You tend to think that fast food franchises like McDonald’s are standardized all over the world. For the most part that’s true. You can always count on more than a few core menu items wherever you roam. However, international markets may tailor their menus according to local tastes. Sometimes these are limited offers or seasonal promotions, and sometimes they are culinary flops that are quickly discontinued. Now, some of us would never dream of stepping foot under the Golden Arches while visiting the far corners of the world. After all, sampling regional delights is half the fun of international travel. But one could (loosely) argue that Micky D’s does occasionally feature some foreign flavors quite unique to the familiar American fodder. If you’re popping in to use their air-conditioning or bathroom, you might as well expand your gastronomical palate and order something you can’t get back home. Here are 15 international McDonalds meals you won’t find in the States. Some sound surprisingly tempting.
1. McBeer, Europe
In select McDonald’s franchises across France, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria you can order some suds to wash down your meal. It’s not some watery McDonald’s brand beer, but popular brews from the region. Nobody’s saying you’d want to treat the Golden Arches as your neighborhood bar, but how good would it be to be able to order a McBeer with your burger? Bottoms up!
2. Chicken Maharaja Mac, India
Where’s the beef? In a land where cows are sacred, you may be wondering how the company famous for its Quarter Pounder and Big Mac manages to operate in India at all. Well, some of McDonald’s Indian franchises are vegetarian only (McAloo Tikki potato burger, anyone?) while others tweak their menu items to cater to the local palate. One of the best sellers is the Chicken Maharaja Mac, with two all-chick patties and a smokey sauce. Poultry doesn’t offend India’s Hindus or Muslims like beef and pork do.
3. McArabia, Middle East
Even the Middle East can’t resist the McDonald’s. Some of their local offerings are a little different, however. The McArabia, for example, substitutes pita bread for the bun. Sometimes there’s chicken on it, sometimes kofta (ground beef or lamb balls mixed with spices). At various times Morocco has experimented with a McArabia Saveur Tagine (a spicy stew) and McArabia Saveur Badinjan (an eggplant dish). The McArabia Halloumi (a popular goat/sheep cheese) is also found in certain Middle Eastern markets.
4. McPoutine, Canada
Poutine is a beloved Quebec snack consisting of french fries smothered with gravy and topped with cheese curds. Trust me, it tastes way better than it sounds or looks – especially after a late night on the town. It’s no big surprise that Mickey D’s wanted to cater to their Quebecois consumers with their Mc-take on this gooey treat. You can find it in Quebec and select franchises across Canada. Out in the Maritime provinces and a few other test-markets you can seasonally sample the McLobster roll too. At a fast-food price-point, keep your expectations reasonably low for this.
5. Bulgogi Burger, South Korea
South Korean McDondald’s offer a Bulgogi Burger. It’s a nod to a national dish involving grilled marinated beef, using notes of sesame, garlic and soy sauce. Most foodies diss the Bulgogi Burger as a poor homage to the real thing, but it is the most Korean thing on the menu, so give it a try. Maybe top it in kimchi (a pungent condiment made from fermented cabbage) to make it taste more local.
6. McMolletes, Mexico
Mexico has some unique offerings at their McDonald’s restaurants. Their breakfast menu features molletes, a classic Mexican comfort food consisting of refried beans, salsa, and cheese served open face on a McDonald’s McMuffin. Traditionally, molletes are served on a kaiser-like role, but English muffins are McD’s twist. Can McTamales and McMole be far behind?
7. Bacon Rolls, UK
The Brits get to devour a unique breakfast menu item at their McDonald’s, and it’s one worth trying if you’re visiting from across the pond. It’s simply two meaty rashers of salty bacon on a crusty roll served with either ketchup (or tomato sauce, as they call it) or brown sauce (like HP or similar). They only use British bacon made with pork from British Freedom Food approved farms. Even the Queen would approve.
8. McTeriyaki Burger
McDonald’s (locally pronounced in six syllables as Ma-ca-do-na-ru-do) is very popular in Japan, where they tend to revere all things American. They haven’t tried McSushi yet, but they do have a few offerings that put a Japanese touch to their fast food. The McTeriyaki Burger is popular fare with the beef patty slathered in a soy/ginger/garlic sauce. The Cheese Katsu Burger is a panko-breaded and fried pork sandwich stuffed with cheese and topped with cabbage and tonkatsu sauce. There are also some shrimp items on the Japanese menu-board such as the Ebi-Filet-O and Ebi Burger. Sometimes you’ll find a matcha-flavored Green Tea McFlurry too. Close your eyes and you can almost pretend you’re at a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
9. Gazpacho, Spain
Spain’s Andalusian gastronomy includes a delightful cold soup made from fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and garlic. So, chef Ronald McDonald serves a version of gazpacho on the menus in Spain. It’s not quite like madre makes, but most report its not bad as a side dish or light snack. With lots of Spanish restaurants shutting down for a mid-day siesta, visitors may find the fast food chain is all that’s open when the munchies strike. Order a (Mc)Gazpacho and you can still feel like you’re sampling local cuisine.
10. McFalafel, Israel
One of the most popular street foods in Israel is falafel. It’s basically balls of ground chickpeas sizzled in oil and served with garnishes inside a pita bread. It’s a tasty and relatively healthy vegetarian option. McDonald’s introduced the McFalafel in Israel and Egypt a while back, but it didn’t really take. There are too many other (better) falafel stands around to compete with the Mc-version, so it was discontinued. The McShawarma and McKebab (doesn’t really roll off the tongue, does it) are some other attempted Israeli items on the McDonald’s roster.
11. Chicken SingaPorridge, Singapore
This McDonald’s item scores points for its catchy name, but you’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s a tempting meal or not. It’s basically a shloppy rice porridge topped with chicken, ginger and spices, served up in a Styrofoam bowl. You can wash it down with some jasmine green tea and follow it with a red bean pie. From time to time Singapore’s McDonald’s offer a Durian Crunch McFlurry, too. Durian is a controversial tropical fruit. The smell is so distinctively putrid, it is illegal to carry it on the Singapore metro and other public places. However, it tastes divine.
12. Pizzarotto, Italy
Mama would be aghast if you dined at McDonald’s instead of a local Italian ristorante, but sometimes the Golden Arches call your name. At least order something vaguely Italiano when your there. The Pizzarotto is like a calzone, a cheese and tomato pizza folded in half so you can hold it and eat it without the toppings falling out. This is offered as part of a children’s Happy Meal across Italy. McDonald’s did attempt to sell a McPizza in a few markets back in the 80s and 90s but it didn’t last.
13. Das Nurnbuger, Germany
Even though hamburgers originated in Hamburg, Germany, the Deutsch are more hotdog people. They love their bratwurst, so its no shock that McDonald’s offers some on their German menus. The Das Nurnbuger is not one, not two, but three bratwurst sausages on a kaiser bun topped with mustard. You might need to rest after scarfing one of these babies down.
14. Kiwi Burger, New Zealand
No, this one isn’t made from New Zealand’s national bird or that fuzzy green fruit. It’s basically a familiar McDonald’s burger but topped with two ingredients you wouldn’t find on a patty back in the States – fried egg and beetroot. Australia’s McOz has a similar version only they have pineapple on top. New Zealand tried to sell a lamb-burger for a while, which was fitting for a country that has about 60 million sheep in it (and only 3 million people). However, it wasn’t a hit and has since disappeared.
15. Laksewrap, Norway
Nordic nations also have their particular preferences when it comes to fast food. McDonald’s in Norway sell a Laksewrap, which is Norwegian salmon wrapped in a tortilla-like flat bread. The Finns have a veggie burger on rye. Denmark doesn’t have any unique menu items, however it is interesting to note that their McDonald’s employees make $21 per hour (more than double the American wage). Sweden had a recent campaign where you could pay for your McDonald’s food in recycled cans. 10 cans gets a hamburger, while 40 cans gets you a Big Mac (how eco-cool is that?). As for Iceland, McDonald’s closed up shop there during their economic crisis a few years back and has no plans to re-open.
Have you tried any of these international McDonalds meals?