Home Away From Home: Boston

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that since coming to college, I have been eating McDonald’s almost religiously. Like every college kid, I always find myself short on time; not enough time to sleep, not enough time to study, and definitely not enough time to cook myself a decent meal. So what’s fast and convenient? The answer is always McDonald’s.

Although I’ve been to the McDonald’s near my campus countless amount of times, I never get sick of their menu. Just like the other McDonald’s around the world, the one here in Boston has unique items distinct to this city. Famous for the sensational seafood, of course they would have Lobster Roll. When I first tried it, not going to lie, I was a little skeptical (not quite sure how I feel about getting seafood from a fast-food joint). To my surprise, it was actually really good. Overflowing with lobster, you actually get quite the bang for your buck at $8.99. With the perfect ratio of a lot of lobster and a hint of mayo, the roll actually tastes quite authentic. Every bite oozing with small chunks of lobster, it is definitely worth a try.

Another one of my favorite items on this menu is the Pico Guacamole Burger. Although not really Bostonian at all, it’s unique to only Boston McDonald’s. Layered with fresh Pico de Gallo made of diced tomatoes and guacamole, the burger really encapsulates the hype for avocados. Topped with unversally-loved ranch sauce and fresh cheddar cheese, this burger explodes with flavor inside your mouth. Call me basic, but I love avocados, and this burger is by far my favorite choice.

A twist on the original apple pie, McDonald’s here also has a Strawberry Creme Pie. Contrary to what you might assume, this pie is actually half fresh strawberries and half whipped cream. With the separation, the sweetness of the strawberry and the frothiness of the whipped cream mixes in your mouth, creating an interesting sensation on your tastebuds. Not quite sure if I loved it in particular, but for those who like strawberry cheesecake, trust me when I tell you it tastes almost just like that. A very interesting experience!

Do I love McDonald’s? Yes. Do I hope to eat less of it? Also yes. Nevertheless, I love visiting different McDonald’s and trying out different unique items, and I’ll make it my goal to visit McDonald’s all around the world to accomplish that. McDonald’s bucket list, here I come!

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Angus Australia

Never had I eaten so much meat than when I went to Australia. Proud of their cuisine Australians love their meat – from BBQ style to a simply grilled patty, Australian’s master the art of cooking meat like no other. Without a doubt, McDonald’s is also no exception.

Similar to Canadian McDonald’s Angus burgers (that I talked about in my previous post), Australia McDonald’s also have a variety of thick beefy Angus burgers. Having tried burgers from all around the world – from different restaurants, burger joints, and other fast food chains – I can confidently say that the “Gourmet Angus Truffle & Cheese” burger  is definitely one of my favorites. With the juicy covered in BBQ sauce and topped with caramelized onion, bacon, spinach leaves, shaved parmesan, and truffle oil, the burger is purely an explosion of flavors and joy in your mouth. Taking a slightly more fancy route, McDonald’s incorporate truffle aioli; really stepping up their burgers and bringing it to the next level.

Following down the same road, Australian McDonald’s also offer a unique “Truffle Mayo & Parmesan Loaded Fries.” Just like its name, it is literally the McDonald’s classic golden fries drowned in Truffle Mayo and Parmesan. As you can imagine, I couldn’t really go back to normal fries after trying these flavorful fries. With the slight fungi-ish tangy taste  of the truffle, and the creamy taste of mayo, it is the perfect combination with the crunch of fries. Topped with cheese, it was just the perfect side to pair with the burger!

Of course, no meal is complete without a nice dessert. A twist from the original apple pie, Australian McDonald’s has a salted caramel pie. Just like the apple pie, it also has a crispy pastry crust, but instead, it oozes out salted caramel. Even as someone with intense sweet tooth, this was a bit too much for me, but i enjoyed it nevertheless. The little bit of sea salt mixed in the caramel definitely helped balance out the overwhelming sweetness, and the smooth caramel was the perfect contradiction to the crunchy pastry.

From the gourmet burger to the fries and dessert, Australia showed me a new side of McDonald’s. For a second I almost forgot McDonald’s was a fast food joint, and it felt like a real meal straight out of a good restaurant. What an impressive branch, definitely worth a try (trust me!)

Desserts Galore: Italy

As a famous burger and nuggets fast food joint, people often forget the great dessert McDonald’s offer. From soft-serve and sundaes to triple thick milkshakes, McDonald’s actually have some classic desserts that is quite universally loved – and no one does it better than the sweet sweet country of Italy.

When I visited Italy, I immediately fell in love with the beautiful country and cuisine. Indulging in every meal, I surrounded myself with a variety of pasta and seafood; but nothing was as exciting as scanning the dessert menu at the end of every dinner. As a girl with a massive sweet tooth, Italy was basically heaven on earth. With a never-ending choice of cakes and gelato, I was never disappointed and always satisfied. Not only is this limited to restaurants and dessert parlors, but Italian McDonald’s also delve deep into their dessert menu.

One of the most popular and hot items on the Italian McDonald’s dessert menu is their “Sweety” Nutella Burger. Sounds weird doesn’t it? It’s actually a bun shaped in a burger filled with Nutella. Yeah, you heard that right, filled with Nutella. Not only is Nutella an obsession here in America, but also huge in Italy. This “burger” is the ultimate dessert for other sweet-lovers like me, with Nutella oozing out of the burger every bite.

Italy McDonald’s also has a a variety of the classic McDonald’s dessert – McFlurry. In other countries, we have the usual Oreo and M&M toppings (with the exception of Japan’s amazing Matcha McFlurry – check out my post about it). Yet in Italy, they have KitKat, Cornetto, Chocomix, and Chocolate fudge. With the wide range of toppings, they put a different twist on the traditional McFlurry, giving us consumers a choice on what we already love. Furthermore, Italians also take pride in their amazing gelato, and the quality and emphasis was not lost in McDonald’s. When I tried their KitKat McFlurry, the contrast between the creamy gelato mixed with the crunchy KitKat was the perfect combination, filled with extreme sweetness and chocolate-y flavors for all the sweet addicts.

Similar to the regular sundaes McDonald’s provide, McDonald’s in Italy also have a “Sweet Temptation” sundaes. With the choice of classic chocolate and strawberry frutti tutti, these sundaes include a layer of whipped cream on top, a layer of jam and chocolate, a layer of crunchy nuts and cereal, on top of a filled cup of vanilla gelato. With a combination of every layer with every bite, the sundae is the best dessert to enjoy on a hot summer day.

Building upon the classic McDonald’s dessert menu, Italian McDonald’s focuses a lot on their dessert choices, as Italians love their sweets. From their famous gelato and their iconic Nutella, McDonald’s embraces the importance of desserts, and creates an extensive dessert menu we can all enjoy.

Right Across the Border – Canada

Growing up in Asia, road trips were not a big activity; so when I came to the States for college, I was excited to experience my first journey on the road. During my freshmen year, a few friends and I decided to drive up to Montreal for a weekend. Needless to say, I was beyond psyched to go on the road. After almost 5 hours of a long drive, we finally made it to Montreal, and of course, our first pitstop was to a McDonald’s by the gas station. To my expectations, the McDonald’s in Canada is fairly similar to the McDonald’s we have here in America, Your usual Big Mac burgers, Fillet-o-Fish, chicken burger, etc. However, in addition to the regulars, they have massive angus burger.

With three styles – original, bacon and cheddar, and smokehouse BBQ – the angus burgers are some of the most popular items on the menu. After trying the Mighty Original Angus burger, I was shocked and impressed with how good the burger was. Not that I think regular McDonald’s burgers are bad, but this was a whole new level. Unlike some other flat burger patties, the angus burger had thick juicy meaty patties that exploded with flavor in your mouth. Topped with bacon, caramelized onions, and fresh tomatoes, the burger is sandwiched between two sesame-poppyseed buns, and has the perfect balance between the fresh crunch of lettuce and the soft juiciness of the patty and the buns.

After I finished the burger, I was full – and I mean really full. The burger was massive (as you can imagine), and I was satisfied. Just as we were about to finish, a friend suggested that we get Poutine. Although I was mad full, I decided to try it anyways, and asked where we should go. Turns out, they had poutine at McDonald’s in Canada. Never having tried Poutine, I had my first experience in McDonald’s! Might be a little unfair for me to judge how it was, considering I’ve never had other Poutine, but the one at McDonald’s was pretty darn good! McDonald’s fries were always good in my opinion, and they lead by far compared to other fast food joints. To make it better, topped with cheese and gravy, the Poutine was amazing. With a contrast between the smooth gravy and the crunch of the fries, the Poutine was just the right amount of flavorful.

Although the menus weren’t too different, there were still special items unique to Canadian McDonald’s. Not only was the burger impressively professional, the Poutine was honestly such an upgrade from regular fries. If only they had Poutine here in America…

India: Vibrant & Exotic

Of all the places I’ve ever visited, India is probably one of the most culturally stimulating and dynamic countries. With such a strong emphasis on connection with their traditions and customs, it was impossible not to fall in love with the gorgeous place. Despite all the sightseeing attractions and the beautiful nature sceneries, nothing came close to the exotic flavors of Indian cuisine. Never been a fan of spicy food, but I was so intrigued by all the different type of Indian curries. From green to yellow to red, they all have their distinct taste and tanginess to them, portraying different flavorful herbs and spices. Of course, although surrounded by all the amazing restaurants and street food, I still had to try McDonald’s – I just had to! (My parents thought I was ridiculous and borderline uncultured, asking for McDonald’s when I had so many other choices)

Just like the other McDonald’s around the world that have incorporated traditional cuisines into their menu (like the porridge they offer in Malaysia), the India McDonald’s is no exception. Embracing the popular vegetarianism in India, McDonald’s there have a large variety of vegetable burgers. One of the most popular burgers is the “McAloo Tikki” burger, which is a mashed potatoes and peas patty coated with breadcrumbs, served with sweet tomato mayo. I’ve always been more of a meat lover, so this burger was quite the new experience for me. Can’t say it was my favorite, but the burger sure had a unique texture to it. I prefer my burgers with a certain chewiness, yet this one was more mushy and soft. Despite the texture, the tomato mayo was definitely the highlight of the burger – and it provided a sweet-ish sour taste, making it very appetizing.

After an unconventional vegetarian burger, I moved on to the next one. One of my favorite things on the menu was actually their Masala Grill Chicken burger. Stuffed with Indian herbs and spices, the chicken patty is grilled to tenderness and then doused in a smokey chili sauce. Topped with crunchy onions, this burger really embodied a crossover between an American-style burger with the traditional dish of Masala Chicken. Despite being just a fast-food chain, McDonald’s actually did a great job making the taste as authentic as possible, and the juiciness of the chicken paired with the herbs and spices was the perfect combination for an Indian twist on a regular burger.

One thing I found really interesting but didn’t get to try was the Vegetable Pizza McPuff. Although I didn’t order it, I saw other people devour it in ridiculous speed. Similar to our traditional Apple Pie, it is a rectangular puff stuffed with tomato sauce and beans, carrots, peppers, onion, and mozzarella cheese. To accommodate the more popular vegetarian choices, there is also no meat in this puff. With the sweet tomato sauce mixed with a variety of chopped vegetables, I can only imagine all the flavors that would burst in your mouth.

Contrary to regular McDonald’s menu that focus mostly on meat and burgers, the McDonald’s in India are actually more vegetarian (due to the culture), and it was a very interesting experience for me. Although the potato and pea patty were no my favorite, I really enjoyed trying something new; but as of now, I think I’ll go enjoy some real Indian food instead.

Malaysia – Truly Asia

I will never forget my trip to Malaysia. I was 12 years old and super excited to go sightsee and tour around the beautiful city of Kuala Lumpur. Too excited to sleep all night, I stayed up all night the day before my flight, and was hit by fatigue and fever as soon as I boarded the plane. For the next couple of days there, I was bedridden and stuck in the confined spaces of my hotel room. In an unfamiliar country, I didn’t know where to go to find a simple porridge, so naturally, I turned to Google for help. To my surprise, when I searched congee and porridge on Google, the first search results that popped up around my location was McDonald’s. Being an absolute loyal McDonald’s enthusiast, I had to go see what this was about. Weak but determined, I dragged myself out of bed and went to McDonald’s.

As I stood in front of the extensive menu, I was shocked by all the unique items they had on the menu. Early in the morning, their breakfast menu included everything from a full platter with hashbrowns, beans, sausages, eggs, and pancakes, to a very asian-style simple bowl of congee with a side of fried dough-sticks. Having a weak appetite, I ordered a plain congee, and to my surprise, it really did soothe my throat. Understanding that a lot of Asian’s eat rice/porridge for breakfast, McDonald’s incorporation of “Bubur Ayam” porridge item into the menu was a powerful choice, as it is by far one of the most popular breakfast choices.

Malaysia is a very religious country, with the two dominating religion being Islam and Hinduism, therefore a lot of restaurants avoid beef and pork. That being said, one of the most popular protein is chicken. Capitalizing on that, McDonald’s has chicken everything – including one of their unique Chicken Curry pies. It looks similar to the regular Apple Pie, but instead of a crunchy outer crust, it has a flakey pastry crust, similar to a curry puff. The puff pastry crust contrasts to the curry chicken inside, creating a perfect balance between sweet and spice. This pie also embodies a very southeast-asian style, and is a spinoff to a very local dish known as Karipap. They also have a chicken foldover, which is basically chicken patties with lettuce, tomato, sauce (your regular burger ingredients), folded into a flatbread. I absolutely loved this, as I am actually not a huge fan of burger buns – so this was perfect; it had the contents of a burger, wrapped in a  nice pita flatbread.

However, my favorite thing on the Malaysian McDonald’s menu was actually their range of desserts. From banana pie and sundae to frozen coke and fanta float, they have a very wide array of choices for me to satisfy my sweet tooth! One of the best desserts they offer is Cendol soft-serve. For those of you who don’t know what Cendol is, it is a green dessert made of coconut milk, pandan leaves juice, and palm sugar. Traditionally, it is in a jelly form, usually with a slippery and rather slimy texture. With the sweetness of the coconut milk and the fresh tangy taste of the pandan leaves, Cendol is definitely a popular and hit dessert in the hotter countries around the Southeast-Asia region. This unique flavor of Cendol makes it the perfect soft-serve, and the sweetness of the flavor fits perfectly with the cool smooth texture of ice cream. When I first tried it, I got a mixed swirl of Cendol and vanilla soft-serve, and I immediately fell in love. The tangy taste of cendol mixed with the smooth mild sweetness from the vanilla made it the perfect dessert for a hot summer day.

Although I was sick and had to lay back from the street food, I still got a taste of some of Malaysia’s most popular and traditional flavors. By incorporating food like curry and cendol, McDonald’s really tailored to the palette of the locals, reminding us once again why they are so loved everywhere around the world.

 

 

A Floral Paradise: Japan

Of all the places I have travelled, Japan is one of the most modern yet culturally enriched countries. From the bustling city of Tokyo to a more laid-back Hokkaido, Japan has the perfect balance between advanced modernity and long-established traditions. While I enjoyed everything from walking around the Ginza shopping district (which was amazing; if any of you ever go to Tokyo, definitely check it out) to visiting the massive Tokyo Disneyland, nothing made me fall in love with Japan more than their food and cuisine. As a major seafood lover, Japan was my paradise; from their fresh salmon and uni to their seared tuna and mackerel, every meal was a pleasure experience. This was no exception for McDonald’s – with such an extensive menu and unique Japanese items, I was not disappointed at all.

Anyone who has been to Japan would know that the locals love their fish and fresh seafood. Indulging in that idea, McDonald’s in Japan offer an EBI Fillet-O burger. Similar to the regular Fillet-O-Fish, the EBI Fillet-O is actually a whole shrimp burger fried in a breaded crust, put in a Big Mac roll. Topped with some spicy sauce, the shrimp burger is one of my favorite things on the menu. McDonald’s use of a shrimp patty instead of the typical beef or chicken creates a nice mix and blend between Western and Eastern flavors, and really tailors to the local’s love for seafood over other proteins. With the crunch of the breaded crust and the juicy shrimp patty, the shrimp fillet burger really puts a tang to the regular Big Macs.

Just like a lot of other tourists, I visited Japan mainly to see the Cherry Blossoms during the Sakura season around April. Beautifully covered in a pink hue, the country really comes to full bloom during the Sakura season. Embracing this, McDonald’s offers a seasonal “Cherry Blossom Burger” during the annual period when the Sakura flowers are at full bloom. The burger consists of a pink bun (to parallel the pinkness of the blossoms), and is filled with an egg, a teriyaki patty, and a spread of pink mayo and Japanese radish “Sakura sauce.” Not only does this burger encapsulate one of the most traditional and famous Japanese teriyaki style, it also has a very appetizing sour radish sauce, contrasting against the strong flavors of the meaty teriyaki. The pink bun also makes it all the worthwhile for the Instagram post!

To pair the burger, Japan McDonald’s also have a Sakura Float – perfect for the summer weather. With a nice fizz and the rose-like fragrance, this drink is refreshing and aesthetically pleasing with the pink hue. Unlike other drinks and desserts at McDonald’s that lean towards the sweeter end of the spectrum, this drink has a perfect balance of a mild sweetness of the Sakura, topped with a swirl of vanilla floating on the soda. A twist on the usual coke float or root beer float, this Sakura float is definitely a more unique take, and it tailors to the more sensitive and intricate tastebuds.

Apart from the seafood and the beautiful Sakura seasons, Japan is known for its amazing selection on tea – especially matcha. Recently getting an excessive amount of hype and recognition, people around the world have fallen in love with this sweet green tea flavor.  Whether its matcha dessert in the form of matcha chocolate or ice cream, matcha is seen everywhere, and has slowly become a staple for the Japanese culture. Taking advantage of this, McDonald’s introduced a Matcha Red bean McFlurry (which, needless to say, generated extreme hype and excitement). In my opinion, I thought this was one of the best desserts I’ve had – not just from McDonald’s, but desserts in general. I’ve always been a sucker for McFlurry, so when I saw matcha McFlurry, I couldn’t wait to try it. With the matcha powder mixed in completely with the vanilla ice cream, the matcha flavor explodes in your mouth, and is quite the sensational experience I can’t explain. The creaminess of the ice cream is then topped with red beans, which creates a contrasting chewy texture. The red bean is also traditionally the perfect pairing with matcha, making this dessert all the more authentic.

Having been to so many McDonald’s around the world, I can confidently say that the one in Japan is by far one of my favorite ones. From the burgers to the desserts, McDonald’s really dove into the culture and traditional flavors to add a unique spin on their food. By embracing the local love for seafood and the beautiful Sakura distinct to their nation, McDonald’s creates food that are one-of-a-kind; something you won’t be able to find anywhere else outside the country.