In the U.S., we tend to think of fast food fare as the standard burger-and-fries combo. Throw in a pepperoni or cheese pizza and a hot dog on a rare occasion, and that pretty much covers all the bases. But outside of the States, the average consumer has different tastes. And while, sure, a plain burger is likely to be popular in many parts of the world, fast food customers in different countries have distinct tastes. Take a trip to a fast food joint in India, Taiwan, Kenya or Italy, and you’re likely going to see some menu items you’d never even dream of seeing in the U.S.
While some of these dishes may seem out of the ordinary to a consumer in the States, you have to remember that fast food companies aren’t going to release foods that are going to be wildly unpopular—unless they’re likely to elicit a strong response. For these dishes to make it onto the menus in their respective countries, most of them are going to have to have a relatively wide appeal. And even if they sound strange to uninitiated palates at first, some of these dishes are actually really delicious.
Let’s round up some of the most intriguing fast food dishes diners will find outside of the U.S. You may want to plan a trip abroad just to get your hands on some of these.
China: McDonald’s Cilantro Sundae
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Do cilantro and ice cream seem like a match made in heaven? Maybe not. But in China, this dessert menu item is definitely making waves. The soft serve vanilla ice cream is sprinkled with a dusting of dried cilantro, and there’s a sort of a green, jelly-like layer that ties it all together. It was released in late February of 2022, but it only stuck around for a few days. And although it may sound like a combination that comes straight from the depths of hell, apparently, it’s not too bad. Some say the flavor tastes more like a combo of lime and mint, which definitely sounds more appealing off the bat than cilantro does.
It’s safe to say that cilantro ice cream is probably not a staple in most Chinese people’s diets, but you have to respect McDonald’s for taking the risk (which is probably the only thing you should respect McDonald’s for).
Australia: Pizza Hut’s Cheeseburger Crust Pizza
Australians and Americans have a lot in common: A common language and a history of human rights abuses chief among them. But our taste in food is apparently not too far off either, as Pizza Hut in Australia launched a cheeseburger crust pizza back in 2014. This was basically the pinnacle of culinary culture for anyone attempting to self-induce a heart attack. The crust was made of beef patties wrapped in pizza crust, so every slice had its very own burger attached to it.
Is this objectively kind of disgusting? Sure. But, alas, we are all victims of digestive systems that believe we’re hunter-gatherers still chasing down juicy, fatty bison on an open plain, so it makes sense that this Frankenstein-like creation would have pretty wide appeal. Unfortunately, it’s no longer on the menu, but hopefully they’ll revive this over-the-top creation in the U.S. someday.
Italy: McDonald’s Nutella Burger
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If you’ve ever been to Italy, you know there’s one food that reigns supreme. It’s not pizza, it’s not pasta, it’s not even gelato—it’s Nutella. Rumor has it that the country consumes 60 million jars a year, so it was just a matter of time before it ended up on a—I kid you not—burger. Don’t panic: This is not a beef burger with Nutella spread unceremoniously over top in place of ketchup or mustard. Instead, the Nutella replaces the patty completely, so this McDonald’s menu item is fully a dessert. And when you think about it, what’s not to love? Bread and Nutella are already a perfect pair, so putting them together and sending them out the drive-thru window isn’t unreasonable.
It’s called a McCrunchy Bread with Nutella, and honestly, I’m bummed that you can only get this dessert in Italy. It’s probably shameful to admit this, but I would pass on the gelato for a night to see if it lives up to the hype.
Israel: Burger King’s Donut Burger
Yes, you read that right. While donut breakfast sandwiches have become popular in the U.S., in Israel, Burger King at one point served up their SufganiKing burger. Sufganiyot are a type of jelly donut traditionally enjoyed during Hannukah. Slap a burger on it, and you have a hybrid dinner-dessert that sounds strange but probably isn’t too bad in practice. This sandwich was released in 2016, and although the donut itself was sweet, it was, mercifully, filled with ketchup instead of the traditional jelly.
It’s not the first time salty and sweet flavors have joined forces, and generally, it’s a solid combo. It may not be the first thing you’d want to order after landing in Tel Aviv, but I can see how this sandwich could be a good way to celebrate the holidays if you for some reason find yourself going through a drive-thru.
Thailand: McDonald’s Chili Paste Pork Ice Cream
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If you thought the cilantro sundae was strange, just wait until you take a trip to Thailand where you can snag a chili paste pork ice cream from McDonald’s. I don’t know about you, but this dessert actually sounds really, really good. The super-sweet soft serve paired with salty, umami pork paste? What’s not to love about that? Additionally, it features pork floss (exactly what it sounds like) for an added touch of texture.
Both pork paste and floss are not unusual across Asia, but it’s usually not paired with something so sweet. Although salty-sweet ice cream combos may not be the norm quite yet, they should be, and I hope that this limited-time Thai offering starts popping up at McDonald’s an ocean away.
Philippines: KFC’s Double Down Dog
Perhaps the most ridiculed fast food menu item of all time, KFC’s Double Down sandwich is a vegan’s worst nightmare. Two fried chicken fillets replace the bread, and bacon and cheese ooze from the center of the sandwich. But did you know that this iconic sandwich has a close cousin? It’s the Double Down Dog, and it hails from the Philippines.
It doesn’t take that much brainpower to imagine what this meal entails: It’s a hot dog encased in a fried chicken “bun.” And as odd as this combo may sound, I’m honestly just impressed that they were able to form the chicken into such a convenient hot dog-holder.
This is probably the one I’m least upset about missing out on, and considering it was only available for a few days in 2015, it looks like Filipinos aren’t exactly fighting to get it back on the menu either.
India: Domino’s Peppy Paneer Pizza
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Some of these menu items sound absolutely unhinged, but the Peppy Paneer Pizza offered by Domino’s in India is not one of them. In fact, I wish I could get my hands on one of these now. This veggie option offers a standard Domino’s pizza topped with paneer, bell pepper slices and spicy red peppers. And really, how can you not love the cheesy, creamy plus spicy combo?
Paneer may not be the most common cheese in the U.S., but I hope that Domino’s one day decides to diversify their cheese selection so we can all get a slice of this stuff.