Gary is currently in Mississauga, ON (Sep 15th, 2014)
 

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The Big Mac(Donald’s) Update


McDonald's Sign - Okinawa, Japan (by Everything Everywhere)
McDonald’s in Okinawa

Since I last did a McDonald’s update, I’ve gained a lot of readers. For those who are new, I try to eat at a McDonald’s restaurant in every country I visit. McDonald’s in every country are just a little bit different as they adjust the menu to fit local tastes. Eating at McDonald’s is an attempt to try and see how each country is different through the lens of something which is very familiar. I do not usually go out of my way to eat fast food, but I do eat at least this one meal at each place.

My last update was in Taiwan, so I have Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong/Macau to fill everyone in on . Brunei didn’t have a McDonald’s that I could see (but they did have Pizza Hut and Jollibee’s) and I’ll wait till I pass through KL to talk about Malaysia.

Japan

You think Japan you think seafood. It should come as no surprise that Japan’s contribution to the global McDonald’s menu should come from the sea. They have given us the Fliet-o-Ebi, or the shrimp sandwich. What was interesting was that the Japanese McDonald’s all had cheaper seafood sandwiches than beef sandwiches. This is opposite (outside of Lent) as it is almost anywhere else. The filet-o-fish was the cheapest thing on the menu and the Quarter Pounder was the most expensive.


McDonald's Storefront - South Korea (by Everything Everywhere)
McD’s in Geyongju, South Korea

I had a helluva time finding Diet Coke in Japan and South Korea. I guess they aren’t that fat so don’t feel the need to drink diet coke that often. I’d usually get a Grape Fanta when I ate in Japan.

In the Asian McDonald’s I’ve visited (except for Hong Kong) they had a very clever system for getting rid of your garbage. Each garbage bin had a drain attached for dumping your ice and extra beverages. You were then expected to stack your cups. Also, hard plastic like forks, drink tops and straws were usually put in a separate bin. It was very efficient. Very Japanese. The drain on the garbage is one of those simple ideas that really should be adapted everywhere. It reduces the weight and potential mess of the garbage by removing the liquids from the bag. It also reduces the volume by stacking the cups. It would be very simple to implement and I think everyone would use it immediately.

South Korea

South Korea has one of the more boring menus I’ve seen so far. The only really unique thing I saw was the pumpkin pie, which sounds like something that is probably on the menu in North America in the fall, but I don’t recall ever actually seeing it.


McDonald's, Kowloon - Hong Kong (by Everything Everywhere)
Lots of McDonald’s in Hong Kong

The one thing which sets South Korean McDonald’s apart from Japan was something you could see all over the country: space. Most of the Japanese McDonald’s I saw were very crowded. Many had spaces for eating while standing up against the wall. There were very few booths or large tables. This is sort of a reflection of everything in Japan. Everything is tiny and crowded.

In South Korea, even though the country has a higher population density than Japan, you don’t see the same amount of crowding. I noticed this the moment I arrived in Busan. The apartments were bigger, almost American sized. Likewise, the McDonald’s were more roomy and less seafood oriented. Even though South Korea is heavily into pork, I didn’t see a lot of pork on the menu.

They also had corn soup on the menu, which is something I also saw in other Asian countries. I don’t get why corn is so popular. It certainly isn’t a traditional Asian food.

Hong Kong/Macau


McDonald's Macau (by Everything Everywhere)
There is a McDonald’s smack in the middle of the historic area of Macau.

I noticed that Hong Kong and Taipei had way more fast food restaurants than I saw anywhere in Japan and South Korea. You’d see them around in Seoul and Tokyo, but not in the same degree as in Taipei or Hong Kong. I have no clue if it is a Chinese thing.

That being said, the two places I’ve eaten the most fast food were in Taipei and Hong Kong. I think that is more a function of me staying there far longer than I had originally planned, having a screwed up sleep schedule, and McDonald’s being open 24/7. If you recall from my report on Taipei, they had great fried chicken. The Hong Kong chicken wings were also really good. Probably not very good for me, but they taste good. The only unique thing I saw was the Prosperity burger, which was available in beef and pork. I think it might have been a seasonal thing like the Shamrock Shake, but for Chinese New Year. I also saw the Prosperity Burger in Malaysian Borneo, which has a sizable Chinese population.

I plan on doing a special McDonald’s update from Bali. From what I’ve heard, the menu is very different there.

  • 5 Comments... What's your take?

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Comments

  1. Michael says:

    McD in Macau had a Grilled Chicken that was Superb. I want to go back to Macau just for the Sandwich. Nothing like that in the Philippines. They also had the Strawberry shake that I can not get here.

  2. cole says:

    I have really never seen the drain or cup stacking in Japan, and I’ve lived here almost 2 years!

  3. Nathan D says:

    You really think Americans would take the top off of their drink, pour it down the drain, then stack their cups? The drain would just end up constantly getting clogged with wet napkins and such, and the garbage bags would still be filled with liquid from those who ignore the drain. Let’s face it: when it comes to things like this, we’re slobs.

  4. lina says:

    you gotta try prosperity burger. McD only sells them before Chinese New Year here in Malaysia.
    :-)
    Tokyo’s McD is very claustrophobic. Not a good place to even have a chat with friends because there’s always a queue waiting for you to finish up.
    In HK, I was astonished to see elderly ladies & men serving at the counter.

  5. Aibek says:

    Gary,
    I am not sure if you have tried Rice Burger at McDonald’s in South East Asia. Maybe you have that in US, but that was smth new for me.

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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