Eating McDonald’s in South Korea

Audrey 'That Backpacker' Eating McDonald's

I’d like to think of myself as somewhat of a suave connoisseur in the delicate art of satisfying my taste buds by gormandizing on delicious ethnic cuisine while travelling or living abroad :P  I thoroughly enjoy eating local foods when abroad and I quite literally, get excited to visit a country for the first time, to satisfy an urge of trying something new and exotic;  however, with all that being said, I do absolutely crave my comfort foods from time to time.  I once in a while find myself in ‘finer establishments’ such as McDonald’s (as opposed to eating Korean food) that I’m embarrassed to admit I actually frequent.

Chicken Maharaja Mac in Delhi, India

In this travel video I’ve caved in and I’m on a mission to find the Golden Arches with my girlfriend Audrey.  Although we’re typically looking to try Korean cuisine while based in Korea, we’ve deviated off that path on more than one occasion.  Sometimes being situated in a Korean apartment and working environment has me clamoring for familiar items.  One thing I find fascinating about McDonald’s is that they do cater towards local flavours and preferences in far off corners of the world.  In Korea, there is the Bulgogi burger, which is basically a burger coated with a layer of sauce not very different from Teriyaki sauce.  While in India I once had the ‘Maharaja Mac’ which was basically similar to the Big Mac but with chicken replacing beef patties. Sometimes I feel appalled that McDonald’s has such a global presence around the world; however, I also recognize that forms of ‘fast food and junk food’ exist just about everywhere I’ve ever been.  Those golden arches have certainly helped contribute to my blogger belly rotund condition.

Watch as we devour quarter & double quarter pounders with cheese.  Honestly, have you ever seen somebody use so much ketchup in your entire life?

A few quirky facts about McDonald’s in Korea:

Ketchup only comes in packages and they only hand you ONE measly serving if you don’t ask for more

Drinks are filled behind the counter and not bottomless

Portions are considerably smaller (fries and soft drinks) than in Western countries – an extra large would be a medium in Canada or the US

Service is generally extremely slow!  I’ve had sit down Korean meals presented to me more expediently than while waiting in line for some Mc’Goodness

*Anyhow, some of you might be wondering how my plan to lose weight is going in midst of my confessions about scarfing down less than stellar dining options.  The truth is that it has been going very well.  I’ve been quite disciplined with my eating and exercise routine throughout the week and when I’ve been meeting up with Audrey I’ve been enjoying ‘controlled’ pig-out sessions.  What I mean by that is I’ve been allowing myself to eat whatever I want within moderation on the weekends.  Portion control has been the key here for me not totally blowing it :)*

I’m curious to find out what kind of things you crave while on the road or travelling abroad?  Do you ever succumb to weakness and find yourself dripping ketchup all over yourself at McDonald’s?  Or do you exercise a little more self control and discipline than what I’m able to muster up?

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Loz in Transit (fine food) October 20, 2012 at 1:14 am

The odd thing about McDonalds for me traveling around Europe was that Maccas was quite expensive. Back home in Australia (I assume the same for North America) the burger chains are the go-to spots for something cheap and nasty. Abroad it wasn’t so much the case, you’re better off getting street food or your local ethnic small business for cheaper grub, usually in the form of a Kebab. The western style burger joints were medium priced. I actually enjoyed sampling the local Burger chains, usually a Country would only be able to support the one chain and if it was successful enough you’d see it in a few places – HesBurger comes to mind in the Baltics. The good news is that healthy/green movement has caught on so there are more independent burger joints opening up and the menus of the bigger chains are reflecting that too.

As far as local cuisine goes, nothing can quite compare to home cooking.

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Nomadic Samuel October 24, 2012 at 5:20 am

I’ve had the same experience while travelling in SE Asia. It’s far cheaper to get local street food than to pay for a burger. I’m actually glad when it is like that because it discourages me from eating there :)

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Maria October 20, 2012 at 1:20 am

Glad to hear that you’ve found a balance between eating to live well and eating for wild fun.

Love the posts and videos you and Audrey are putting out and how you’re both so willing to laugh at yourselves. Kudos!

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Nomadic Samuel October 25, 2012 at 1:34 am

Thanks Maria! We’re definitely silly :P

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Agness (@Agnesstramp) October 20, 2012 at 5:56 am

It’s pretty the same in China. I also had to exercise not to put on weight drastically, however fast food restaurant seemed to be much healthier than in Europe though. Great video guys. P.S. Din’t know you are a couple :-)

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:50 am

Thanks Agness :)

I never did try Mc D’s when I was in China. I’ll have to next time I go there – hopefully next year!

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Shamis @ Gawaya Travel Blog October 20, 2012 at 12:03 pm

I guess you can “treat” yourself for some junk food once or twice a week, if you’re disciplined on other days :) I try local food when I’m traveling but I also get the food I’m used to. McDonald’s does cater to local palettes, which I think is a good thing. However, I find McDonald’s Canada more flavorsome.

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:51 am

Mmmmmm…I haven’t had Mc D’s in Canada for years! Maybe I’ll have to try it again when I come home this winter :)

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Audrey | That Backpacker October 20, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I look like I’m being forced to eat this. ;) Loooved every – single – bite!

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:51 am

Nice try :P LOL, hard to imagine you being forced to eat :P

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Micamyx|Senyorita October 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm

McDonalds saves me everytime!

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:52 am

Golden Arches!

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Miruna October 20, 2012 at 5:13 pm

I think everyone enjoys McDonalds once in a while:). As for my eating style while I’m abroad, what can I say, I’m a sinner. But honestly, how can you go to Italy and ignoring all those delicious pastas and pizzas or to France where each street smells of freshly baked croissants?! Not to mention Spain with its seductive tapas. All in all, I could never deprive myself from such heavenly treats.

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:52 am

I definitely agree with you. When I head somewhere I love the local treats :)

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coolnewz October 20, 2012 at 6:57 pm

the McDonald’s in Switzerland (McDo as they call it) also has all sorts of Swiss cheese cheeseburgers including the tasty Gruyere or Appenzeller which otherwise you could not imagine in such a combination! :)

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:56 am

Mmmmmm…Swiss cheese :)

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Raymond @ Man On The Lam October 20, 2012 at 7:25 pm

In Oman they charge you more if you eat-in than if you take it out. They call it a “tourism tax”…

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:49 am

LOL, that’s funny. I’d definitely be doing take-out then. I’ve walked over a half an hour recently just to save 15 cents.

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Jessica October 21, 2012 at 9:27 am

In Thailand, McDonald’s has a “Samurai burger”, which I haven’t seen anywhere else. I love me some McDonald’s, but this burger is pretty bland for something named after an ancient warrior.

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:48 am

LOL, that’s too bad it didn’t live up to its name.

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Andrea October 21, 2012 at 1:25 pm

When we were dieting earlier this year we’d allow one free day a week to eat and drink whatever we wanted. It worked really well. I’m sad to say we put back about half of the weight we lost though since moving to Norway…

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:48 am

That’s fantastic Andrea! I’m basically doing the same now as well. I’m allowing myself to eat whatever I want on the weekends (with moderation) and being really strict with my diet during the week. It’s working out well so far.

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Jeremy (TravelApprentice) October 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Funny, I was joking about posting McDonalds pics to my blog last night eating while eating my 2 cheesburgers… no shame in eating there once in a while… and while traveling, grabbing an egg McMuffin was almost a staple for me. I love eggs for breakfast and when they’re there they’re there so just giv’r right!

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:47 am

The sure do a nice cheeseburger! I’m having way too many double quarter pounders with cheese these days :P

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Laurence October 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I do enjoy seeing how McDonald’s is different in places around the world, and it’s usually a reliable place for clean toilets and free wi-fi if nothing else. Although the toasted banana bread in the Australian versions is to die for!

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:46 am

Toasted banana bread! I’d be up for that :) Yes! I often use Rotten Ronnies for a wifi connection if nothing else.

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Angela October 22, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Thankfully, I never crave McDonalds… I think I would prefer eating crickets than a big mac ;) What I crave for is chocolate, the darker the better, I haven’t had it for a while, so now that you’ve reminded me tomorrow it will be the first thing I buy, thanks! :P

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:45 am

Mmmmmmm…chocolate is something I crave way too often. Unfortunately, the selection and quality isn’t nearly as good in Korea as it is back home.

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Shalu Sharma October 23, 2012 at 8:36 am

I am a great fan of McDonald’s and cant resist going to one despite that fact that there are so many local delicacies to try. I am glad you mentioned the Maharaja burger of India. They replace the beef with chicken due to local sensitivities. I love the way you eat you burgers. Funny photo.

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:44 am

Thanks Shalu :) I love to eat in general…haha

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Antoinette | love.antoinette October 23, 2012 at 10:29 pm

YOUR photo grubbing on that McGoodness should have been the featured image! :o) I rarely eat McD’s at home, but I do crave for their fries once in awhile. I have tried McD’s in France and Hong Kong and I was surprised at how deeeeelish they were!

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:44 am

Hahaha, thanks. I had McDonald’s for breakfast once in Hong Kong. It was also quite tasty :)

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Marco October 24, 2012 at 2:12 am

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with a little McDonalds every once in awhile! When I travel abroad and in between trying the local cuisines, I always find myself yearning a little McDonald’s – it reminds me of home and is great for recharging my international battery!

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:43 am

Most definitely! It’s great to eat local (and I do that most of the time) but sometimes you just need something familiar – whether it is healthy or not.

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The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen) October 25, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I was gonna say, what happened to the diet?! Glad to hear you’re doing well. When we’re away from home, we crave the weirdest things … things we don’t ordinarily eat. Just a few minutes ago I experienced an intense craving for warm corn bread … and earlier today it was a burrito from Taco Bell. But now that I read this, it’s McDonalds ;)

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:42 am

LOL, some Taco Bell sounds nice right now. I’m finding myself craving the worst things on this diet lately :P

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Susan @ Travel Junkette October 25, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Ahh! I used to eat the McDonalds maybe every other week when I lived in Korea. I just needed that taste of home! Since I’ve been back, I haven’t eaten there once!

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:41 am

That’s a great point! I was just talking with Audrey the other day about the same thing. We both agreed we’ll likely not touch it once we come back home.

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Harvey @ H-Bomb's Worldwide Karaoke October 25, 2012 at 6:43 pm

That’s awesome. My own guilty pleasure is Starbucks; I’ve been to franchises of that coffee chain on 5 continents! (thus far I haven’t found one in Africa). Regarding the Golden Arches and regional variations on their menu: many years ago I dined at a Mickey Dee’s in Rome (the one by the Spanish Steps), and notied that they offered “McPasta” . . . That location also had cool stained glass windows.

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:41 am

Wow! McPasta. That’s certainly interesting. If you like Starbucks you’d do well in Korea – they have loads of them here.

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Al Williams October 26, 2012 at 10:24 am

Funnily enough I have just finished the KFC reviews article where we visited 8 different KFC restaurants from different countries around the world. Considering we are writing a book on local food from around the world this may seem strange. Yet fast food culture is part of culture like it or not!

http://aroundtheworldtravels.co.uk/food-around-world/kfc-review-around-the-world/

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:39 am

Indeed! Like it or not, fast food has become adopted in many countries. I think it is fine as long as what is considered ‘local’ food is still what is being eaten most of the time.

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Al Williams November 5, 2012 at 10:08 am

Exactly. We managed to write a book on food from around the world, researched over 1.5 years from 13 countries and still managed to fit in the KFC diaries!

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A Traveler October 30, 2012 at 12:49 am

I love that Pizza Hut is a “high class” place in Asia (Korean and China at least). Back in the States it’s a cheap family night out. Not knocking it, though! …got to give credit to Yum Yum foods. With Pizza Hut and KFC, they have taken Asia by storm!

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:38 am

Indeed, Pizza Hut is VERY expensive over here. I thought it might be like that in most countries in Asia, but was pleasantly surprised in Malaysia where I could get a lunch combo set for roughly $3-4.

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Abby October 31, 2012 at 5:52 am

Totally! Honestly, I so rarely eat fast food ever. But every once in awhile on the road, I become so tired and in need of something familiar. The best example of this is hitting Starbucks in Shanghai. Keep in mind, I don’t even drink coffee… Above McDonald’s though is Hard Rock — while facing fatigue, I’ve been known to crave chicken fingers!

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:35 am

I try not to eat fast food as well Abby. Recently though I’ve been going more often than I’d like to admit. I’ve noticed some interesting chains in certain countries. For example, in Malaysia there is A & W but I haven’t seen that anywhere else.

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Adela @FourJandals November 3, 2012 at 8:18 pm

I love seeing how the McDonalds menu changes in different countries

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Samuel November 5, 2012 at 5:34 am

It certainly is interesting :)

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Wanderplex November 14, 2012 at 6:35 pm

I can totally relate – sometimes you just need to eat something that’s not coated in kimchi or shaved meat, or whatever the local specialty is. I agree the local variations at Maccas around the world are interesting – I really got into the seaweed flakes you sprinkle on fries in Beijing.

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Sherry December 1, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Reminds me when I was in Italy where there are an abundance of MacDonalds everywhere. The worse part was that there was always a long line to each of them. I thought Italy is supposed to have some of the best food in the world. I was disappointed.

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Jim Bizily December 14, 2012 at 3:29 am

One of the best things I do whenever I travel is to try another “versions” of the taste of McDonald, Burger King, and the like based on the country’s blend (preparation and what not’s). I know they are safe and the reason I am doing it is the fact that I want to have a “bite” and “taste” of their culture. I understand the long line, the queue and all of that make me feel a certain “pride” that these locals appreciate our Western culture through food (or the branding, I guess).

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Matt April 23, 2013 at 6:23 pm

I loved how even though it was probably delicious and tasted amazing, you looked like you had the beginning of gut rot already lol I agree that it must come to point after months of travel where you crave Mc’D’s or Subway. At least the portion sizes were smaller!

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Ria Dancel July 17, 2013 at 8:58 am

Have you tried the Bulgogi Burger in McDonald’s SK? Oh, I miss the goodies in SK, but I agree, meals are smaller. Maybe because most Koreans are very conscious about the calories they intake.

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