern California. Proudly advertising the restaurant’s ‘Speedee Service System’, the first McDonald’s offered hamburgers for 15 cents (Buy ’em by the bag!), cheeseburgers, soft drinks, milk, coffee, potato chips (that’s crisps to you) and a slice of pie. That’s all. The next year the McDonald brothers switched out the chips for French fries (that’s chips to you) and created Triple Thick Milkshakes - and thus a mighty empire was born.
Fast forward to 1954 and enter Ray Kroc, enterprising salesman of the Multimixer, a state-of-the-art milkshake machine. His intention was only to sell more Multimixers to the McDonald brothers, but he thought their restaurant concept was so brilliant that he ended up spearheading the project to create McDonald’s franchises across the country and eventually bought out the brothers.
The basic delicacies the company offers are older than you are: the Fillet-O-Fish (we are going to capitalise these names because the company’s official website does) debuted in 1965 (so Catholics could eat at McDonald’s on Fridays), the Big Mac in 1968, the Quarter Pounder and the Quarter Pounder with Cheese in 1973, the Egg McMuffin in 1975, Chicken McNuggets in 1983 and the McFlurry in 1995.
Kroc’s concept was to standardise ingredients and operations so that customers could have the exact same McDonald’s experience wherever they were in the United States. He succeeded: the leading cause of nervous breakdowns among Americans is travelling 1,700 miles from New York to Texas only to find they apparently never left home at all because the McDonald’s is exactly the same. It’s an eerie and surreal experience we would not wish on our worst enemy.
Not to worry! McDonald’s has been remarkably creative in diversifying their brand worldwide, adding new items to their menus to attract local customers – and many of these dishes are surprising indeed. Some are even potentially delicious.
THEY SERVE THAT AT MCDONALD'S?
The corporation itself helpfully provides a list of McDonald’s food worldwide, enabling you to plan your fast-food travel itinerary. You will still find it a challenge, however, since 101 countries are listed, maybe you’d better decide what you want to eat and then travel to the country that serves it.
THE BEST MCDONALD'S FOODS: WORLDWIDE EDITION
Found in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, the MegaMac is, well, a mega Big Mac. Obviously intended for people gifted with the ability to open their mouths really, really wide, the sandwich features four glorious beef patties, not the paltry two of your regular Big Mac. If you're up to the challenge of the MegaMac in Dubai, we know of a very nice place to recover afterwards. Our experts can also offer equally attractive accommodation options for holidays to the area if you’re planning multiple battles with the Dubai MegaMac.
Chinese diners will also need to have jaws on flexible hinges if they order the Mashed Potato Burger. There’s only two beef patties and bacon, but then there’s a heaping helping of mashed potatoes on top.
In the Netherlands, McDonald’s took a Dutch speciality, beef stew, and created the McKroket. They stuff the stew inside a deep-fried patty, top it with mustard and stick it between buns. How can you resist? Scurry on over to Amsterdam and try it. (Here are some good places to stay.)
The Cordon Bleu Burger, available in Poland, covers a lot of meat options in one sandwich: one beef patty, one chicken patty, bacon or ham and, of course, cheese.
If you are laughing at these crazy foreigners with their oh-so-amusing food choices, be aware that the rest of the world thinks the UK is more than a little strange for lovin’ the Bacon Roll.
International outlets have come a long way from the only seafood choice Americans get: the unspecified-what-fish-it-is Fillet-O-Fish.
In Japan you can get the grandly named Gratin Croquette Burger, featuring a deep-fried patty consisting of crab and macaroni on a steamed bun. The Japanese also go wild for the Ebi Fillet-O-Shrimp Burger: a panko-battered shrimp patty with lettuce and ebi shrimp tempura sauce on top. On, of course, a sesame seed bun.
In Russia you can choose the breaded McShrimp option instead of fries.
The McLobster, alas, is no longer available in Canada, but it was bizarre while it lasted. Here are some other Mickey D fails.
Hold the meat, please
Of course McDonald’s is well known for its premium salads. But enough about them.
In India, step right up and order a McCurry Pan, a vegetarian dish of curried veg in cream sauce. That takes care of the ‘McCurry’ part; the ‘Pan’ gets involved because your food is served in an edible bread container.
In Italy they make things that look just like Chicken McNuggets on the outside, but are secretly Spinach and Parmesan Nuggets.
McNoodles is a delicacy of Thai-infused ingredients such as vegetables, chicken, salad, a selection of sauces and, of course, noodles. So why is it found in Austria? Do not question the wisdom of McDonald’s, my child. They have built a multi-billion-dollar empire. Have you?
Stop in a McDonald’s during your travels to Turkey to enjoy the Apricot Sundae – soft serve ice cream with apricot topping. Wait a minute. Ice cream. Fruit. What’s so strange about this? Just... in a world filled with strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and of course chocolate, why would anyone choose apricots? What’s next? Figs?
No, pineapples: in Columbia you can get the Pineapple Oreo McFlurry – soft serve ice cream with Oreos (good start) and pineapples (oh). Apparently it’s a big hit.
In Australia and New Zealand they are lining up for the Bubblegum Squash McFlurry, which thankfully doesn’t contain any actual squash but does have a lot of colourful mini-marshmallows topped with bubblegum-flavoured syrup. Yum?
China’s Taro Pie is a take on the standard McDonald’s Apple Pie, only filled with purple taro root. With what? Isn’t this a root vegetable?
We’re not sure if this next is a dessert or a starch: Japan’s McChoco Potato: fries topped with your choice of white chocolate, milk chocolate or both.
In the Land of the Maple Leaf, they are partial to Poutine: French fries, cheese curds and bacon smothered in gravy and a maple-flavoured barbeque sauce. And we can’t blame McDonald’s: the Canadians themselves invented this dish. Mickey D’s just put a version of it on their menu. Canadians, eh?
FIND YOUR MCBLISS
Even if you choose not to set your GPS to the location of the nearest McDonald’s when you’re travelling, it’s nice to know there’s going to be one where and when you need it – like when you really must have a Double Cheeseburger or some Buttermilk Crispy Chicken. You might even go exotic and opt for a native menu item.
There are a lot of McDonald’s restaurants in the world. Luckily, you get hungry about three times a day, so if you put your mind to it, you can cover a great many McDonald’s establishments on even a short holiday. Go for it. When we get the Hall of Fame built, you’ll be in it.