Ditch the dollar menu and grab your renminbi. Our photo theme this week is China Menu: outside-the-box fast food options you won’t get at your local spot.
For many, the beauty of a doughnut is in its simplicity. A ring of flaky, glazed dough can be hard to beat in the right circumstances. Krispy Kreme kind of pioneered this eternal truth, building their brand identity off of straightforward, plain doughnuts, hot and fresh out of the oven, rather than chasing after pink icings and confetti sprinkles. At the local Korean-owned doughnut spots in Dallas where I grew up, I would always have to have at least one plain-glazed in the box.
That being said, these are changing times. Dunkin Donuts’ first two attempts to break into the Chinese market failed: consumers weren’t interested in sugary breakfasts (surprise surprise, that’s kind of just an American thing), and they weren’t buying into the Americana of a simple, no-frills doughnut shop.
Dunkin Donuts in China: a tale of perseverance. Photo: AP
Seems like the third try’s been the charm, because Dunkin Donuts is relatively easy to find now in China’s major cities. They did a much better job targeting the doughnuts (and atmosphere) to their local buyers, and we’re highlighting one which, to an average doughnut fan, might be deserving of a long, extended sneer.
The Seaweed Sesame Pork Floss Doughnut is wrong on every level to the American palette. The refined simplicity of a glazed doughnut is torn away with the addition of seaweed, sesame, and pork floss. “What is pork floss?”, you might ask, echoing a statement made at least once by every foreigner who comes to China. It’s basically dried up pork, pounded and teased until it has the consistency of fluffy cotton. Locals are surprised if you don’t know it — it’s a nationally adored snack food of Chinese origin. I’ve been asked how to say rousong in English, or how Americans eat it. At first it pained me to respond with the (lowkey nonsense) English pork floss, and to tell friends that, for the most part, nobody on that side of the world has even heard of the stuff. Full disclosure, I absolutely detest it. No matter how many times I try it, I always come to the same conclusion. Quickest way to ruin a baked good.
But, consider the counterpoint. What kind of barbarian simpletons eat rings of fried sugary dough and call it breakfast? Where are the nutrients? Where are the ingredients? It does seem kind of shortsighted to knock the pork floss doughnut for including a centuries-old traditional delicacy, whose method of preparation is actually pretty ingenious (stew the meat in sweetened soy sauce until the muscle fibers can be easily pulled apart, dry-cook it in a wok, mash it and beat it, add spices, etc.).
So today, gaze upon the pork floss and seaweed doughnut, and decide for yourself how to feel.
Photo: Boston Globe
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