This post was nine months in the making. Just as Malaysia is split into two distinct parts, my visit to Malaysia was separated by over half a year. I visited Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo in January and I visited Peninsular Malaysia in August. I could have written the post back then, but I wanted to wait until I at least passed through Kuala Lumpur before I summarized the Malaysian McDonald’s experience.
The first thing you notice at a Malaysian McDonald’s is that hamburgers are called beefburgers. At first I didn’t know why, but eventually it dawned on me. Malaysia is a predominately Muslim country (about 60%). Hamburgers are called beefburgers so there is no ambiguity that the sandwiches are not made with pork. As the A1 commercial used to say “what is hamburger? chopped ham? no, chopped steak!” You’ll never find any pork products at all in a McDonald’s in a Muslim country, because the kitchen needs to be certified Halal. Every McDonald’s I visited in Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, or Penang had a Halal certification.
While Malaysia is mostly Muslim, it is not totally Muslim. It is a multicultural country with a very significant Chinese minority. Unfortunately, the favorite protein source of Chinese is pork (I’m currently reading a book on KFC in China. They have the demographics in there). You’d think that Chinese and Muslim dietary habits wouldn’t fit well together, but they each share a common taste for chicken. There were two unique items on the menu in Malaysia: Bubur Ayam and Ayam Goreng. Ayam, as you can probably figure out, is Malaysian for “chicken”. Ayam Goreng is just fried chicken. They offer a regular and spicy version, and the spicy version is almost orange from the spices. Bubur Ayam is chicken soup, or as they call it on the menu, chicken porridge. It really wasn’t that different from the chicken soup my grandma makes, just a tad bit spicier.
The other thing which I saw back in January was uniquely Chinese: the prosperity burger. I saw it in Hong Kong as well as Bali. It is sort of the Chinese New Year equivalent of the Shamrock Shake. I had it Bali and it was actually pretty good. It had a heavy taste of black pepper and it sort of oblong shaped, like the McRib, but because its Malaysia, made of beef.
Like what I saw at McDonald’s Fiji, McDonald’s Malaysia menu reflects the diversity of the country. There are just enough tweaks in the menu to make it uniquely Malaysian.