FAST FOOD AROUND THE WORLD
Just because some of the world's biggest fast food chains originated in the United States doesn't mean they were perfected here. Often the restaurant chains that seem so predictable here, like McDonald's and KFC, diversify their offerings at international locations to suit local tastes, especially now that fast food's domestic popularity has declined. Here are 50 of the most unique fast food menu items you'll only find in select countries abroad.
CROWN CRUST PIZZA
In many cases, American fast food chains located abroad misrepresent and repackage American cuisine with novelty menu items the same as we do with, say, fortune cookies and Chow Mein for Chinese food. Meanwhile, Pizza Hut locations in Middle Eastern nations like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) offer an American smorgasbord with the Crown Crust Pizza. The crust consists of several rings, each one containing miniature versions of meaty mains like cheeseburgers, hot dogs, chicken fillets, and meatballs. These pairings probably seem less bizarre to locals for whom it all falls under the umbrella of American food.
KURO NINJA BURGER
Burger King celebrated its five-year anniversary in the Japanese market with the release of the eye-catching Kuro burger, its bun colored stark black with bamboo charcoal. Only a year later, they unveiled the Kuro Ninja burger, featuring an enormous bacon "tongue" protruding from either side of the bun. Two of Burger King's other Japan-specific offerings are the Garlic Meat Beast burger and the BK Ringo, topped with cinnamon-spiced grilled apples and cinnamon mayo.
BLACK AND WHITE BURGERS
Not to be outdone by Burger King, McDonald's locations in Hong Kong cooked up their own black-bunned burger, this one colored with squid ink and topped with white sesame. They also offered a white-bunned chicken sandwich topped with bacon and peppercorn mushroom sauce. The monochrome burgers reportedly look much better than they taste.
CHILI CHEESE NUGGETS
Select Burger Kings throughout Europe, including in the U.K. and as far south as the island of Cyprus, offer these fried nuggets filled with hot, chili-spiced cheese. It's unclear why Burger King hasn't yet introduced these melty jalapeno popper-esque sides to their American menus.
One distinctive McDonald's offering in Germany is a platter of currywurst, a street food dish of steamed and grilled sausage served with curry-spiced ketchup. The German sausage specialties don't end there, however; there's also the pun-tastic Nürnburger, featuring little more than three pork sausage links on a bun.
HOT DOG STUFFED-CRUST PIZZA
Starting in 2012, international Pizza Hut locations in the U.K., Canada, Australia, and South Korea began offering another stuffed-crust pizza, this time with hot dogs baked into the dough. This excessive crossover of two American fast food staples appeared in U.S. stores briefly in 2015, with a different shape accommodating many miniature weenies and regular or salted pretzel crust options.
RED BEAN BAGEL BALL
Dunkin' seriously diversifies their menus to suit local tastes in many countries. In South Korea, they boast donut hole-like bagel balls filled with your choice of red bean, green tea, red velvet, or tomato-flavored paste. They also have red bean or kimchi-filled doughnuts and "glutinous rice sticks," and, on the savory side, a jalapeno and bulgogi beef-stuffed "hot bread."
The Dutch-originated McKroket sandwich features a deep-fried patty of mixed ground beef and cheese topped with a mustard sauce. McDonald's locations in the nation are also more accommodating to dietary restrictions, offering gluten-free burgers and vegetarian fried "chicken" sandwiches.
For dessert, Netherlanders can try McFlurries flavored like strawberry cheesecake or stroopwafels, a crisp cookie originating from the city of Gouda made with two wafers and a thin layer of caramel in between. This international offering was only briefly made available in the Miami-Dade area of Florida during a promotion late last year.
Patbingsu is a popular, South Korean shaved ice dessert that comes topped with fresh fruit, syrups, and sweet creams. Naturally, the nation's KFCs developed their own blueberry-and-red-bean version to sell, at least when the weather's warm enough. Locations have also come up with some unusual savory concoctions to compete with traditional Korean fried chicken restaurants, including squid ink-flavored fried mozzarella balls and the Zinger Double Down King, consisting of bacon, barbecue sauce, and beef patty served between two breaded chicken fillets.
X-TRA LONG CHILI CHEESEBURGER
Burger King locations in Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands offer this sub-sized sandwich consisting of three beef patties topped with chili sauce, jalapeno, and melted cheddar. An alternate version comes with barbecue sauce and onion rings and, unlike some of the other items on this list, this sandwich seems palatable (if fatty) enough that one wonders why it isn't a staple at American Burger Kings, too.
DOUBLE DOWN DOG
KFC has also been forced to get creative with its fatty fried menu options in the Philippines, where the American-influenced chain Jollibee presents stiff competition. Filipino KFCs promoted the Double Down Dog — a cheese-filled hot dog in a fried chicken fillet "bun" — in 2015, the same year they also introduced the Chizza, which uses a chicken fillet as pizza crust.
TRUFFLE MAYO & PARMESAN LOADED FRIES
In Australia, McDonald's — or Macca's in the local parlance — gets fancy with its fry options. In addition to the truffle-infused variety, they also have loaded fries topped with guacamole and salsa, bacon and cheese sauce, or sweet chili and sour cream. They've also launched a line of "Gourmet Creations" burgers that come slathered with truffle mayo.
STUFFED PAN PIZZA AND FRIED KIT KAT POPS
For Filipino diners, Pizza Hut offers a souped-up pizza crust made from empanada-like pockets of barbecue chicken and cream cheese that wind up occupying half the pie's surface area. Locations also offer a specialty pizza topped with whole mozzarella sticks and, for dessert, fried Kit Kat pops with creamy dipping sauce.
HAM CROQUETTES AND GAZPACHO
Thanks to Spain's enduring love of pork, McDonald's locations in the Mediterranean country carry tapas-like croquettes filled with ham bits in cheese sauce. Another staple side dish for the fast food brand in Spain is gazpacho, an Andalusian tomato and vegetable soup served cold.
KFC has the most established market presence in South Africa, but they also cater to other African nations with offerings like spicy jollof rice, a staple one-pot West African dish available as a side at their Nigerian locations. KFCs here and in other nations where spicy foods are the norm also generally place more emphasis on their hot and spicy fried chicken recipes.
MASHED POTATO BURGER
In 2012, McDonald's locations in China unveiled the Mashed Potato Burger. Topped with bacon and mashed potatoes, advertising for the burger targeted the "manly man." And on Chinese breakfast menus, you may find a twisty pasta dish in broth and veggies, topped with your choice of boneless chicken or sausage and egg.
Japanese Burger Kings offered this seasonal burger featuring slices of fried kabocha squash – often referred to as Japanese pumpkin for a limited time back in autumn of 2012. Menu items you can find any time of year at the chain's Japanese restaurants include fried cheese bites, a hash brown-topped Whopper, and hot dogs.
Starting in 2014, Pizza Huts in India began selling this pizza-flavored version of the rich dish biryani, which comes topped with a seasoned crust and a side of masala gravy. When it comes to their actual pizzas, some toppings you'll only find in India include soy protein chunks, paneer cheese, baby corn, and Lebanese-spiced chicken.
If you're eating breakfast at a McDonald's south of the border, you might try the McMollete: three open-faced sandwiches topped with refried beans, cheese, and pico de gallo salsa. Their version of the traditional mollete substitutes English muffin for crusty bolillos and processed American cheese for Monterey Jack.
CHEESE TOP BURGER
This menu item is worth noting if only for how inexplicable it seems to foreigners unfamiliar with Filipino cuisine. It's a chicken sandwich with a slice of American cheese draped inconveniently over the top bun rather than inside, bearing some similarity to ensaymadas — pastries topped with shredded cheese. Other Filipino KFC offerings include Kung Pao chicken bowls, sweet sauced spaghetti, and the "Maki Twister" chicken wrap made with Japanese mayo, mango, and cucumber.
At McDonald's locations in New Zealand, the Kiwiburger is the chain's take on a typical New Zealand hamburger, which comes topped with fried egg and red beetroot slices. Because the latter ingredient isn't used in any other McDonald's products, the sandwich has been subject to intermittent discontinuations. Kiwi customers can then default to other distinct menu items like the Spicy Nashville Chicken Burger or the NYC Benedict Bagel sandwich.
Kebabs are a major street food throughout Europe, so Domino's locations in certain countries capitalize on their popularity by putting the components on a pizza. Supplementing the standard fixings of tomato sauce and mozzarella are red onion, chicken kebab, and a drizzle of creamy garlic sauce.
DRAGON TWISTER, 'SUSHIRITTOS' & SWEET EGG ROLLS
KFC got the jump on competitors when it opened its first Chinese branch in 1987. They remain the nation's biggest fast food chain by catering extensively to regional tastes and dining customs. Menu items unfamiliar to Westerners include sweet egg tarts, seaweed rice bowls, congee rice porridge, and "sushirittos." There's also the Dragon Twister, in which a thin, pancake-like exterior is filled with spring onions, sweet bean sauce, and a Peking Duck-style chicken filet.
Also called the McKebab in Israel or the McTurco in Turkey, this pita sandwich is one of McDonald's flagship offerings across the Middle East. It comes with either grilled chicken or beef and lamb meatballs called kofta. Other versions, offered for a limited time or only in certain regions, contain extras like halloumi cheese, eggplant, and sujuk sausage.
CHICKEN TIKKA SANDWICH
The English have an enduring love of Indian cuisine given their colonial history with the country — not to mention the U.K.'s sizeable population of Indian descent, in part a result of that history — which is why Subways in the United Kingdom offer this sandwich with tikka masala-spiced chicken breast. Other unique proteins on offer here include slices of Spanish chorizo and a veggie patty made with soy, carrots, corn, and red peppers.
VEG STRIP RICE BOWL
KFC menus in India will be a bit more recognizable to American diners, but with some new vegetarian options courting the approximately 40 percent of Indian households that don't eat meat. Both the Veg Zinger sandwich and veg rice bowl replace the chain's signature chicken with breaded, deep-fried patties derived from a mélange of vegetables like corn, carrots, peas, and potatoes.
As many in India are vegetarian or don't eat beef for religious reasons, Indian McDonald's locations lack almost all of their American menu staples and carry a multitude of meat-free main dishes instead. The McAloo and McVeggie sandwiches, for example, contain homemade veggie patties made from chickpeas and a blend of peas, carrots, potatoes, peppers, and spices, respectively, while the McSpicy Paneer is built around a spiced, breaded slab of the firm, yet mild Indian cheese and tandoori sauce.
McDonald's may have more international menu variations than any other fast food chain, but the one Americans may envy most is the presence of beer and wine at the majority of their restaurants in central and western Europe as well as South Korea. This is reportedly based on consumer demand, but one can also presume that because alcohol carries more social and legal stigma in the U.S., selling it might go against the kid-friendly image McDonald's tries to cultivate domestically.
VEG SHAMMI SANDWICH
Like McDonald's, Subway had to make their menu a little more veg-friendly to gain a foothold in the Indian market. In addition to chicken tandoori and kofta options, there's also this sandwich with lentil-based veggie patties. Other meat-free options include paneer tikka with marinated cheese cubes, hara bhara kebab with spinach-based patties, and even a Mexican-inspired veggie patty made with kidney beans and Latin seasonings.
When it comes to breakfast, only select McDonald's diners around the world have the option of a sweet pastry in addition to the standard savory muffin sandwiches. In Canada, that's the chocolate hazelnut croissant, while the Brazilian version comes with just chocolate.
DRY PORK AND SEAWEED DONUT
Dunkin' has had some trouble getting off the ground in China, but not for lack of effort. They broadened their palate and maximized online buzz with this "pork floss" and seaweed donut — not too far removed from all the bacon-infused desserts Americans enjoy — as well as other, less novel flavors like white chocolate, almond choco crunch, and death by chocolate.
SPINACH PARMESAN CROQUETTES
In addition to wine, Italian McDonald's locations sell these vegetarian-friendly fried nuggets, filled with spinach and herb-seasoned melted cheese. It's also one of many nations where McDonald's sells the McVeggie, which has a patty made of broccoli, carrots, corn, spinach, peas, and cheese.
WASABI CHEESE DONUT
Dried pork isn't the only counterintuitive-sounding flavor Dunkin' offers in the Asian market. They also offer doughnuts flavoredwith spicy wasabi and cheese in Singaporean locations and taro — a sweet purple root vegetable — in the Philippines. In Indonesia, you can get doughnuts with lychee and durian or, in the case of their "black cheese" donut, a combo of chocolate frosting and shredded parmesan.
Few of international McDonald's items are so singular yet tempting to American tastes as the chicken McCurry Pan, which consists of a rectangular bread bowl filled with chicken and vegetables in a tomato-curry sauce. Unfortunately, it is available only in India, along with the double decker Chicken Maharaja Mac, their Hindu-friendly version of the Big Mac.
BACON POTATO PIE
Instead of the apple pie pockets, McDonald's stores in Japan sell a similar dessert filled with gooey baked taro, bacon and potato, or s'mores fixings. Unsurprising for a nation that's largely unparalleled in bizarre culinary concoctions, Japnese McDonald's locations carry numerous singular main dishes too, like the Idaho burger with an onion-flaked bun, bacon, mustard seed sauce, and a potato patty; the Sakura Teritama burger with pork patty, over-easy egg, and a cherry blossom-infused bun, and a whole line of fried egg-topped tamago burgers.
FOIE GRAS BURGER
Wendy's tries to depict itself as more sophisticated than similar burger chains. This corporate self-image reached new heights when Wendy's relaunched in Japan with a duck liver pate-infused burger on their menu. Costing the equivalent of $16, the steeply-priced sandwich was joined by others featuring avocado and wasabi or porcini mushrooms and grilled chicken.
CRAB CROQUETTE BURGER
One of McDonald's Japan's more limited menu items is this sandwich with a patty made from snow crab and mushrooms — both popular ingredients in Japan — and served on ciabatta bread. Unfortunately, the croquette burger is reportedly more tasteless and goopy than its gourmet-sounding pedigree might suggest.
CHEESE KATSU BURGER
One of the tastier-sounding items unique to McDonald's Japan, the cheese katsu burger features a deep-fried pork cutlet patty filled with melted cheese. This tasty-sounding but limited availability menu item is so popular that an occasional re-release is enough to generate international headlines akin to the McRib in the U.S.
BARBECUE RIB SANDWICH
This McRib-like sandwich is another menu item that seems perfectly tailored to appeal to the American market. Alas, it can only be found at Subway sandwich shops in Germany.
One of the most unexpected items on McDonald's menus in the Philippines is this two-piece meal of fried chicken, which comes with an optional side of McSpaghetti. Garlic-flavored rice is another side dish absent from American McDonald's locations, and for breakfast, they have poached egg and Longaniza, a chorizo-like sausage.
Filipino and Taiwanese McDonald's locations sell beef and fried chicken varieties of the McRice burger with dried rice cakes subbed for standard buns — a gambit that won't sound too wild to anyone that's ever tried a ramen burger stateside. Hong Kong locations offer a similar rice cake chicken sandwich, though they call it the Kao Fan Burger.
Where to Find It: Dunkin' Donuts, Thailand
Another Dunkin' offering that toes the line between sweet and savory to suit regional tastes is Thailand's Kai Young, a triangle-shaped glazed donut topped with dried shredded chicken and a drizzle of spicy Thai chili paste. Another option more palatable to Western tastes is the Fruity Paradise, a colorful, glazed pastry topped with cherries, kiwi, pineapple, whipped cream, and toasted almonds.
Poutine is a well-known Canadian dish consisting of French fries topped with gravy and melted cheese curds, so naturally, McDonald's stores in Canada have come up with their own version. For curious Americans who want to try this dish without crossing the border, try the McDonald's at the corporate HQ in Chicago where international menu items are made available on rotating schedules.
The other major novelty you'll find on Canadian McDonald's menus is this Atlantic lobster roll with an all-too-predictable name, served only in certain locations during summer as availability dictates. Luckily for residents of New England, this one isn't entirely limited to outside the U.S., but also makes the occasional appearance at locations in Maine.
SHRIMP AND BROCCOLI SANDWICH
It's rare that you'd see either shrimp or broccoli featured in an American sandwich, but Subway incorporates both of these popular ingredients into a single meal for their locations in Japan. Apparently, the shellfish are a popular choice too, as Subways have also offered a "luxury shrimp sandwich" stuffed with them, as well as some added protein in the form of bacon.
BUBUR AYAM MCD
One of the staple non-burger dishes at Malaysian McDonald's is this version of national specialty Bubur Ayam, a white porridge with chicken, ginger, and diced chilies in the mix. A similar stew called SingaPorridge also features prominently on Singaporean menus.
Of course, Subway's pita-wrapped sandwich made with guacamole and Mexican-spiced chicken strips would only be sold in… Poland? It's been made available in other Eastern European markets like the Czech Republic as well, but there's no clear word on why it hasn't been featured in North America where the flavors originate.
SHAKA SHAKA CHICKEN
Another fixture of McDonald's stores in Singapore and other East Asian markets, shaka shaka chicken is a do-it-yourself menu item in which you pour a packet of Chinese five-spice seasoning mix over a deep-fried chicken patty and "shaka" the components together in a wax paper bag. As in several other East Asian nations, this and other McDonald's offerings are available for delivery.
One more from Japanese and other East Asian McDonald's locations: the EBI Filet-O is a breaded shrimp burger served on a Big Mac roll with spicy sauce. The international chain's fusion of Eastern and Western culinary traditions also extends to their dessert menu with items like the green tea and Oreo McFlurry.