Saturday, June 22, 2013

McDonald's at a Wedding in Pakistan

my mehndi hand with Iced coffee and fries

For better or worse, I ended up eating McDonald's in Pakistan three times.
Yes, three.
And all three times were purely by accident, coincidence, chance.

It may seem hard to fathom that I would accidentally eat at this conglomerate fast-food chain three times, especially since I usually make a  purposeful visit to McDonald's in many countries.

However, in Pakistan, all bets where off. 
I didn't want to have anything on my To-Do list, because I knew I would be at the mercy of my hosts. The last thing I wanted to do was inconvenience anyone by making them drive all over the city looking for a McDonald's for me. And besides, I checked out McDonald's Pakistan website, and there looked to be no interesting menu items or anything unique about the restaurants in Pakistan. Oh well, I thought, guess I'll miss this one.

Then something incredible happen.
Something unexpected.
Something that can only happen in Pakistan.

It was the night of a friend's wedding, (the same wedding I had flown all the way to Pakistan to see), and the bride had spent three hours in the parlour getting her hair and make up done. It was already 10:00 pm. The wedding invitation said the ceremony would begin at 8:00 pm. But I learned quickly that nothing in Pakistan begins on time. If the wedding invitation says 8:00 pm, that means you start getting ready at 8:00 pm. Don't trouble yourself showing up before 11:00 pm.

At 10:00 pm the parlour is well passed closed, the female staff don their abayas, cover their hair, and lock the front door. All six of us guests and the bride are about to pack into a mid-sized sedan and drive to the wedding, when the bride says something so uncharacteristic of a bride before her wedding: 
"I just really want some fries and a McFlurry."
After minutes of discussion in the car and final approval from her mother, we drove to McDonald's and went through the drive-thru.

It was the first time I had ever gone out for fast food right before a wedding, with the bride in her gown, no less. And it was probably the first time McDonalds in Hyderabad, Pakistan,  had ever seen a bride come through their drive-thru.

Of course, in keeping with Pakistani culture, we did not just order for ourselves. We ordered for the whole family back at the wedding. We even brought the food and left it right on stage so that other family members could eat it. Although there was plenty of great wedding food to be had.

McDonald's on the wedding carpet

And you know what I realized?

I was wrong about McDonald's in Pakistan.

It is complete different and unique from McDonalds's in other countries. Case and point:

1. The Middlemen

At the drive-thru window, customers do not call out their order directly from their car, instead a McDonald's employee stands outside the restaurant and takes orders from the drivers, then tells them to the staff inside the restaurant. I'm not sure what this is for, security, convenience?

2. Metal Detectors

This is also the first time I have seen a metal detector at McDonalds. Seriously, I can't recall even seeing a metal detector at the McDonald's in East LA, and that place really needed one. Don't you love how it is disguised with a cardboard cutout  so that it will not be obvious to children.

Alright, the top two images look a little sinister, especially at night. McDonald's is really not a scary place in Pakistan, but I will say that the other two times I went were not at adventurous. The second time was when I was  late for a plane, and ended up missing my flight (well, there is more to that story), so my friends and I hung out at the McDonald's outside of Karachi airport. The third time was in Lahore, after a group of us and stayed up really late, decided we were hungry, and ordered take out from McD's at 2:00 am. 

Again, I got another taste of the uniqueness which is McDonald's Pakistan.

3. Iced coffee

The iced coffee there is creamy and rich like no other iced coffee in the world. My Pakistani friends say that this is because the milk in Pakistan has more fat in it. 

Every time I went to McDonald's I ordered an ice coffee. My second time, I also ordered a tropical juice, thinking it may be fresh-squeezed like the other juice I had from the street carts...but alas, it was not. 

juice and iced coffee

4. Sweet Chili sauce. 

McDonald's also serves a "sweet chili" sauce in addition to catch up. It is actually pretty gross. It tastes exactly like the Asian chili sauces I have put on dumplings, but I don't want to dip fries in it!

5. Halal

Halal, as it pertains to food, dictates how an animal can be slaughtered and eaten. Because Pakistan is predominantly Muslim, the preparation and eating of food must adhere to Islamic law. Whenever an animal is killed, it must be killed by having the throat sliced, and allowing the blood to drain while a prayer is said. 

A Halal label is placed on all packaged foods containing animal product so that the customer knows the food adheres to Islamic law. The Halal label does not only appear on products containing meat, but products containing any animal product in which the animal was required to die to produce the product.

*milk and diary products do not need a Halal label because the animals did not have to die for the diary to be produced. 

*seafood does not need a Halal label because when you take sea animals out of the water, they automatically die.

*McDonald's fries are Halal, because their fries use animal fat. 


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