One of the things I’ve noticed in my years of living elsewhere, is that multinational fast food places seem to try really hard to court their local markets by attempting to mould their products into something vaguely resembling the local tastes. I remember seeing a Mc Turco in Turkey, which was some sort of scary meat product on a fake pide; in London, there were (Mc) masala spiced fries and vegan burgers; in Cape Town, with its huge Muslim population, all KFCs were completely halal and noted that fact quite clearly in big signs above the counter.
Here in Shanghai, you can buy taro root pies (they are soft purple and look like they should contain a synthetic grape-flavoured custard) or banana pies at Mc Donalds. At KFC you can get battered scallops, congee (watery rice porridge), Beijing duck wraps, and shaobing (round toasted cakes covered in sesame seeds).
When I was walking to Nanjing Dong Lu to get my mystery meds for the first aid kit yesterday, I passed through an underground walkway, where the walls were completely covered in KFC ads. What I found fascinating about them was how they had ever so slightly tweaked the generic norm to fit Chinese tastes.
1. A great big heaping pile of rice in the center of the plate. No meal is a meal without a shitload of rice. No rice? No meal!
2. Bitter gourd as a side dish. I dare you to serve stir fried bitter gourd at a KFC in St Louis.
3. People eating everything with spoons. This one confused me- gringos would have used a fork and I thought people here would use chopsticks. Maybe a spoon is seen as a halfway point in the globalization of fast food?
4. Food served in lots of thick sauce. The Shanghai taste runs toward heavy, sweet, thick braised foods. Fungi are big as well, hence the mushroom sauce. Gotta have your fungus.
5. Red background- Luck? Fortune? Prosperity?