As somebody who doesn’t enjoy meat and reads labels to know what is exactly into each of the things I buy, the fact that I don’t do McDonalds should not come as a surprise. However, there is something I appreciate of this company, and is the localisation of its food offer for each of the 117 countries it works in. In order to succeed, McDonalds understood it has to give people what they want: fast, appetising food that feels familiar, too. And as I have already discussed here, “familiar” takes on a different meaning in each country.
The symbol of this fast food is the Big Mac, but how do you go and serve a hamburger in a country where cows are considered sacred? McDonalds India has a range of chicken, fish and paneer (typical Indian cheese) dishes but no beef burgers or bacon. to respect the Hindu and Muslim population that cannot eat these kinds of meat. The range appears also to be quite spiced, as Indian food is generally bursting with flavours and a simple breaded chicken might taste too plain to local customers.
No bacon in the Arabian countries, either, for the same religious reasons; however, there is local version of a chicken sandwich where Arabic bread is used. Pork meat is also banned is Israel, where you can find the usual Mc Donald restaurant and also its Kosher version, where meat is certified and cheeseburger are not served, in compliance with the Jewish prescription of not mixing meat with dairy. The kashrut restaurants can be recognised because the Mc Donald’s M- the so called “golden arches”- is not golden but white and blue, as the flag of Israel.
In the Philippines, more unconventional fast food items are sold, such as fried chicken drumstick with a side of spaghetti in meat sauce- I did not know that spaghetti were big in that part of the word, too! Apparently, the local version of this pasta dish tends to be quite sweet as the sauce is seasoned with sugar and even condensed milk, according to some recipes found over the Internet. Philipino McDonalds also serve chicken with rice and sauce- quite unusual for the Western concept of fast food.
Japan is famous all over the world for the Kobe beef and its healthy cuisine, but they gave in to McDonalds, too- in the land of the rising sun ou can find teriyaki burgers, shrimp patties and wasabi dressings. This article offers a thorough overview of the local items sold (now or in the past) in Mc Donalds Japan- it was quite an entertaining reading to me!
Last but not least, Italy… every year, in my country new “limited” editions or gourmet sandwiches are introduced to appeal to the foodie population, but I do not think they work that well. People going to McDonalds in Italy want to get a cheap, reassuring meal that has a touch of “exotic”- burgers are not Italian, after all- but that is safe in its taste. McDonalds is not for culinary adventurers, I would say. In Italy they are currently selling a range of new sandwiches with sausage and different condiments- a food you would find in a fair, nothing fancy but comforting nonetheless; to me, this option is more in line with the fast food spirit that McDonalds want to convey. The food they sell is quick, cheap and fulfilling, it does not have to be surprising or nourishing or fancy in any way and its biggest appeal it’s in the simplicity.
Here you can find more curious facts about the cultural adaptation of McDonalds to the different markets; in the meantime, share your insights with me, I’d love to hear them!