To some, the thought of eating McDonald’s in a foreign country seems just plain wrong. After all, when you’re in a different country, you should be experiencing their culture in all aspects, especially food. And what’s more American than McDonald’s? Yet, it’s hard to deny how much of this American fast food has become a part of other cultures. In Japan and China, a big bucket of KFC is now a Christmas tradition and all over the world you can find Burger King, Subway, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. And these companies have not simply forced American food down people’s throats. Instead, they have adapted, and few have adapted as well as McDonald’s.
Step into a McDonald’s outside the US and you will see foods you never knew existed. In Canada, you can find Poutine, in Israel there are Kosher McDonalds’ that don’t offer cheese on their burgers. In Japan, the Teriyaki McBurger is like a regular burger, but with a teriyaki twist. These international options almost make McDonald’s a destination, rather than a place to avoid on vacation.
China has a few different unique offerings, but my favorite is their pie. Rather than forcing good old-fashioned American apple pie into China, McDonald’s has a Taro Pie. I’ve loved taro ever since I discovered the purple sweet potato and when I learned that McDonald’s had stuffed it into a pie, I jumped on it. During my year living in China, this pie and I had a delicious love affair. So when I returned to China, I was ecstatic to find the Taro Pie was still on the menu. I ordered one for 5 rmb and immediately fell back in love. The pie comes in a similar sleeve to the apple pie in the US, except that it is bright purple and covered in Chinese and English letters. Inside, the pie looks the same as any other McDonald’s pie. The crust is crunchy and delicious, while the inside is a nearly fluorescent purple color and loaded with these potatoes. The taro isn’t too sweet and is somehow very different in flavor from any ordinary sweet potato. The texture is grainer than the viscous apple pie and the thicker taro sauce inside adds a great dimension of flavor that isn’t overly sweet like it can be in other pies. Plus, it’s purple, which is pretty awesome and rare in edible food.
So next time you’re in a foreign country, don’t be too quick in dismissing McDonald’s. If you go for a Big Mac and fries, you might be doing yourself a disservice, but if you seek out a regional specialty, you could just discover something amazing and unique. Then you’ll end up like me, waiting for your next opportunity to crunch into your Taro Pie.