Like any super successful business, McDonald’s has mastered the recipe for success, and I don’t just mean the Big Mac. McDonald’s knows its customers and the culture they are part of. Across the world, from a rural American town in Colorado to the Bombay (India) metropolis, McDonald’s caters to a community’s appetite. In doing so, they have created wild and crazy international McDonald’s menu items.
It helps that customers across the globe know and trust those golden arches. Even if you’re not a fast food fan, McDonald’s restaurants around the world present a fascinating look at what people eat. You can learn a lot about local fruits and vegetables, meat, and of course dessert.
Crazy International McDonald’s Menu Items
For example, most Americans have never heard of a tropical fruit called durian. Yet in many Asian countries it is a delicacy—and a luscious ingredient for the McFlurry.
I love durian! I have so many crazy durian stories of my own they could fill a durian what-not-to-do handbook.
Just last year as I was walking down a street in Hanoi, I saw a small stand with a woman cutting open durian and selling the fruit. A guy was buying some. I watched the fascinating process of opening the durian, which is really the main challenge of eating durian. Why not buy some, I thought. I don’t speak Vietnamese. Though I tried to communicate that I wanted a small portion, I ended up with a takeaway container filled with durian.
No problem, I thought. I’ll find others to share my durian with. Now there are two things to know about durian. People either love it or they don’t eat it. It has a strong odor, which is an understatement, that I can’t begin to describe in words; you have to smell it for yourself.
I took my durian back to the hotel. By this point in my hotel stay I knew the front desk staff pretty well so I offered durian to them. I had no takers, though, because either they didn’t eat durian or they had some at home. One guy told me his wife ate a whole durian every day. WOW!
Up to my hotel room I went with a whole durian to put in the fridge. I did eat a big portion every day but the durian started letting out its famous odor. I wasn’t going to let the durian go to waste. Let’s just say the Hanoi durian episode, which lasted for a few days, created quite a smelly scene. I’m just glad the other hotel guests on my floor didn’t check out early with stinky durian smells as their excuse.
I did happen to glance at the hotel rules and regulations sheet and guess what? One rule said specifically that durian was NOT ALLOWED in the hotel rooms!
In the U.S. we have a conventional view of the hamburger. We expect the traditional fixings of lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and perhaps a dab of mustard. However, what would you think of adding sliced beets? That’s a popular topping in Australia and New Zealand.
Sometimes the international menu just needs a tweak to appeal to the locals. Adding smoked meat for Montreal McDonald lovers does just that. But in other lands the very idea of meat doesn’t go over too well—hence those Bollywood dancing (and singing) potatoes in an Indian McDonald’s McAloo Tikki commercial.
Then there is the culturally appropriated version of the Happy Meal. In some places in Asia, the Prosperity Burger meal coincides with the lunar New Year.
A few other noteworthy McDonald’s concoctions from their international McDonald’s menu items include Taro Pie (China), Ebi Filet-O Shrimp Burger (Japan), McNurnBerger (Germany; three Bratwurst in a bun), Chicken McDo With Spaghetti (Philippines—value meal with fried chicken and spaghetti), and my favorite: Mashed Potato Beef Burger (China). Need I say more?
Whether or not you’re a McDonalds customer in your home country, it’s way more fun to try their menu when you travel. At the very least, many of their international offerings make good conversation topics when you get home and people ask, “Did you eat anything interesting on your trip?”
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