Aji WOW Bumper Edition: McDonald's Japan 'Makku' vs. 'Makudo' menu
Aji WOW is my series of unusual Japanese food/drink reviews. 'Aji' (味) means 'flavour', and the name's also a pun on 'ajiwau' (味わう) - 'to enjoy the taste of'.
This time: McDonald's Japan 'Makku' vs. 'Makudo' special edition burgers and sauces.
We've all got a nickname for McDonald's. Back in the UK, I used to call it MaccyD's. McDonald's in Japan has been fuelling the ongoing east-west divide over their Japanese nickname this summer.
Is it Makku, or is it Makudo?
Well, it isn't really a divide to begin with. As McDonald's has shown on their own damn map. Every prefecture's got a colour representing the name they use most. 'Makku' is in white, 'Makudo' is in yellow, and 'either, don't care' is in green.
See anything unusual here?
Out of Japan's 47 prefectures, only 11 call McD's 'Makudo' - and 6 of those use it interchangeably with 'Makku'. That's not even a quarter of the country. This isn't a fierce rivalry across Japan, or even the east and west sides of it.
But McDonald's needed to promote something, so it may as well be 'Japanese civil war over how to talk about American fast food'. And I felt like I should write a new blog post this week.
In the 'Makku' corner, we have the Tokyo roast beef burger (red wrapper) and lemon basil mayo sauce (yellow and green pack). Not shown: northern Japan's contribution to the debate, Yamagata prefecture's La France pear soda.
The contenders in the 'Makudo' corner are the Osaka katsu beef burger (yellow wrapper) and okonomiyaki mayo sauce (orange/brown pack). Not shown: another Kansai favourite, Wakayama prefecture's mikan orange soda.
To me, the Tokyo offering is... not very Tokyo-ish. Lemon basil was the best thing they could think of? Disappointing. Although to be fair, there's not much to think of when you think of trademark Tokyo foods. The best I could do was 'ramen'. And plenty of other Japanese burger places have attempted the ramen burger before.
Makku team also stumbled when it emerged that the roast beef burger has pork in it. Oops.
As a resident of Osaka, I'm biased here. I know. But this combo... katsu breaded meat and okonomiyaki sauce... this is Osaka. Makudo team brought the more authentic and regional menu items to the table. Tokyo, take notes.
Both of the burgers were also on the McD's breakfast menu as muffins. The roast beef muffin had cheese in it - the burger didn't. The roast beef muffin didn't have mustard in it - the burger did. That was a surprise. Also a surprise: it didn't taste like pork. Good.
The roast beef burger had a split bun, too, like it had been cut with a knife down one side. You can sort of see that in the pics. And it split while I was trying to eat it.
The katsu burger did no such thing... but the katsu didn't have the crunch level I wanted. You may call me picky, but katsu is meant to be a loud food.
Tokyo's lemon basil sauce may not feel local, but it sure is delicious, if far more lemon-y than anything else. The okonomiyaki sauce for Osaka lacked that strength of flavour in comparison. Which was a shame, because okonomiyaki is maybe my favourite Japanese food of them all.
On balance, everything tasted good. I didn't leave either burger unfinished, and the sauces went well with a medium portion of fries.
But the winner is (drum roll please)...
Verdict: Osaka wins. Hey, I don't want to be run out of town by angry grandmas.
Tokyo's entry in the Makku vs. Makudo debate was delicious. I can't fault the flavours. But was it typically Tokyo? Not at all. That lack of authenticity let the side down.
Osaka's offering wasn't perfect, but the flavour and ingredient choices were totally Kansai. On that, it has to win the showdown.
In the end, because I bought both burgers I haven't affected the vote count either way. Whichever burger sells more gets a little extra promo in September. Maybe next time we'll get an Okinawa goya burger. Now that, I'd definitely eat...