With such amazing vegetarian India food options available on virtually every street, when we requested that our taxi driver take us to a McDonald’s they couldn’t understand what we were thinking. We explained how it was a completely different experience from that in the US. Due to India’s large Hindu population, McDonald’s has completely catered their menu to suit religious vegetarian and non-vegetarian customers alike. The McDonald’s that we visited was a small restaurant in one of Delhi’s biggest foreign tourist shopping areas, Connaught Place. Our friend had given us a rundown on what is and what is not vegan, and the food itself was nothing to write home about, but the policies for their Indian franchise restaurants is fascinating.
They would not let us take pictures inside the restaurant, so I had to sneak a photo of this sign next to the menu:
The “Beef and Pork Products Not Sold Here” sign must be an easy way to explain to tourists why they can’t get their Big Mac, Quarter Pounder or McRib. McDonald’s have two completely different menus, food prep stations and sets of servers for the veg and non-veg options. Even the people who work at the counter either wear red outfits for non-veg or green outfits for veg. It’s amazing that they are more concerned about cross-contamination there than most veg-friendly restaurants here in the states. The non-veg menu is loaded with chicken items like the Chicken Maharaja Mac and the Chicken McGrill, but we weren’t there for that, we were there for the vegan options.
We opted for the McAloo Tikki Burger meal, hold the “sauce” which was some kind of mayo/ketchup concoction I’m guessing.
There were a bunch of strange options on the menu if you ate dairy like the Veg Pizza McPuff, the Paneer Salsa Warp and the McCurry Pan Paneer. The two medium drinks, two sandwiches and a medium french fries ended up being 285 Indian rupee, which is about the equivalent of $6 US Dollars, which is actually pretty expensive compared to the much larger and much better Indian food meals we were used to eating.
One thing that was really nice is that anything that was completely vegetarian is denoted with a small “Veg” label on the wrapper. So unlike the McDonald’s french fries in the US which contain beef flavoring, the same french fries are veg in India. To tell you the truth, it has been over 15 years since I’ve had McDonald’s french fries, I can’t tell you if there is any noticeable difference in flavor between the two.
After eating our meals we were still a little hungry. We figured since we didn’t know when the next time we would be making it to another Indian McDonald’s, we’ll be true Americans and overeat, so I ordered a McVeggie Burger with no mayo.
When it came out it was basically the same thing as the McAloo Tikki Burger, but instead of tomatoes and onions on a patty made out of potato, onion and peas, you get lettuce on the same patty. A bit of a letdown, but I think the difference comes in the sauce or the mayo, neither of which we had.
We added a bit of ketchup (no mustard was available) and choked it down.
All in all, the meal was probably the worst one we had the entire time we visited (not counting the vegetarian meals on the flights, yuck!). The last thing to mention, and something that I didn’t catch until we were leaving, is that they ask you to deposit any unused condiments, a.k.a. ketchup packets, back into a small box. After I got to thinking about it, who knows how many times that same packet has been handled before you touch it, open it, use it, then use your hands to pick up your food. That worried me a little bit.
After we were done, we decided to go kill some time at a coffee shop around the corner. This was a pretty big deal because coffee in India means boiled water and Folgers Crystals. The fact that we were able to have coffee made from real beans after drinking Folgers sounded extremely tempting. We stopped in Cafe Coffee Day and much to our surprise, they offered an item called a “Vegan Shake.” We ordered it and it tasted like an overly sweet soy latte.
As you can see from the picture, it came with ice, so we drank it as quickly as possible (even at a “western style” restaurant you don’t know if the water is filtered or non-filtered) and spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and waiting to go to the airport.
So as much as I hate supporting McDonald’s in any fashion, I can now say “been there, done that” and have visited a veg friendly Mickey D’s. Now never again.