It’s no secret that Americans love junk food. We love it so much, that we’ve shared the love with other countries around the world. Check out our list of crazy versions of classic American snacks that can only be found abroad.
Not content with being known as the destination for diners on the go, in the late 1970s, McDonald’s decided to up the caliber of their fast food menu by including a variety of Italian dishes. One of these dishes was the McSpaghetti.
The McSpaghetti along with fettuccine alfredo, lasagna, and other pasta dishes spent a short Roman holiday on the menu of McDonald’s. Unfortunately it never took off, and before long American chains were saying ciao to the McSpaghetti. In an interesting turn of events, McDonald’s wasn’t done with their Italian romance and introduced it to the Philipines where it became a massive hit.
2. McDonald’s Rice Burger Bun
Even a fast-food business as ubiquitous and successful as McDonald’s understands the importance of incorporating regional fare into their cuisine. In surveying the dining culture of Japan, researchers found that most of their demographic preferred to eat rice over bread for dinner. The solution? Instead of using hamburger buns, McDonald’s would offer a bun made out of rice.
Called the “gohan” burger, the rice buns were created using local rice caramelized with soy sauce. While McDonald’s wasn’t the first rice burger on the Japanese culinary scene, they’ve certainly garnered praise from their customers, with many posting pictures of themselves trying out the unique buns.
3. Domino’s Indi Tandoori Paneer Pizza
In a country with a population topping one billion, it can be difficult to please everybody. For this reason, fast food chain Domino’s pizza took extra consideration when entering the Indian market with their fusion pie, the Indi Tandoori Paneer pizza.
Menu developers for the pizza chain knew they would find success if they incorporated two mainstays of Indian cooking — tandoor, a type of oven that lends a smoky flavor, and a type of fresh cheese called paneer. These market specific additions combined with the popularity of pizza-like flat bread called roti, have made Domino’s one of the most successful chains in India.
4. Sea Salt Lemon Kit Kat
What many fans of the classic chocolate candy bar don’t know is that thousands of miles away, a different world of Kit Kats exist, in flavors most American’s couldn’t imagine. Japan is home to dozens of unique Kit Kat flavors which fill the shelves of their candy aisles.
One unique flavor which combines chocolate and charity was the release of the salt lemon Kit Kat in 2019. Using salt from Japan’s Seto Inland Sea and Japanese Setouchi lemons, the candy was an unexpected hit. Not only was lemon and salt a refreshing treat during the summer, but proceeds helped those affected by the heavy flooding which destroyed parts of southwestern Japan.
5. McDonald’s Sweet Taro Pie
McDonald’s may be known for their handheld apple pies, but in Asia the chain offers another portable pie flavor — sweet taro. Taro is a root vegetable commonly used in African, South Asian, and Oceanic cuisine. Similar to another root vegetable, the potato, taro has many uses.
Taro is prepared in a variety of ways including as a main component in many Asian desserts. The sweet taro pies at McDonald’s are fried with gooey sweet taro filling. The pies were introduced to the McDonald’s across Asia, but briefly appeared in Hawaiian McDonald’s for a limited time.
6. McDonald’s Purple Sweet Potato Soft Serve
Flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, or a mixture of the two are common stateside, but things get a bit more exotic across the ocean. A few years ago, McDonald’s Asia unveiled what became one of their most popular flavors, purple sweet potato.
As the name would suggest, this lavender colored soft serve offers the signature candied sweet potato Asian consumers crave. The pastel ice cream sits in a dark chocolate cone, topped with a cookie flower, and served in flower-shaped napkin. It’s become the ultimate Instagram-approved way to satisfy your sweet tooth.
7. Shrimp Mayo Pizza Doritos
Doritos may have been a popular American snack since the 60s, but they’re officially big in Japan too. With dozens of interesting flavor combinations ranging from salty to sweet, chip fans can rest assured that they’ll find the perfect bag of Doritos.
One of the most popular flavors that has the snack blogging community divided is the shrimp mayonnaise pizza flavor. The interesting flavor is based on a popular Japanese pizza topping, and was created in collaboration with Japan’s largest chain of pizza restaurants, Pizza-La. While some bloggers have compared the taste to “fish food,” others have praised the slightly sweet umami-rich taste.
8. McDonald’s “Loaded” Salted Egg Yolk Fries
Most Americans ordering “loaded fries” expect a plate of fries covered in some variation of cheese and meat, in McDonald’s Singapore, another ingredient takes the place of cheese — egg yolk. Known as “salted egg yolk” sauce, this condiment gets its name from the process used to cure the eggs used.
Salted egg yolks date back centuries in Asian culinary history, and are a major part of the continent’s cuisine. Already a popular snack flavor, many foodies suspect it won’t be long until American McDonald’s begins selling their fries drenched in this “egg”cellent golden sauce.
9. Spicy Fish Egg Flavored Pringles
The slogan for Pringles brand potato chips may have been “Once you pop, you just can’t stop”, but one of their flavors has had many Americans stopping in their tracks. Several years ago, Pringles unveiled a spicy cod roe flavor for the Japanese market.
Known as mentaiko, this savory flavor is created by marinating the eggs from the cod fish. The result is a savory and salty flavor that is used to spice up everything from ramen to potato chips. Mentaiko’s popularity hasn’t just conquered Japan, it’s becoming an increasingly popular flavor profile in Singapore as well. Only time will tell if this fishy flavor will reach American shores.
10. Spicy Mango Munchkins
When most people stop by Dunkin’ Donuts, they are looking for one of the chain’s popular sweet pastries. Flavors such as Bavarian cream and jelly-filled doughnuts line the shelves in most American versions of the chain. In Indonesia, however, the chain decided to heat things up by introducing two special flavors, spicy mango and spicy pineapple.
The combination between spice and fruit is very popular locally. Indonesians enjoy using a spicy mango relish called sambal. Indonesian customers, who already utilize the country’s many mangoes in a variety of recipes, have responded positively to the spicy yet fruity doughy treats.
11. American Cherry Pie Frappuccino
The cherry pie has been a part of American culinary history for centuries. It’s no wonder that Starbucks decided to cherry-pick this traditional pie to create a new Frappuccino flavor. The American cherry pie Frappuccino hit Japanese Starbucks in early 2017 to rave reviews.
The blended frozen drink features the coffee chain’s signature vanilla crème Frappuccino base, sandwiched between layers of cherry compote. The delectable drink is then topped with whipped cream and a hard pie-like shell in order to replicate a cherry pie a la mode taste.
12. Durian Flavor McFlurry
The McFlurry, a flavored whipped ice cream from McDonald’s, is known to incorporate regional candies in international markets. Recently, the fast-food chain went a step further for its Asian markets by including one of the region’s most popular fruits, durian.
Initially launched in Malaysia, the popularity of the durian flavored McFlurry has caused a fruit frenzy across Southeast Asia. While the fruit is known for its extremely strong smell, which has caused it to be banned from hotels and public transportation, food bloggers have reassured potential consumers that the durian McFlurry is safe to eat in public.
13. Sweet Potato Kit Kat
Although sweet potatoes are originally from the Americas, they have become an important part of the Asian diet, particularly in Japan. Initially imported as a substitute for rice in the event of a poor harvest, sweet potatoes have become one of the most versatile starches in the Japanese kitchen.
Based on the popular candied sweet potatoes dish, Daigaku Imo, these Kit Kats feature the creamy sweet taste most Japanese are familiar with. The flavor, which coincides with the tuber’s autumn harvest, was released as a seasonal treat to rave reviews.
14. Seaweed Flavored McNuggets
In Taiwan, the perfection of fried chicken is considered to be a culinary art form. With competition high, McDonald’s in this region have ditched their usual “dump frozen nuggets into hot oil” method, and embraced the multi-step frying process Taiwanese fried chicken is known for.
In addition to offering super crunchy nuggets, the chain has released a seaweed flavored spice packet, which can be used to encrust fries and nuggets. The seaweed spice has gained such a cult following, that customers have resorted to posting DIY recipes and videos in order to recreate the chain’s limited edition spice blend.
15. Green Curry and Shrimp Tom Yum Flavor Lays Chips
Since its founding in 1932, the American snack brand Lays has introduced a variety of unique regional flavors following its expansion into international markets. In 2019, the chip company released a variety of limited edition flavors for the Thai market.
Naturally, the company took inspiration from two popular Thai dishes, green curry and shrimp tom yum. While reviews for the chips have been mixed, most food bloggers understand the difficulty in reducing traditional dishes with highly complex flavors into one bite-sized chip.
16. Hershey’s Matcha White Chocolate Chocobits Cereal
The Hershey’s chocolate company has come a long way since its humble small Pennsylvanian town beginnings. The American snack and candy corporation is known worldwide for both their classic products, and regional flavors available abroad. One unique product available in Japan infuses two popular American snacks, sweet breakfast cereal and Hershey’s chocolate bars.
This unique cereal features little puffs of cookies filled with a matcha infused white chocolate creamy filling. While most Americans would be hesitant to try a tea-flavored breakfast cereal, matcha is becoming increasingly popular thanks to large companies like Starbucks releasing matcha flavored lattes.
17. McDonald’s Tabasco Infused Spicy Hot Sundae
In 2017, as part of a collaboration with American hot sauce company Tabasco, McDonald’s in Hong Kong unveiled a limited edition menu featuring one of the chain’s most perplexing culinary creations — a hot chocolate sundae infused with Tabasco hot sauce.
While the collaboration included spicy hamburgers and fries, customers were surprised to see that even the desserts couldn’t escape without a few splashes of the spicy sauce. Those brave enough to try the innocuous looking ice cream reported that it was “nothing too special”, and some spice lovers were even disappointed in the dessert’s lack of spiciness.
18. McDonald’s Sweet Red Bean Paste Pies
While apple pies are in no threat of being removed from the McDonald’s menu, they do face some strong competition by another popular pie flavor, sweet red bean paste. Red bean paste, is a common ingredient in both savory and sweet East Asian dishes.
Pies or snacks filled with this red bean paste are traditionally eaten on the Chinese New Year for good luck, and as symbols of family reunions. East Asian McDonald’s serve this auspicious dessert year-round, but typically repackage the pies in deep red and gold around the New Year.
19. Pizza Hut’s Hot Dog Stuffed Pizza Crust
While the concept of a stuffed pizza crust may have its origins in an American test kitchen, its success has largely been found abroad. Beginning in the early 2000s, Pizza Hut had begun experimenting with a variety of ingredients to fill their pizza crusts with. Cheese was an immediate hit, but the chain decided to incorporate another American snack, the hot dog.
The hot dog stuffed crust was released in Japan to rave reviews. Diners enjoyed the small ring of hot dogs peeking out beneath the mountain of toppings. While the pizza found success in the Japanese market, Americans were not interested in trying the pizza hot dog hybrid.
20. Yogurt Banana Fanta Soda
Most soda consumers do not typically associate their carbonated beverage with health. Soda is often given a bad rep by nutritionists as being full of sugar, and generally bad for your health. With this in mind, Fanta created a specially designed “healthier” soda for the Japanese market with a yogurt banana flavor.
Yogurt based sodas have been popular in Japan for many years, but in 2019 Fanta decided to release another version, this time using banana. The drink’s developers also added vitamin B6 and dietary fiber in an effort to make people less guilty over their choice to indulge in a bubbly beverage.
21. Eel Flavored Lays Chips
Most people watching an eel undulate in the current wouldn’t automatically assume that the slippery sea creature would make a popular food item, let alone a chip flavor. Yet this snake-like aquatic animal is an extremely popular ingredient in Japanese cooking, so much so, that some species have become endangered because of over fishing.
Eels are typically served basted in a sweet soy sauce, grilled and served over a bowl of rice. This dish, called unagi-don blends savory and sweet flavors- a unique taste that Lays potato chips sought to emulate with their ‘grilled eel’ chips. Tasters of the chips have given the snack high scores, even describing them as “magical.”
22. Burger King’s Black Burger
For many people food isn’t just about the taste, it’s also about the look and presentation. While the fast food industry isn’t known for the most aesthetically pleasing meals, Burger King pushed the limit with the introduction of their black hamburgers.
While the chain had introduced the concept in 2012, it wasn’t until several years later that they truly turned to the dark side. Chefs used bamboo charcoal to darken the meat, bun, and cheese. While few reviews mention the taste, it seems that most diners just couldn’t get over the strangely unnatural coloring.
23. Hot Wing and Wasabi Flavored Oreos
If you happen to be craving something sweet while travelling in China, you might want to double-check the label on your box of Oreo cookies. In 2018, the cookie’s manufacturer Mondelez, announced that they would be releasing two new flavors of the beloved American snack, hot wing and wasabi.
The ‘hot wing’ flavor Oreos feature a neon orange cream that is supposed to taste like traditional wing sauce. The wasabi Oreos are stuffed with a bright green cream, a similar shade to the spicy horseradish sauce. The concept of hot wing and wasabi Oreos has led to countless tweets and mentions across social media.
24. Starbucks Sweet Potato Frappuccino
For many Americans, sweet potatoes typically conjure up memories of Thanksgiving meals and of fall. Across East Asia however, sweet potatoes are commonly used as a flavor for a variety of food items. In autumn of 2019, Starbucks across Japan unveiled a seasonal drink called the Sweet Potato Gold Frappuccino.
The golden colored drink featured small bits of candied sweet potato, along with a honey and sweet potato sauce. According to tasters, the roasted sweet potatoes impart a rich sweet taste that blends perfectly with the strong taste of espresso used as the base of the coffee drink.
25. Pork Floss and Seaweed Doughnuts
As most people know, nothing brings people together like a box of doughnuts. This classic coffee companion has a special place in the hearts of most Americans. While most Americans are used to fighting over the last Boston Crème in the office breakroom, Chinese customers weren’t so open to these fried pastries.
Chinese consumers typically prefer more savory breakfast items rather than a sweet American snack. With this in mind, test kitchens at Dunkin’ Donuts developed a doughnut topped with pork floss and seaweed. Known as rousong, pork floss is dried pork meat that has been shredded into thin fibers.
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