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McDonald’s Around the World: Hong Kong Edition

McDonald's Hong KongThe menu at McDonald’s in Hong Kong is kind of boring; nothing particularly jumped out at me.  But I’m way too deep into this McDonald’s around the world thing to stop now, so yeah — I got a couple of things.

McDonald's Hong Kong

The first thing I got is the Loaded Fries with Guacamole and Tomato Salsa Sauce (that name just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?).  I think someone needs to tell McDonald’s Hong Kong that fries with a bit of sauce on them and a tiny cup of guacamole on the side doesn’t quite count as “loaded.”

This was fine, I guess.  The tomato salsa sauce was pretty tasty — it basically tasted like a very cumin-tinged hot sauce — but the guacamole was watery and bland.

McDonald's Hong Kong

The other thing I tried is the Spicy Jalapeno Chicken Burger.  This was actually pretty bad.  The jalapeno slices and jalapeno tomato relish were zingy and spicy, but it’s also topped with a very thick slice of pineapple which absolutely overwhelmed the sandwich with sweetness.

The worst part was the chicken itself.  Though the exterior was nice and crispy, it was ridiculously dry on the inside.  I finished this, but I’m really not sure why.

McDonald’s Around the World: South Korea Edition

McDonald's in Busan, South KoreaI’ve eaten some pretty awful stuff at McDonald’s over the last few months; McDonald’s in South Korea has single-handedly made up for all of it.  It was actually kind of bizarre how good everything was.

McDonald's in Busan, South Korea

First up: the Bulgogi Burger (bulgogi is a Korean dish featuring grilled, thinly-sliced beef or pork that’s been marinated in a special sauce).  The first thing that stands out here is the burger itself; it’s made of pork instead of beef, and had a pleasantly tender texture that’s kind of like a McRib patty, but better.  The patty is completely covered in the sweet, tangy bulgogi sauce, and topped with lettuce and mayo.  It was actually quite good.

McDonald's in Busan, South Korea

The next thing I tried was the Supreme Shrimp Burger.  The patty here is kind of odd — it has whole pieces of shrimp, bound together by… more shrimp?  I think?  Ground shrimp?  The whole thing is breaded and fried, and it was way better than I was expecting it to be.  The shrimp itself had a really great texture; I was expecting it to be dry and rubbery, but it was actually quite well cooked.    The exterior is nice and crispy, and it’s topped with lettuce, tomato, and a slightly sweet sauce with a bit of a kick.  This wasn’t just good for McDonald’s — it was legitimately delicious.

McDonald's in Busan, South Korea

The last thing I tried was the Double Chocolate Waffle Fries.  This one is straight-up bizarre, and I was fully expecting it to be gross.  Basically, you get a plate of plain chips (they call these waffle fries, but they’re thin and crispy throughout — they’re chips), along with a packet containing white and milk chocolate sauces that you pour all over the chips.

McDonald's in Busan, South Korea

I’d like to note that the design of this packet is kind of ingenious — you just fold it in half,  snapping it open, and then you dispense the sauce by squeezing the two halves together.

McDonald's in Busan, South Korea

This was so much better than I thought it was going to be.  The chips were fresh, crispy, and barely salty at all, so they were a surprisingly good vehicle for the chocolate.  And the chocolate sauce was actually pretty tasty — it reminded me a lot of Nutella, only without the hazelnut flavour.  If you’ve ever had chips dipped in chocolate, then you have a pretty good idea of what to expect here.  It’s weirdly delicious.

French Fry Amazingness in Amsterdam

Vleminckx Sausmeesters in Amsterdam, NetherlandsThere’s something about the simplicity of really well-prepared fries that’s kind of irresistible.  I mean, ultimately they’re just potato sticks, but that crispy/creamy contrast can’t be beat.

And the fries from Vleminckx Sausmeesters in Amsterdam are some of the best that I’ve had in a long while.  They’ve got that crispy/creamy thing going on in spades.  They’re lousy with it.

As you might imagine from the name, Vleminckx Sausmeesters is just as much about the sauces as it is about the fries; their most famous topping is called Oorlog Mix, which consists of mayonnaise, satay sauce, and diced onions.

Vleminckx Sausmeesters in Amsterdam, Netherlands

The mayo and the satay sauce is a pretty amazing combination, but the onions just kind of got in the way for me — but then I don’t like raw onions, so I probably should have seen that one coming.

I keep trying to understand the appeal of uncooked onion, and it keeps being pungent and gross.  Still, the fact that I enjoyed this as much as I did despite their foul presence tells you how good it was.

Also (and I didn’t get a picture of this, sadly) there was a group of pigeons that were just hanging out around the shop, and it very quickly became clear why: people would occasionally drop a fry, and within seconds of one hitting the ground they were on it.  For a few frantic seconds there’s an angry scrum of fluttering wings and mad pecking, and then the fry is gone and they wait for the next one.

Eating Steak Frites in Paris

Le Relais de L'EntrecoteLe Relais de l’Entrecote is so admirably single-minded about its dedication to steak frites that there’s literally no menu.  The only questions from the waitress are what you want to drink, and how you want your steak cooked.  That’s it.  If you want to eat something other than steak frites?  Get the hell out.

The meal starts with a salad dressed with a very simple (but very delicious) vinaigrette.  Again, this isn’t a choice: you just get it, whether you want it or not.

Salad

Given that there’s only one thing on the menu, the rest of the food comes pretty quickly.  I requested my steak rare, and it came cooked to an absolutely perfect rare.  It’s topped with a herby, mustardy sauce, and served with a generous pile of perfectly golden fries.

I’m not normally a sauce on steak kind of guy — I feel like steak tastes pretty great on its own, plus if you’re not getting it well done (and please don’t get it well done), the added moisture is completely unnecessary.  But rules are meant to be broken, and when the sauce is this good?  Yeah man, pour it on.  More, please.

Steak frites

The sauce works perfectly with the fries, too, and then when you’re done, you can mop up what’s left with a piece of French bread.  It’s so good.

When you finish all that food, they come around and give you a few more slices of steak, another pile of fries, and more of that delicious sauce.  I was pretty full at this point, so I kinda wanted to say no, but do I have the willpower to say no to delicious steak and fries, no matter how full I am?

No; the answer is a resounding no.

At 26 Euros (about 40 bucks Canadian), even with the second helping, it’s hard to call this place a bargain.  But sometimes you’ve just gotta say “screw it” and spend the money, especially when it’s this good.

McDonald’s Around the World: France Edition

McDonald's ParisDespite having maybe the best food of anywhere I’ve visited so far, McDonald’s France has a surprisingly boring menu.  It’s pretty much just the classics (and yes, the Quarter Pounder really is called the Royale with Cheese, so it’s got that going for it at least).

They do, however, serve something called Le P’tit Hot Dog, which is exactly what it sounds like.  It’s a standard hot dog — maybe slightly smokier than usual — that’s topped with ketchup, mustard, and crispy fried onions.  It’s extremely average.

Hot dog from McDonald's Paris

I ordered a side of “Deluxe Potatoes,” which are just potato wedges.  Like the hot dog, they’re pretty standard.  If you’ve ever had wedges from the supermarket or from a cafeteria, then you know exactly what to expect.

Deluxe Potatoes from McDonald's Paris

And that’s about it.  Even the dessert menu was just the usual stuff.

Also: there’s something vaguely off-putting about being told “bon appetit!” when being handed a tray of McDonald’s food.

Currywurst Should be a Bigger Deal

Curry 36There are certain dishes that are popular in one country but virtually unheard of in most others, yet they’re so approachable and tasty that it just makes you scratch your head. Like, why does the whole world eat stuff like pizza or tacos, but not this?

Currywurst is one of those dishes. It’s absolutely everywhere here in Berlin. I doubt you can walk more than a block or two without stumbling across a place that serves it.

Currywurst

There’s absolutely nothing gourmet about it — it’s a greasy sausage that’s been cut up, slathered in ketchup and sprinkled with curry powder, typically served with a mound of fries. The balance between the sweetness of the ketchup, the savouriness of the the sausage, and the mild spice from the curry powder just works.  It might not be the best thing that you’ve ever eaten, but it’s cheap and satisfying, and sometimes that’s all that matters.

Also: you have the choice of mayo or more ketchup on your fries, and I’ve been going with mayo, because that’s one thing the Europeans are dead-on about: mayo is the perfect French fry condiment. But man, they aren’t kidding around with it. They pour it onto the fries like they’re trying to put out a fire. It seems like too much, but I always wind up eating it all, so what do I know?

Currywurst

Seriously though: there’s nothing weird or unusual about the flavours in currywurst. It’s pure comfort food, so why this isn’t a bigger deal outside of Germany is kind of mystifying to me.

Eyes on the Fries

So goodI have a thing about people lining up for food. If I see a line, I feel a very strong compulsion to stop whatever I’m doing and get in it. Because what do those people know that I don’t know? Following the mob isn’t always the wisest of choices, but seriously, what’s at the front of that line and how do I eat it?

So when I saw a line for a place that specializes in fries called Las Fritas when I was walking around in Barcelona, I was in that line almost instantly. I had never heard of this place, and French fries don’t exactly scream authentic Spanish food, but look at that line. It must be good!

(The line doesn’t look that long in the picture; it was actually quite a bit longer when I got there.  I just didn’t take a photo right away.)

There are times when the wisdom of the crowd fails me — this was not one of those times. These were spectacular fries.

So damn good

You can choose from a selection of sauces and toppings; in an attempt to keep things vaguely authentic, I went with salsa brava, which is a spicy tomato-based sauce that’s often found on top of fried potatoes in a dish called patatas bravas.  So this isn’t quite as inauthentic as you’d think (which is what I’ll keep telling myself to justify eating this about a billion more times before I leave Barcelona).

Though the fries were supposedly Belgian-style, they weren’t quite like any fry I’ve had before, Belgian or otherwise. Thickly cut and aggressively crispy, they were almost like a cross between a fry and a chip.  They were constantly dancing on the razor’s edge of being too crispy, but without ever crossing that line. It’s a perfect balance of crunchy exterior and fluffy interior.

As good as those fries were (and they were very, very good), it’s the brava sauce that really makes this something special.  It was slightly spicy, with just the right amount of vibrancy from the vinegar, a hint of smokiness, and a mild garlicky bite.

It was an absolutely perfect dipping sauce for fries. Where can I buy this sauce? Because I want to dip everything in it.  Everything.

A Cheesy, Saucy (and Delicious) Mess

So goodIf you were under the impression that over-the-top gut-busting meals are the sole domain of the United States, prepare to be proven wrong, sir.  Because here in Porto, there’s an insane sandwich that’s just as artery-clogging as anything you’ll find at the carnival.

This magnificent creation is called the francesinha; I ate it at the Cafe Santiago, which is (rightfully) famous for its version of this particular sandwich.

It’s a ham, bologna, sausage, and steak sandwich — that alone sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?  But they’re not done yet.  The whole thing is topped with a fried egg and draped with melty cheese (that’s strategically placed to cover the egg white, but leave the runny yolk exposed).  Oh, and then they douse the whole thing in gravy and surround it with a ring of fries.  Why?  Why the hell not, that’s why.

Yes

It’s pretty magnificent.  I mean, how could it not be?  It’s an indulgent pile of meat, melty cheese, and gravy-soaked bread.  All of the meats are quite tasty, particularly the zingy sausage, though the steak is a little bit tough (which is probably my only real complaint about this thing).

The gravy — which kind of reminded me of a spicy version of Swiss Chalet sauce — really brings it all together.  And the fries are handy to help soak up all that gravy, because there’s a lot of it.