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Daily Drip

Is McDonald’s Serving Chinese Food in the US?

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They’re deep-fried, crispy, and covered in cinnamon. McDonald’s latest breakfast item, Donut Sticks, are hot in more ways than one: since hitting stores in America on February 20, they’ve generated buzz among Chinese social media users for resembling traditional Chinese breadsticks, or youtiao 油条.

The youtiao, a popular breakfast food often paired with soy milk or rice congee, is well loved in East and Southeast Asia — so much so that Mandopop star JJ Lin even named a song after it (it was slick and saccharine). So naturally, after the sugary treats debuted in the US, the topic “McDonald’s in America is selling youtiao” went viral in China. The corresponding hashtag attracted over 240 million views and 20,000 discussions on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, in just a matter of days.

American fast food chains have been localizing in China for some time now, but are they now attempting to introduce Chinese food items back home?

Some in China have (jokingly) called McDonald’s out for IP theft:

mcdonald's donut sticks youtiao china | RADII China

“We need to protect our IP. This problem could become China’s bargaining chip in US-China trade negotiations.”

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Some Chinese netizens praised the similarity of the flavors while noting that the American dough sticks are smaller, firmer, and less oily. And a few lamented the fact that there was no soy milk on the side:

mcdonald's donut sticks america youtiao china | RADII China“This is a youtiao that’s lost its soul.”

On Twitter, the Donut Sticks also earned a few not-so-sweet reviews. Earlier this month, Dunkin’ threw shade at the fast-food chain encroaching upon their breakfast territory:

Others started more serious conversations about the cultural appropriation of food, and not just in relation to China — churros were another obvious reference point for a lot of people:

If you want to try the “Donut Sticks” for yourself, they sell in packs of six or 12 and are available for a limited period of time. And if you’re looking to satisfy a youtiao craving, don’t forget to ask for no sugar and smuggle in a cup of soy milk.

Related:

China Explained: How American Fast Food Chains Like KFC and McDonald’s Localized to Win Over China

Cover photo: McDonald’s

Julienna Law
    Julienna Law is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California. In her free time, she likes designing graphics, studying Chinese, and listening to the seven loves of her life, K-pop group BTS.