On your next trip abroad, McDonald’s may not make your list of must-visit restaurants. Founded on principles of consistency, homogeneity, and ease of preparation, the ubiquitous golden arches often seem like the most boring dining option in an exotic destination. A Big Mac in Belgium, secret sauce in the Sahara, or a McRib on the Rhine don’t sound like the best ways to experience new locales. But the fact remains: wherever you go, Ronald McDonald and his cronies will probably be there, hawking burgers, fries, and nuggets with astounding aplomb. (Speaking of plums … ume chicken nugget sauce, anybody?)
Such universal presence does, however, make McDonald’s an interesting topic of study. The Economist, for example, has come up with its Big Mac Index, and there are blogs devoted to travels through some of the world’s more remote McDonald’s. Why the interest? Well, for one thing, it turns out that the fast-food chain sometimes does break the mold to accommodate local tastes and standards. The result: some really interesting (and kind of wrong) McDonald’s menu items. Bon mac-etit!
Bacon Potato Pie
Savory pies may not be foreign to Western palates, but Japan’s McDonald’s bacon-potato pie definitely breaks from tradition. Bits of bacon are suspended in a gooey substrate that is reminiscent of potatoes but not quite there. For 120 yen (a little over a dollar), it’s hard to pass on this hearty harbinger of menus to come.
Tamago Double Mac
Egg is kind of unsettling to see on McDonald’s burgers: one imagines all the creative ways breakfast items might be reused later in the day. The Tamago Double Mac from Japan dresses up the egg and beef with bacon slices and a thick, almost-tartar sauce. It’s not bad, if you like to chew to the beat of cholesterol on arterial walls.
Around the Chinese New Year, the Prosperity Burger sweeps through many of Asia’s McDonald’s locations. It’s basically a McRib served with a spicy black-pepper sauce and onions. It was only a matter of time before the double version came out. We’ll have ’em eating like Americans in no time.
Originally published on NileGuide
Another example of McDonald’s copping the style of other countries’ successful franchises is the RiceBurger, which was invented by Mos Burger (Japan’s second-largest fast-food seller after … guess who?). It reached such popularity that McDonald’s couldn’t afford to not offer one of its own, all across Asia. “The finest grains of fragrant white rice” are pressed into patties to form the buns on these babies. A heartier bun, to be sure.
So yeah, India’s McDonald’s menu is funky, but it all looks pretty good! Some standouts here are the McCurry Pan—apparently, a thick and hearty cardboard box filled with a veritable cornucopia of veggies—and the Pizza McPuff, clearly a Hot Pockets rip-off. You don’t want to know what goes into the Crispy Chinese.
Chicken Maharaja Mac
The Chicken Maharaja Mac is another product that caters to India’s unique norms. It is basically just a Big Mac with two chicken patties instead of beef. They tried it out in America but it flopped because it messed up the rhythm of the song (“two all-chicken patties …”). There’s also a lamb version, which works in the song, but come on, lamb?
South African McDonald’s ditch the bun and do the Chicken Foldover to celebrate South African independence from fat white things. (Sorry … at least it’s not called a Holdover.)
Hey! That’s the Chicken Foldover of South African fame, right? Wrong. See how the flatbread is just a little less flat? It’s obviously the McArabia (stupid), served throughout the Middle East. It’s the same winning combination of chicken, veggies, and special sauce that has powered so many other McDonald’s creations. You can also get a grilled kofta version, if you’re feeling spicy.
“Filled with Atlantic Canadian lobster meat and crispy lettuce on a fresh bun, it’s bound to make a splash with everyone!” So says McDonald’s marketing. The classic New England and eastern Canadian lobster rolls that the McLobster imitates were never considered haute cuisine in the first place. (Lobster slathered with mayo and tartar sauce on a white bun is pretty much impossible to mess up.) This sandwich only makes an appearance once in a blue moon, so make sure to get your claws on it while you can.
Russian McDonald’s serve up these little tasties: Brie nuggets. Yup, they’re just hunks of deep-fried deliciousness.
The secret of New Zealand’s Kiwiburger? Nope, not the fruit (or the bird, unfortunately), but beets! The dark red tuber adds a sweet crunch that drives those kiwis wild. The egg seems a bit out of place, but we’re sure “Macca’s” did their market research on this one.
What’s the difference between New Zealand’s Kiwiburger and Australia’s McOz burger? The McOz doesn’t have an egg. What’s the difference between Australia’s flag and New Zealand’s flag? The omission of a couple stars. Between Australians and New Zealanders? We’re gonna have to get back to you on that.
We like it when McDonald’s tries to work the local language into their menu items’ names—especially when they’re still comprehensible to us—and Venezuela’s McQueso, sold as a Happy Meal item, does just that. It comes with “the delicious traditional McDonald’s cheese,” according to the marketing copy. We’ll leave that to your discretion.
Brazil’s Cheddar McMelt (double version pictured above) may not look out of the ordinary. Start with the classic all-beef patty and add cheddar cheese. So far so good. Then add onions grilled with soy sauce and put it all on a whole-wheat bun. The sharpness of the cheddar goes well with the savory soy sauce, and the bun makes it an all- around robust burger. It’s a perennial favorite among Brazilian customers.