Spanish fried pork scallops with a fat onion and Cabrales cheese sauce. Freshly ground pesto, with oily basil still sticking to the mortar and pestle. Light and crunchy chocolate covered churros. Straight-up, real sushi.
These are the kinds of drool-worthy dishes most of us are after on a trip abroad—not a dollar menu item from a McDonald’s. But as the McEmpire continues to expand with over 32,000 stores in 117 countries, the fast-food giant has learned to accommodate their global clientele. By taking into account the local flavors and cultural considerations, there are some downright innovative creations to be found under the global golden arches—from the McMollete in Mexico to the McFalafel in Israel. Here’s just a few examples of the sometimes bizarre and often intriguing options you can get at McDonald’s while you’re traveling—if you’re able to pull yourself away from the actual cafés, bistros, and street food markets, that is.
1. Green Tea McFlurry
Found throughout Tokyo, Japan & Seoul, South Korea
If you didn’t already know, adding Japanese matcha—a fine powdery green tea blend—to vanilla ice cream is mind-blowingly delicious. It’s the secret ingredient to making green tea ice cream, a subtly bittersweet favorite in Asia that’s slowly making its way into U.S. freezers. But it’s so big in Japan that they’ve integrated it straight into the soft-serve McFlurry—and they didn’t forget the Oreo bits. Green tea is basically like the ranch dressing of Japan—it belongs everywhere. They’ve found a place for it in their Coca-Cola, and even used it to come up with the best Kit Kat bar I have ever eaten in my entire life.
Found throughout Paris, France. Try the one on 140 avenue des Champs-Elysées in the 8th arrondissement
Looking to indulge in those famously adorable French confections while on a limited budget? Have no fear: the McRoon is here. While it’s technically located in a McCafé—Ronald’s slightly older and more sophisticated brother—this fast-food approach to France’s quintessential cookie gets an A for effort, but pales in comparison to the real thing. The fact of the matter is this: it takes whipped egg whites to make a macaroon a macaroon, and eggs have a notoriously poor shelf life. (McDonald’s seems to generally value really long shelf lives.) Still, the novelty alone is worth the handful of euros it costs.
3. Big Spicy Paneer Wrap
Found throughout India
You’ll find plenty of McDonald’s in India, but you won’t find any beef or pork. Every restaurant is 100% certified halal, making the menu an almost unrecognizable smorgasbord of chicken/fish variants and vegetarian options. The McVeggie resembles something you might find in a Whole Foods, consisting of a patty of peas, carrots and potatoes, and the standard Big Spicy Paneer Wrap with deep-fried paneer cheese actually looks better than any special-menu item you’d find under any U.S. arches.
4. Mashed Potato Burger
Found in most major Chinese cities
Are you tired of wasting time going from one side of your plate to the other? Well worry not, because now you can have your meat and potatoes (and bacon, and secret sauce) in one precise calorie-delivering vehicle: The Mashed Potato Burger.
China has been making McDonald’s their own since 1990, adding rice dishes, a Chinese New Year meal (with zodiac placemats) and even a delivery system. This particular burger was part of their “Manly Man” campaign, which was aimed at “young urban meat lovers.” The commercial says it all.
5. McLakse Wrap
Found throughout Norway and Finland
Before I even start about there being salmon in a McDonald’s, know this—the McLakse is the result of a 20-year-old salmon-based McCreation in Norway. Now that it has been established that the Norse cannot and will not be separated from their delicious diet of fish, this particular wrap is kind of brilliant. The fish comes from Hitra, the fish farm where Norway gets most of its fish. On top of not having to guess where the fish comes from, the deep-fried salmon sticks come with a refreshing slice of mango and your choice of honey or wasabi for a clean, lean wrap machine.
Have you been to a McDonald’s while abroad that served something you’ve never seen before? Comment below about your own McTravels—we’d love to hear them!