Tuesday, 15 March 2011

KFC World Tour, Part 4: China

Yes, my good friends, China. The far east, the orient. A land of tradition, culture and over 4000 years of known history. One of the world's oldest civilisations...and to the typical western man (e.g. myself), a strange, alien place.

Arriving in Beijing, I found myself overwhelmed by very different cultural and lifestyle conventions. People everywhere, huge roads, bicycles, street sellers, flashing signs and strange sights and smells. However, one very important interest that Eastern and Western cultures share is in the fast food market. That's right, KFC is the most popular fast food chain in China. As this report goes on to explain:

In China, KFC has achieved such dominance over McDonald’s and local rivals that Colonel Harland Sanders’s image is a far more common sight in many Chinese cities than that of Mao.

As I found out for myself, this is indeed the case, and it was easy to spot the sheer number of KFC outlets by just wandering around the city. It was time to see what all the fuss was about.

For the real experience, I decided to head inland to the heart of China. The Western style shopping malls of Beijing were not a true test of Chinese KFC and so it was decided that an overnight train to Xi'an would be necessary. Arriving in Xi'an I quickly found the most popular branch near the long distance bus depot - a huge building, open 24/7 and seemingly always packed with locals tucking into delicious chicken.

Inside, I struggled to find a seat and had to share with some locals. The most popular meal of choice seemed to be the Colonel's staple fare, buckets of chicken wings, drumsticks and thighs - meat on the bone was clearly the local preference here. Overcoming the language barrier with some difficulty, I eventually managed to order a set meal, opting for what appeared to be a Zinger Meal with hot wings, coleslaw, and strange pie thing and a fruit juice drink. Strangely, none of the standard meals came with chips and it was only after some time studying the Chinese menu that they were spotted in the extras section.

The Zinger style burger and hot wings were exactly what I have come to expect, spicy and crispy with a secret recipe coating. The chicken, as I fully expected, was not up to the same juicy, plump standards of the UK, but it was good enough and provided ample sustenance. The strangest parts of the meal were the drink and small tartlet. Rather than the standard Pepsi we have come to expect, the drink was an almost tropical flavoured cordial style drink, quite refreshing and I'm sure much healthier than a carbonated alternative. The small tartlet looked to be savory on first inspection but actually turned out to be a sweet egg custard tart, a pastry commonly found in asian countries and in portuguese cuisine. Although the taste of the egg tart wasn't to my liking, it made me wonder why this kind of complete meal isn't offered in Western KFCs. I think a box meal that included some kind of small dessert or sweet pastry as a post-chicken treat could be a great idea.

It was now clear to me that the Colonel's secret recipe tastes the same anywhere in the world, even in exotic and strange locations, and the Colonel's staple fried chicken is loved the world over. The time had come to visit the opposite side of the globe, as far from the UK as I have ever been. Back into Westernised culture, but to see what innovations are being made almost 12000 Km from home. Next stop, New Zealand!


Scott said...

I think I remember KFC once dabbling in small cheesecakes for desert.

Jomni said...

That Egg Tart is actually quite popular here in Singapore.