Beijing Duck Lay's potato chips? Familiar brands offering very foreign tastes

Soy sauce-flavored Kit Kats? Beijing Duck-inspired potato chips? How about Pepsi that tastes like the nut from a Baobab tree? We have become so accustomed to the menu selections at our local fast food joint or grocery store that sometimes we forget that our tastes are not exactly the same as our neighbors to the North, South, East or West.

To illustrate that point, we've gathered some interesting variations in offerings by McDonald's, Pepsi, Kit Kat and Lay's that are designed to appeal to different tastes.

McDonald'smixes it up

Shogun Burger with Egg: In Hong Kong, diners can choose an alternative to the same old beef burger; this one is comprised of a pork patty in Teriyaki sauce topped with fried eggs, lettuce and secret sauce. It may sound unusual, but it doesn't strike me as necessarily unappetizing either.

Veg Pizza McPuffs: In appearance, this Indian menu item is a close match for the American computer-geek's meal of choice, the Hot Pocket. Another Indian offering, The McAloo Tiki, a 'burger' with a potato/pea patty, is probably more appealing in flavor than its ingredients suggest. It does have 367 calories and 15 grams of fat, however, similar to that of a Quarter Pounder (420 calories). The McPuffs? 245 calories, 14 grams of fat.

McTurco: Blogger Melissa Mapes reports from Turkey about the McTurco; lamb or chicken wrapped in pita-like bread. The finished product looks like a very western take on the gyro. Nick on the blog Jet Set Zero wasn't impressed with his Chicken McTurco, finding the flat pancake-shaped breaded chicken pieces "looked like bleached wood".

McItaly: This new hamburger sandwich is surprisingly controversial, with some Italian critics insulted by the company's attempt to craft an 'authentic' Italian product made with local components including Asiago cheese and artichoke spread. Apparently, selling an American version of Italian food in Italy is a risky proposition.

Other McDonald's menu items we don't see here in the states include:
  • Bacon Potato Pie, Japan: mashed potatoes and bacon in a fruit-pie-like shell
  • Burbur Ayam, Malaysia: chicken strips in porridge garnished with onions, ginger, shallots and peppers
  • Cheese Katsu, Japan: A fried pork patty with cheese inside, dressed with cabbage and two sauces; one brown, the :
  • McRice burger, Taiwan: A bun made of pieces of rice, holding a beef or chicken patty
  • Lakse Wrap, Scandanavia: a brick of deep-fried salmon in a wrap

A Kaleidoscope of Kit Kats

Think you know Kit Kat, those rectangular confections of wafer and chocolate? Well, head overseas and you may be in for quite a shock, especially in Japan, where all sorts of peculiar flavors are sold on a limited-time basis, especially in souvenir shops. According to Wikipedia, part of the appeal of the brand in Japan is the name's coincidental resemblance to the phrase "You will surely win!"It is the top-selling 'biscuit' in the U.K. and Japan.

Among these flavors are

Soy Sauce
Which isn't what you think. According to Marvo on The Impulse Buy site, these don't have that salty, earthy taste of soy sauce, but instead a "strong maple syrup scent and taste" covered in white chocolate.

Sweet Potato

The author of Jim's Chocolate Mission reviewed the Sweet Potato Kit Kat and, found that, here too, the company had sacrificed authenticity in favor of a more desirable flavor; in this case, a "white chocolate base with hints of cream and custard."

Apple Vinegar
Japanese Snack Reviews found that the apple and vinegar Kit Kat tasted more like apple cider, with any vinegar taste slowly accumulating as the bar is consumed. Adding vinegar to the name, the author speculates, was meant to appeal to those Japanese who drink vinegar, believing it has health-enhancing properties.

The author of Jen Ken's KitKat bloghad the opportunity to try the Wasabi version of a Kit Kat bar. Wasabi is the horseradish-like paste many Americans favor on their sushi. Ken found that in this snack the promised ingredient was really delivered, both in the wafer and the cream covering, to an overpowering extent.

Other Kit Kat flavors sold in Japan include:
  • Bubblegum
  • Green Tea
  • Roasted Corn
  • Vegetable Juice
  • Watermelon and Salt
This isn't your mother's Pepsi

One of the most ubiquitous soft drinks in the world is Pepsi, so who can blame the company for trying to leverage that brand to push a wider variety of soft drinks developed for local taste preferences? Some are standard items, some were developed for specific campaigns and durations, and, although not currently available, could return.

Pepsi Ice Cucumber, Japan: Kevin Corrigan spent $15 on eBay to taste-test the product. He found that it did indeed taste like cucumber, or "like you're drinking a sweetened salad." It did not, he found, taste anything like Pepsi.

Pepsi Fire,
Southeast Asia: Matt on the blog X-Entertainment described this version of Pepsi, spiked with cinnamon, as "a car accident between a can of Pepsi and a bottle of ground cinnamon.". In a glass, It looks like regular Pepsi.

This drink, with the tag line "Cola on fire," was released with a companion type, Pepsi Ice, described as an "Ice mint cola." Pepsi Ice is the color of a swimming pool, and the blogger compared its flavor with mouthwash.

Pepsi Azuki: Like Kit Kat, Pepsi has run some peculiar flavors up the snack flagpole in Japan. One of the most puzzling was Pepsi Azuki, which came out for sale last fall. The azuki bean is the second most popular legume in Japan, but, according to Japanese Snack Reviews, the soft drink "smells like someone threw up in their bean cake." Harsh. The writer describes the taste as "jasmine with a red bean chaser."

Pepsi Baobab: The baobab tree, also known as the tree of life, grows in Africa and Australia. It's nut, nicknamed "monkey bread", is edible. The question -- is it drinkable? In the Japan novelty category is Pepsi Baobab, a ginger-ale-like soft drink. Japanese Snack Reviews describes its aroma as reminiscent of grapefruit, with an orange/grapefruit flavor. The real baobab fruit flavor is described as tart, so the drink's flavor is at least in the same ball park.

Let the Lay's chips fall where they may

Lay's sells potato chips around the world under its own name and, in the UK, under the moniker Walkers "crisps." Producing different flavors of chips must be as easy as changing the powder with which they are dusted, because the company offers a dizzying variety of flavors around the world. Some of the most unusual, to U.S. taste buds:

Lay's Fries 'n Gravy: Produced in and for our Canadian neighbors who love their fries swimming in gravy.

Lay's Beijing Duck: A commenter on wrote that he tried this Chinese version of the potato chip and found that "they really did taste quite like thin slices of duck and spring onion with hoisin sauce.."

Lay's Bolognese Originale
: This European chip sounds tasty, with the flavor of a good Bolognese sauce. However, last year some of the chips were recalled in the Netherlands when "hard pieces" were found in some bags. I never encountered a 'hard piece' in a good Bolognese.

Walkers Cajun Squirrel:
the U.K. version of Lay's, Walkers is willing to take suggestions from its customers, to the point that it even organized a Walkers Do Us A Flavor contest. One of the winners was this odd combination. A reviewer on described it as "tasty, spicy and mildly hot," with "a whole lot of different spices." He didn't know if it tasted like squirrel, having never tasted one. I hear it tastes like chicken.

Walkers Lamb & Mint: Another whimsical offering from the UK, a reviewer on writes "I can't say they particularly taste of lamb or mint, in that way you would get from a lamb dinner. They have a distinct 'lambandmint' rolled-into-one combination sort of flavour and it works."

Other unusual flavors from this company include:
  • Lay's Blueberry, China
  • Lay's Ketchup, Canada
  • Lay's Cucumber, China
  • Walkers President's Choice Greek feta, olives and oregano: UK
  • Walkers Scottish Haggis: UK
My take? Firms stray into the whimsy area of product offerings for two reasons; to gain valuable free publicity (like this article) or to appeal to local tastes. With the former, the products are often very short-lived, so don't expect to find many of these products available over the counter. For many of the questionable flavor choices, that might just be a good thing.
Read Full Story