- We asked six of our international colleagues — in Singapore, Japan, India, Sweden, and the Netherlands — to visit a McDonald’s location near them.
- They found that the chain catered to local tastes with regional variations on popular items like mayonnaise-flavored French fries and coconut pies.
- While some were surprised by the quality of McDonald’s regional items, others were disappointed.
- We also tried one of the new items featured at US locations of McDonald’s.
With over 36,000 locations in more than 100 countries, McDonald’s is one of the most recognisable brands in the world. While it made its name with staples like the Big Mac and Quarter Pounder, the chain tailors its menu to local tastes, which means that a McDonald’s in India will look very different from one in the United States.
After trying one of McDonald’s newest items in the United States, we asked some of our international colleagues in six different countries — Singapore, Japan, India, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the UK — to go to a McDonald’s near them and tell us about the experience. We found that each catered to regional tastes with variations on the chain’s traditional offerings that surprised us.
See what our colleagues had to say below.
Who would have thought that our quintessential local dish, Nasi Lemak, could actually be turned into a burger?
Commonly eaten for breakfast, Nasi Lemak is a fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk, and it's usually accompanied with a range of side dishes such as fried egg, cucumber, ikan bilis and most importantly -- some spicy sambal chilli.
So imagine our doubt when we heard about McDonald's new item.
What could be better than our regular McChicken sandwich and iced Milo?
We purchased the bundle set ($9), which comprises the Nasi Lemak burger (of course), coconut pie, Bandung McFizz and French fries, which can be upsized to the criss-cut fries option.
Juicy coconut-flavored chicken patty? Check. Fried egg? Check. Cucumber slices? Check. Caramelised onions? Check. Oh, and all these were served between semolina buns -- not the basic sesame seed burger buns.
The verdict for just this burger alone? We're absolutely digging it.
We went into the test filled with scepticism. Little did we expect to be mind-blown by how the burger could taste just like a dish of, well, Nasi Lemak. Consider us sold.
Most of us at the taste test enjoyed coconut-flavored desserts, except for one. But this coconut pie might have changed her perspective on all coconut-y sweets.
Once again, the ice cream exceeded our expectations and was actually pretty good. There was a generous amount of gula melaka sauce and bits of coconut shavings. It was a tad sweet, but still enjoyable on the whole.
The Badung McFizz was supposed to taste like Bandung, a rose syrup drink enjoyed by locals, but it barely tasted like the real deal. It was like drinking a cup of pink-hued Sprite. We say -- skip this drink.
McDonald's, you're doing something right this time. We'll put the tragic episodes involving truffle fries and salted egg burgers behind us. In the meantime, we're looking forward to even more fancy creations.
-- Andrea Saadan, BI Singapore
We purchased the 'Cheese Tsukimi Burger set' (¥670), upgraded the French fries to 'Mentai-mayo,' or fries flavored with seasoned cod roe and mayonnaise (+¥30), and upgraded our drink to McFizz Yuzu flavour (+¥30). Yuzu is a Japanese lemon.
The Tsukimi burger is a special burger that is served at McDonald's in Japan during the fall. In Japan, there is a festival honouring the autumn moon. From this, McDonald's got the idea for the Tsukimi burger, and this is its 26th year selling the burger. The egg is supposed to represent the moon.
Here's a closer look. Inside the 'Tsukimi' burger were a beef patty, cheese, fried egg, bacon, and sauce. In Japan, people often eat soba noodles in soup topped with an egged called 'Tsukimi' soba, and 'tsukimi' means moon.
This was our first time trying the Tsukimi burger (although McDonald's has been selling it for 26 years) and we wouldn't order it again. The main part of this burger was the egg, and we didn't like the egg at all. We could only taste the egg whites when we got to the middle of the burger, and after eating it for a while we got tired of eating the egg whites before getting to the egg yolk.
The cheese, beef patty, and sauce were fine.
We upgraded our French fries to 'Mentai-mayo fries,' and a mentai-mayo-flavored powder was put in a paper bag to shake the fries.
After shaking the fries for about 20 seconds, the 'Mentai-mayo' flavored fries were ready. It had a stronger taste of mayonnaise than mentai. It kind of reminded us of mayonnaise-flavored potato chips.
We also tried the Yuzu McFizz. This was supposed to have the sour-sweet citrus flavour that the Yuzu has. However, it was like drinking a yellow, more citrus-flavored Sprite.
We also purchased the 'ginger fried pork' burger and Chelsea (butterscotch candy produced by Meiji) milkshake.
The first thing we noticed after eating this burger was the Shogayaki sauce. The sauce tasted similar to teriyaki sauce with a bit of spice in it.
The flavour of spicy ginger and the soy sauce with a touch of Mirin mix matched well. McDonald's created the special Shogayaki sauce, which actually tasted like Shogayaki. Shogayaki is often served with a bowl of rice, however, McDonald's did a really great job. It went well with the bun.
-- Lisa Nonaka, BI Japan
McDonald's has a McAloo Tikki Burger on its India menu. 'Aloo' means 'potato,' and the word 'tikki' means 'a small cutlet.' Commonly eaten as a snack in North India, aloo tikkis are crispy, spicy, round-shaped potato cutlets topped with various sweet and tangy sauces and spice powders. They are served piping-hot.
Traditionally, aloo tikkis are cooked by deep-frying boiled, mashed potatoes and peas. They are the most popular street food in India.
McDonald's McAloo Tikki burger is a combination of potato and peas cutlet, sweet tomato mayo, onions, and fresh tomatoes served on a regular bun.
The tomato mayo brought the tanginess in the burger to tingle our taste buds. However, it failed to recreate the magic of the sweet, sour, and spicy flavours of the piping hot tikkis found in street-side shops. The crispiness of the Aloo Tikki, however, is where this burger scored. It was just right, as it was coated with a generous amount of breadcrumbs and deep-fried perfectly.
The McAloo Tikki burger is a decent choice if you are visiting McDonald's in India. One burger might not fill you up, but priced at merely Rs 30, it is a steal for everything it has to offer. Try this if you have never tasted Aloo Tikki before and if you prefer a more hygienic version of the tikkis served on the Indian streets.
McDonald's has tried to draw inspiration from local Indian tastes and flavours. Adding mint sauce to the Chicken McGrill bun has been one successful attempt at appealing to Indian taste buds.
The sauce was creamier than the traditional dhania chutney (a smooth paste made by grinding coriander and mint leaves with Indian spices), but recreated the taste almost perfectly, enhancing the taste of this burger.
McDonald's tried to recreate the flavour of a masala dosa, a South Indian cuisine which is a type of rice pancake with a potato filling. The food giant called it Masala Dosa Brioche, which turned out to be an epic fail.
This burger had brioche (French bread), Molagapodi-flavored mayo, and a fried potato and peas cutlet flavored with cumin seeds, green chilies, and curry leaves.
Though inspired by the potato filling of the masala dosa, the cutlet barely tasted like masala dosa stuffing. Molagapodi is a condiment traditionally made from ground spices and dal powder, and is served with dosas. In this burger, however, it was recreated as a creamy spread that tasted no different from the mildly tangy mayo present in the majority of the McDonald's burgers. Even though the Masala Dosa Brioche was priced at only Rs 42, this burger didn't even come close to replicating what a Masala Dosa looks or tastes like.
Predictably, the launch of the Masala Dosa burger in 44 Mumbai outlets in January invoked social media outrage instantly. Indians saw this fusion as a marketing gimmick, and as a disservice to the beloved south Indian dish. It is still being sold in the Mumbai outlets.
-- Anushree Singh, BI India
In response to shifting millennial tastes, McDonald's asked Swedish star chef Johan Jureskog to create a gourmet line of burgers. Jureskog -- who had previously travelled across America in search of the perfect hamburger in a Swedish TV show called 'The World's Best Hamburgers' -- experimented with more than 60 different varieties to end up with three burgers: Texas BBQ, New York, and Jureskog Signature.
We tried the Jureskog Texas, a classic, limited-edition barbecue burger consisting of two beef patties, pickled red onion, smoked gouda cheese, crispy bacon, salad, mayo, and barbecue sauce. To add to the barbecue feel of the menu, there were spicy, flat potato chips that came with truffle mayo.
At first, we were met with a cacophony of tastes. The strong BBQ flavour and smoked cheese were balanced out by the pickled red onion, smooth mayo, and salad. The bacon strips and barbecue sauce added to the burger's homemade, smudgy feel. But as we kept chewing, we soon noticed that something was off here: The ingredients were not up to the task.
No matter how skilled the chef, it's very difficult to summon a gourmet burger using a half-dry bun and (what have been) deep-frozen beef patties, which stand in embarrassing contrast to the advertised look, not to mention the pickled red onion that was too sour and ended up hijacking the burger's overall taste. The bacon, mayo, and smoked cheese were shouting out for better companions.
Although it's possible we received a particularly bad specimen, we did not even bother to finish our burger. Seeing that some Swedish food critics have hailed Texas as the best of the three Jureskog burgers, we were not too keen on its cousins either. We'd rather pay up in a real gourmet burger joint across the street or stay with the standard McDonald's line-up.
Unlike the McFlurry Stroopwafel (with the famous Dutch cookie!), which is only available for short periods of time in the Netherlands, the Dutch can get the McKroket all year round. The McKroket has had a legendary status since McDonald's put it on the menu when it opened its first restaurant in the Netherlands in 1971. The McKroket is a top seller in our country and in Curaçao (a Caribbean island, part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands).
First of all, a 'kroket' is a deep-fried, ragout-filled snack coated with bread crumbs. Although it's probably a French invention ('croquets') from the 18th century, the Dutch love it even more. A kroket is usually eaten with French fries or on a bun with mustard. You can get this snack at nearly every street corner in the Netherlands in so-called 'snackbars' (i.e. a bar where you can eat snacks). We even invented special vending machines for the kroket so you can pull them out of a wall in public spaces!
After ordering and tasting the McKroket, we realised it really is the McDonald-fied version of a local delicacy. The bun has been transformed into the all-American McDonald's bun, the French mustard into a sauce with mustard, and the originally cylinder-shaped kroket into a round, thin slice that perfectly fit the shape of the bun.
The verdict? Just like a lot of other McDonald's burgers, the sauce did the trick -- although in the case of McKroket, you can't really say it's mustard.
Sad news: Because McDonald's changed the form of the kroket, there was more bread crumb and less ragout filling. We could almost count the small pieces of beef, and the crumb was just not as crunchy as the original.
However, overall, the McKroket tasted quite well and, to our surprise, it resembled the taste of a 'broodje kroket.' Would we order it again? It's really not bad, but we'd rather have the real deal.
-- Els van Asseldonk, BI Netherlands
We went to a McDonald's in Banbury, Oxfordshire, and it just so happened to be owned by the Queen. Well, sort of. The McDonald's at the Banbury Gateway Shopping Park sits on land that forms part of the Crown Estate.
To mark the occasion, we ordered a royally British breakfast, which in the UK is served until 10.30 a.m. It consisted of a bacon butty (a nickname we have for a sandwich), a hash brown, and a cup of English breakfast/builder's tea.
We were actually pretty impressed by the quality of the bacon sandwich. Usually, fast food joints use really poor quality bacon for their breakfast rolls, but, as you can see from the photo, these were quite meaty rashers of unsmoked back bacon in a soft, white flour bread roll. We would have preferred the bacon cooked a bit crispier, but it tasted good overall.
McDonald's bacon rolls appear to have come a long way. We had ours smothered in brown sauce (HP sauce), an iconic British condiment, which looks like brown ketchup. It's tangy in taste and is a bit like Worcestershire sauce. You could choose to have the sandwich either with brown sauce or ketchup.
For a drink we chose a classic cup of English breakfast tea -- also known as builder's tea -- made with a PG Tips teabag and a dash of milk, as we like ours quite strong.
You are likely already well-acquainted with what McDonald's locations are like in the US, but the fast-food chain recently rolled out a new chicken tenders offering called the Buttermilk Chicken Tenders.
In 2015, the company nixed its Chicken Selects tenders after over a decade on the menu, leaving McDonald's diners with McNuggets as the only dippable option.
But now, two years later, the prodigal tender is back with a new name -- Buttermilk Crispy Tenders -- and a better approach. This new formula, it seems, is a resurrection of the Chicken Selects of yesteryear.
We tested these new tenders recently and were impressed with what we found.
The difference in McDonald's newest iteration of tender was immediately apparent. They were thicker and heftier than before, and they seemed to have more meat on them.
The meat itself was surprisingly tender with easy give -- no stringiness or dryness. The breading was also surprisingly crispy, and it was more forward with black pepper seasoning.
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