When I came up with the idea of writing about McDonald’s around the world, the idea was to compare how various restaurants differ based on how their countries differ. During my trip through the Pacific, there wasn’t a lot to set the various restaurants apart.
The Philippines is the fist place where I’ve noticed some substantial variation in the menu compared to what you might see in the US.
For starters, rice is the primary accompaniment. Every meal comes with rice and the rice is packaged in small, consistently shaped conical mounds. You can get fries, but they are secondary to rice. McDonald’s in the Philippines also sells a lot more fried chicken that I’ve seen anywhere else. They call it Chicken McDo. I had breakfast at one McDonald’s in Manila and had corned beef and rice. I have also seen McSpaghetti on the menu.
If you do buy a normal American type meal of a burger, fries and a drink, you’ll immediately notice that the portions are significantly smaller. If you up-size your drink and fries, you still will get a portion as small or smaller than the smallest size you can get in the US. If you are old enough to remember eating fast food in the 70s or 80s, you used to get small, paper packages for fries. That is pretty much the size you get in the Philippines. The “large” drink is the size you’d get in a small plastic beer cup at a party. In addition to cutting back on portions, you will often (but not always) find non-disposable silverware and cups.
The prices here are also the lowest I’ve seen so far. You can get a regular sized burger value (Big Mac, Quarter Pounder, Double Cheeseburger) meal for 99 Pesos, which is about $2.15. Part of that can be explained by the smaller portion sizes, but it is mostly a reflection of lower Filipino prices. I wasn’t able to find out anything regarding where the food is from. I suspect the rice and chicken is from the Philippines but the beef is not.
All of the fast food restaurants in Manila delivered. You’ll see a small fleet of scooters with an insulated box on the back outside each restaurant. I saw several signs which still offer the old Domino’s deal: 30 min or the food is free. They all also seemed to have the good phone numbers. Shakey’s will deliver if you dial 7777777. KFC is 911-11-11 (a number most Americans would be hesitant to dial).
McDonald’s, however, is not the interesting fast food story in the Philippines, however. It is Jollibees.
Jollibees is the largest fast food chain in the Philippines and is Filipino owned. They also have stores in several other countries including twelve in California and Las Vegas. They are probably the only Filipino brand which has any presence outside of the Philippines. Jollibees has over 600 locations across the Philippines, Hong Kong and the US. In the Philippines, they did things I haven’t seen anywhere else. Because public infrastructure is so poor, I saw several scenic overlooks along highways sponsored by Jollibees. Everywhere there was a McDonald’s you’d find a Jollibee, but you would find Jollibee in places you wouldn’t find a McDonald’s.
I made one trip to a Jollibees and ordered a hamburger. It was one of the worst hamburgers I have ever had. Eating a hamburger isn’t usually something you even think about. You don’t often go into a fast food restaurant and think anything, good or bad, about what you’re eating. This, however, was bland and tasteless. I would swear the patty was boiled. I looked around the restaurant and noticed I was the only one eating a hamburger. Everyone else was eating chicken or spaghetti. They probably knew something I didn’t.
I also haven’t been able to write much about local foods on my trip. (See my previous post on the lack of a cuisine in the Pacific) The Philippines is also the first chance I’ve gotten to really experience some local foods and street food. One dish I ate (while writing most of this post) was called “Kare Kare de Pata’t Buntot”. It was a beef dish in a peanut sauce, served on rice with a side sauce…and I’m not sure what the sauce was made out of. It was really more of a paste than a sacue. It was really good and very rich. There were also large pieces of the beef fat in the dish. It was not at all spicy, like all the Filipino food I’ve had so far.
In my hotel in Makati, they had a breakfast dish made out of pork. I have no clue what the name of the dish is, but the pork was a bright pink color from the sauce and was sweet. It wasn’t as sweet as sweet and sour pork, but it also wave very good.
In Banaue, I ordered a local Ifague dish of crispy pork knuckle. There really wasn’t much too it. It was a big hunk of pork with bones which was fried served with soy sauce and rice. The best part of it was the friend skin of the pig.
In VIgan I had a dish fried pork belly. It came with a side sauce that was probably be best thing I’ve had on my trip so far. I don’t know the name of it, but it was clearly based on soy sauce, but with a lot more to it. I asked was it was and I was only told it was a “fish sauce”.
The street vendors were also much greater than anything I’ve experienced so far. You could walk out on a major street and see people roasting whole chickens. In Bagiuo there was a block it seemed of nothing but roasted chicken vendors. In Puerto Princessa, I saw someone serving an entire roasted pig, with the pigs head displayed prominently on the cart. I also got to experience the bus vendors, but I will write about that more when I post about my experiences with the Philippines transportation system.
Given the number of Filipinos in the US, I’m surprised you don’t see more Filipino restaurants. I think more Americans would have no problem with Filipino cooking, even if they didn’t like Asian food in general. Nothing I experienced was very spicy and they don’t use chopsticks.
11 thoughts on “McPinoy”
I’m hungry just reading your post. Tocino (Filipino bacon) was what you had for b’fast – fattening but YUM! Hawaii is the only other McD’s that I’m aware of that was allowed to change their menu – theirs has the ubiquitous spam. My understanding is that McD’s (notorious for insisting on sameness across all franchises) OK’d the PI and Hawaii changes b/c otherwise, the locals wouldn’t find the menu appetizing (like your Jolibee’s hamburger experience). Pork not beef rules, hence the corned beef selections. Enjoyed this post and looking forward to more.
although I did give up McDonalds after watching SuperSizeMe (3.5 years ago) I still am fascinated with the Golden Arches overseas. In Hong Kong when my favorite Fish Filet (the item loved by many ordered by few in the US) was the top extra value meal, the #1 – I took a photo. Strange moment for the staff.
Since then I decided to take photos with Ronald everywhere I can overseas…I have one from Bali and another from Bangkok. Americana overseas – I just love it.
Jollibee is crap, they have 2 resturants in Guam, then it became 1. The opened a few resturants in California and no one goes there. I’ll go to Goldilocks 1st or Chow King before I ever go to a Jollibee.
Wow, you went to Vigan! You must have passed by my hometown, San fernando, La union!
The crispy pork in Vigan is called “bagnet” and it is just pork belly marinated in spices for a while then deep-fried to crispy perfection.
Ive never seen bigger macca’s advertisements
i think what you ate in your hotel was what we call “tocino.” they’re slices of cured pork that we boil in a small amount of water, add a little sugar to, then fry in its own fat once the water evaporates. :)
one reason why our food is less “asian” than the rest of the asian cuisine you’ve tasted so far is because our food is a complex mix of our colonial spanish and american past, as well as some chinese influences. :)
yes, jollibee burgers suck, but they serve good fried chicken. ;P
i’ve enjoyed reading your observations about my country and hope you enjoyed your stay! you should come back some day – there is still so many undiscovered pieces of paradise to be seen.
No. Filipinos don’t use chopsticks as a matter of practice. But in many Chinese restaurants found all over the Metro, they do.
I wish I’d checked your blog a bit earlier (I lurked here a few months ago and just came back to it today) so I could have noted that you were dropping by the Philippines. I’m sorry you didn’t have a great experience in Manila.
You’re right, Jollibee doesn’t have great burgers. We usually eat the spaghetti (‘Jolly Spaghetti’) and fried chicken (‘Chickenjoy’) instead. Jollibee works hard at understanding the Filipino palate, which tends towards sweeter and, in some cases blander, foods. McDonald’s tries as well, but it often seems hampered by a slower-moving bureaucracy: Jollibee will introduce twelve new dishes for its patrons to sample in the same time it takes McDonald’s to introduce three.
Kare kare (the beef dish with the peanut sauce) is usually eaten with a paste called ‘bagoong’. It’s essentially a fermented shrimp paste.
The fish sauce you had was probably what we call ‘patis’. It’s sold abroad as a Thai or Filipino fish sauce. Like bagoong, we use it when we want to add a slightly salty flavor to our food.
I guess that’s it for now. I hope you enjoy the rest of your trip. :)
I really enjoy reading about your adventures in travel. I really want to visit Asia on my next foreign travel trip. I enjoy the McDonalds comparisons. When in Europe a few years ago we tried to visit a McDonalds in each country to see how they differed from each other, which was really interesting. My aunt have travel all over the world and has a book containing interesting bathroom pictures plus toilet paper samples (she has some pieces that I swear are thicker than printer paper).
seems i’ll not enjoy those Jopllibee either!!
Do you like to eat alot of pork? It doesn’t look very good. Your favorite neice, Courtney
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