Header images courtesy of McDonald’s Hong Kong
As a fast-food staple found in all corners of the world, McDonald’s has been known to release some interesting menu items unique to the locale they are served in, several of them only available for a limited time. We remember the McVeggie to suit the largely vegetarian population of India, and the Japan-exclusive sankaku chocolate pie, which featured an almond-and-chocolate-filled flaky pie just earlier this year.
However, not every exclusive item turned out to be a hit, and some were actually quite a miss. Take a trip down (repressed) memory lane and check out the weirdest seasonal items from McDonald’s—only in Hong Kong.
As if lifted straight out of a Spongebob Squarepants episode, these oddly coloured burgers seemed to be prettier to look at than to eat. Featuring the taglines “Dare to be dark” and “Dare to be plain,” the two black-and-white burgers were released in 2013 as part of a series that also included a caramel sundae and a bubble tea—which later morphed into the Okinawa brown sugar milk tea with bubble pearls, a permanent fixture on the McCafé menu.
Made with a squid-ink-infused burger bun, the black version consists of two beef patties, lettuce, bacon, mashed potatoes, and secret truffle sauce. Similarly, its twin features a paper-white bun, also with mashed potatoes, lettuce, and bacon, but instead accompanied by a crispy chicken patty under a layer of pepper mushroom sauce. Many complained that the mash dried out the other fillings, in addition to the sauce carrying an odd flavour. The bun was said to lack any flavour of squid ink, so it seems Squidward must have made a lucky escape.
2013 seemed to be a time of experimentation for McDonald’s Hong Kong, as the same year also saw the launch of their brand-new dinner menu. When the clock struck 6 pm, McDonald’s would make a switch to night mode, churning out steaming takeaway boxes of rice paired with meats, rivalling local vendors like Café de Coral and Fairwood. During this time, the menu item that took the crown of freakishness, however, is actually the one that entails the simplest preparation and ingredients: steamed broccoli. It was offered as a side dish (or perhaps an evening snack, no judgment), giving customers a healthier alternative to oil-laden French fries.
In 2017, McDonald’s released their flaming collaboration with Tabasco, famed American purveyor of hot sauce. The signature collection starred a thick-cut Angus beef burger with a layer of spicy Tabasco-mayo dressing, an onion ring, dill pickle, Emmental cheese, and bacon strips, served alongside Shake-Shake fries dusted with powdered Tabasco. The unusual dessert, however, was what upstaged the main course.
Don’t be deceived by its unassuming appearance, as the rich chocolate fudge on the bed of creamy soft serve has been tinged by a piquant flavouring. It has been said that the first few bites of the Tabasco fudge sundae are normal enough, but a kick of spice eventually begins to seep in—though never overpowering enough to feel too fiery. The distinct Tabasco sourness was omitted, a decision that seems to be for the best.
Something comforting about McDonald’s is its broad appeal. No matter what your tastes are, there is bound to be something that suits your cravings. It was in the summer of 2018, and the following one as well, that the menu tested the theory by introducing a dessert that involves a bit of an acquired taste.
The D24 Durian McFlurry was a doubly creamy treat that swirled golden streaks of premium Malaysian durian purée into the familiar vanilla whirl. Made available for only a tiny window of two weeks, the people of Hong Kong cleared the shelves within the first two days of launch, proving that it was indeed possible for the fast-food giant to make a flavour as divisive as durian find its way to a hardcore audience.
Although the Golden Arches may have presented us with several yummy iterations of the recognisable rice burger, the Japanese chain Mos Burger was actually the pioneer behind the bun, first pushing it into the market in 1987. Rice is shaped into circular bun substitutes and usually flavoured with seasoning or glaze before being packed into a makeshift burger with meat and vegetable fillings.
The importance and popularity of rice in East Asian cooking are unparalleled, which allowed this quirky concept to become rather well-loved in Hong Kong. A fun fact: the series of rice burgers at McDonald’s is referred to as “飯-tastic” (faan6; rice), a hybridised moniker that is a play on Cantonese and English puns. This cross-cultural touch is perhaps also representative of the fusion in cuisines that McDonald’s conjures up.
To add on to the fever dream that was the McDonald’s dinner menu, patrons could grab their rice-based dinner to-go in a pita wrap. For the smashing price of $28, customers sunk their teeth into the rice fun wrap, a tortilla wrap that was tucked around a crispy brown rice patty with mushroom, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and a choice of meat between chicken or beef, seasoned with a zesty spiced mayo. It was served in a portable cylinder that could tear away for easy eats whilst on the move. Akin to a kebab, it brought together the best of both worlds in the realm of drunk junk food, though its lack of lasting power suggests that it left much to be desired when eaten sober...