This week I continue my series of “traveller’s guides” with a quick primer on the potential perils of what you think to be familiar fast foods as you journey across the globe.
Even the most hardcore travellers amongst us will at some point take comfort from the sight of those golden arches – most likely in a country where you don’t speak the language, and when you’re not sure which animal the stomach lining you’ve just been served came from.
But beware – you might think that a quick Cheeseburger will be preferable to hours squatting over a hole in the ground wishing you were dead, but don’t always expect the menu to contain your favourite items. McDonald’s in particular regionalises its menus to cater for local tastes in its quest for global domination.
If you’re travelling across America then you’re not likely to find a slab of goat’s cheese in your burger or rice cakes instead of a bun, so I say go for it. Eat as much fast food as you can. Have a chilli dog for me.
Australia is pretty boring as far as fast food goes because we don’t have the population to support a huge variety of consumer products. Beetroot, fried eggs and pineapple are about as odd as burger fillings get, although you can get a side of deep-fried kangaroo testicles at KFC. Only joking – hey, the UK gets baked beans at KFC, and even I think that’s odd.
So what are some of the horrors that await unsuspecting travellers?
India: No beef or pork is served by McDonald’s here. The Maharaja Mac comes with two chicken patties. The Vegetable McCurry Pan is practical because it gives you something to go to the toilet in afterwards. And I’m not telling you what’s in the McSurprise or the Pizza McPuff, but one features Italian mayonnaise and the other peas & carrots.
Philippines: McSpaghetti. With sweet tomato sauce, hot dogs and grated cheese, for that authentic Italian-Filipino flavour. There’s also the cunningly named McRice.
Finland: McDonald’s burgers come with rye bread instead of buns. Sounds like hard work.
Singapore: Forget McDonald’s and head to Pizza Hut for the Curry Zazzle – spicy chicken chunks, potato cubes and buttered rice flavoured with Italian herbs lavishly baked in authentic curry sauce. Mmm, I’ll have two.
Greece and Hungary: Spend some time on the McFarm if you dare.[nggallery id=27]
Cyprus: McDonald’s serves Carlsberg beer in all outlets. Um…so nothing to fear here.
Japan: The holy grail for all things weird, including fast food. When Microsoft releases a new operating system, most of us choose to slow our computers to a crawl and introduce thousands of new bugs just to get some new wallpapers. So what did Burger King Japan do to celebrate Windows 7? Brought out a Whopper with seven meat patties in it.
They sold over 10,000 of these in the first week, thus reducing the Japanese population by around that amount. Just this week McDonald’s Japan released a burger containing fried chicken and a huge slab of German sausage.
It’s all just a bit too weird – if you’re feeling bored, hit Google and check out KFC & Pizza Hut Japan. Then wash it all down with a green tea flavoured milkshake.
I’ve only scratched the surface here, but I hope that I’ve alerted you to some of the dangers of careless fast food ordering when overseas.
Perhaps that head cheese sandwich or bowl of goat intestine soup doesn’t look that bad after all…
This feature was written before the current events in Japan, our thoughts are currently with everyone affected by the Earthquake. Fri 11th March 2011.