For all the new readers, you can get the background on why I’m writing about McDonald’s here.
McDonald’s Taiwan is the first McDonald’s I’ve experienced since New Zealand to have a completely unique item on the menu: the rice burger.
The rice burger is a burger where the bun is replaced with rice and the patty is replaced with pork and there is a sweet sauce on the meat. It is basically everything you would get in a pork dish at a Chinese restaurant but in burger form.
Unlike most burgers, it didn’t come in a wrapper or a clam shell burger box. The container looked like a french fry container with a lid. The package had a baseball theme going with Chien-Ming Wang on the package. Chien-Ming Wang is the Michael Jordan of Taiwan. He is a starting pitcher for the Yankees and has won 19 games in each of the last two seasons. I went to the McDonald’s a block away from my hostel one morning when I first arrived and they had a projector set up and were showing the Yankees/Indians game live. I’ll talk more about Taiwanese baseball at a later date.
Back to the burger….
The rice bun wasn’t like a rice cake. It was moist, freshly cooked rice packed into a patty. It came wrapped in a wax paper like container. In hindsight, I think I ate it incorrectly. I think you were supposed to eat it with the paper around it. I ate it like a regular hamburger and the rice started to fall apart. I’m not sure if the rice was weirder than the pork or the sweet sauce. It was different, but it wasn’t bad. From what I understand, the rice burger got its start in Taiwan but has since spread through the rest of East Asia.
Unlike the Philippines, the rice burger was the only rice on the menu at the Taipei McDonald’s. The primary side item was french fries, but they also had a bowl of corn you could get. They also had corn soup on the menu. McDonald’s was the only place I saw corn for sale in Taiwan.
The rest of the menu was very heavy on chicken. Other than a Big Mac and a basic hamburger, there was no beef on the menu. No quarterpounder. No double cheeseburger. No McDLT. No The Big Mac, along with the basic chicken and fish sandwich, are the only items I’ve seen at every McDonald’s on my trip so far.
I had plain fried chicken at a McDonald’s for the first time in Taipei. It was really good. Like, unusually good. I ate chicken at McDonald’s for three days straight I liked it so much. I don’t know why it was so good, but it was.
To give you an idea of the cost of things in Taiwan, a basic Big Mac meal was NTD$99 (US$3). They did offer larger sizes for both fries and drinks, but they didn’t really publicize it. It was NDT$5 to up size either the fries or the drink. Portions were the same size as you would find in the US.
While Coke products were big on the menu, cold green tea seemed like the most popular beverage amongst locals.
I saw one Burger King in Taipei, one KFC, zero Domino’s, a few Pizza Huts and a few Subways.
I did see a bunch of Starbucks, and I saw even more Starbuck ripoffs. There were no fewer than three chains of coffee stores I saw that were ripoffs of Starbucks with very similar logos: Barista Coffee, Mr. Brown Coffee, and IS Coffee. They all had similar round logos with an image in the middle. There was also a burger chain which was probably as popular or more popular than McDonald’s called MOS Burger, but I think they are out of Japan and I’ll probably write about them more when I’m there.
Frankly, there are a LOT of food options in Taipei and western fast food is really a tiny part of the mix. The vast majority of the restaurants and food stalls are Chinese (or Taiwanese. I can’t say I’m that well versed to know the subtle differences).
I’ll be posting the story of my National Day adventure in Taipei soon, which will have more details on my local food adventures.
…I didn’t come all this way just to eat at McDonald’s :)