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June 02, 2006

マクドナルド

Let it not be said that we don't cover both ends of the culinary spectrum (not to mention whatever we can cram in between) here at Skillet Doux. The title of this post, for those who don't read Japanese or have the Asian language fontset installed in their browsers, is roughly pronounced "mah-ku-doh-nah-ru-doh", with a very slight emphasis on the first and fourth syllables. It is the Japanese name for McDonald's, as the Japanese language isn't terribly well-suited to properly pronouncing international burger empires inexplicably named after Irishmen. In any case, today's post is devoted to a few of the myriad items found exclusively on overseas McDonald's menus. Admittedly, it's a strange obsession. Dining overseas is an opportunity I clearly don't want to waste eating American fast food, but if it's snacktime and there's some funky local variant on American junkfood... well... all bets are off.

Dominic Armato
Today's tour actually starts in Hong Kong, with the Beef Fan-tastic. This past Sunday, we researched and tried out a dim sum place that was long on flavor and short on service. An hour after ordering, we still hadn't received 2/3rds of our food, and with tickets for a film downstairs, we had to abandon the remainder of the meal. This left me with seven minutes and an empty stomach, so I fell into the McDonald's next door to the theater to give the Fan-tastic a try. It's a bad pun. Fan is the Chinese word for rice, and the Fan-tastic's hook is that it has rice patties in place of a bun. From the photos plastered all over the restaurant, the rice patties appeared to be fried or somehow crisped. It came in chicken and beef versions, and I went with the beef. The Fan-tastic left something to be desired. The sandwich filling was mediocre, as junkfood goes. The beef was thinly sliced, seasoned with some kind of light soy sauce, and accompanied by caramelized onions, lettuce and a symbolic bit of cabbage. The rice "bun", on the other hand, was awful. It wasn't crisped at all, but instead was mushy and greasy... really, really greasy. Not enjoyable.

Dominic Armato
The McDonald's in Narita Airport on our return connection, however, yielded a pair of tasty treats. This shouldn't come as a surprise, as the Japanese do junkfood well. The first is the Teriyaki McBurger, which is actually an old favorite. It's exactly what you'd expect, given the name: a McDonald's hamburger on a sesame bun with some iceberg lettuce. The patty, however, is cooked in a sweet soy-based sauce. Or, more accurately, it tastes like a sweet soy-based sauce. There isn't much sauce evident, so the patty itself may be seasoned. But in any case, what takes it from tasty to junkfood bliss is the fact that McD's Japan has unlocked one of the immutable yet little known laws of the universe. Teriyaki sauce + mayonnaise = awesome. I don't know that the combination would work so well with American mayonnaise, but with Japanese mayonnaise, which tends to be less creamy and more tangy, it's great.

Dominic Armato
Our final item is something I've encountered in Japan before, but in a slightly different context. A number of years ago, we took in a baseball game at the Tokyodome. Looking to try some Japanese ballpark food, we encountered what we thought was a pork katsu sandwich. However, upon first bite, we were thrilled to discover that the panko-breaded deep-fried patty was actually composed of shrimp. Enter the Ebi Fillet, McDonald's version of the shrimpburger. It's very similar to our ballpark experience, but a little lighter, crisper and less greasy. The patty itself is comprised of a shrimp paste, vaguely reminiscent of Vietnamese chao tom, with sizeable shrimp chunks. The patty is coated with a fine panko and fried crisp, resulting in a nice crust and a moist and juicy shrimpy center. It's served on the traditional McD's sesame bun, with lettuce and an institutional version of remoulade, made with the aforementioned Japanese mayonnaise. It's a big winner, and has officially been added to my list of dishes I'd like to reverse-engineer. I eagerly anticipate the day when the shrimpburger makes its U.S. debut. If it doesn't happen soon, I'll have to figure out how to make it happen myself.

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