An open letter to McDonald's Singapore: Where's my Indian-inspired burger?
Dear McDonald's Singapore,
I am angry. I am angry because you brought back the Nasi Lemak Burger in time for Ramadan. I am angry because you brought back a burger that at best has been described as a weak and cheap attempt to caricaturise our local cusine (the patty's coconut flavour is abysmal) just so you can earn a couple of extra dollars.
Worse yet, I am angry because you've recognised a religious observation by a fellow ethnic minority community but you have yet to do anything for Indians. Don't get me wrong; it's awesome that you're thinking of our Muslim brothers and sisters during this fasting month. I mean, what's more satisfying than sinking your teeth into a juicy burger to break fast in the evening. (Like salt burning on my chapped lips, this isn't the first time you've done a Malay-inspired meal too; I wonder who could actually remember 2018's culinary dark horse, the Rendang Sedap Angus Beef Burger?)
In my 29 years in Singapore, I cannot recall a time when you offered any kind of limited-edition burger, fries, pie or drink in favour of Deepavali or any traditional Indian festival for that matter. Maybe you have, and I just haven't been paying attention. I was probably licking my fingers and getting messy at KFC (it's hard to top fried chicken) while you slid something superficial into your menu for a couple of days.
I know what you're about to say, and no, the curry sauce doesn't count. The last I checked, the four top ingredients in that mud-coloured vicous liquid were water, sugar, something shady called maltodextrin and soya sauce. Before you throw that racial stereotype of "Indians equal to curry" in my tan handsome face, find me a traditional Indian curry recipe that has a bunch of artificial soy-based ingredients in it.
By now, if you're still reading this, you're fumbling to put up a defence. You're probably thinking of putting up the McSpicy next as a lame cop out, but I'm going to stop you right there. I admit that I'm a sucker for that crispy-fried-on-the-outside-moist-on-the-inside chicken thigh, but there hasn't been a better laxative in fast food's prolific history than the McSpicy. I'm certain that something that makes my body and butt so hot without fire is creation of the Devil himself. And yet, there might even have been days when I felt like a high-rolling baller and took a gamble with the Double McSpicy, but those days are long gone down the toilet.
You see, the truth is, I've been eating my feelings at your many heartland outlets all these years. When the Prosperity Burger came out a few years back during Chinese New Year, I recall ordering not one, not two but three burgers to satiate my hunger for validation. I have absolutely no idea how black pepper and raw white onions commemorate Chinese New Year, but to me, it was a welcomed relief from your bland buns. Also, twister fries.
Every October, when Deepavali came around, my fam and I would gather round the dinner table to decide on which fast food joint to order from. KFC seemed a little ordinary for a festive treat so we would often opt for Pizza Hut's less-than-average doughy concoctions that seemed like a luxury (because of its undeserving price tag), sweeping right over McDonald's because of its typically Western made-for-Chinese menu.
It wasn't easy for me, no matter how many times we came to this exact same conclusion each time. It doesn't matter if my mum blames you for her cellulite; McDonald's has always had a special place in my life. It's where I shared the epic 20-piece chicken nugget set with my two brothers when we were kids; it's where I pretended to study while secretly making moves on my crush during secondary school; it's where I binge eat with my best mates after an alcohol-fuelled rave on the weekend as an adult now; and it's where my girl friends console their broken hearts when their Tinder dates ghosted them like Casper.
This Deepavali, I am urging you to demonstrate your support for the Indian community — which adores you so much by the way — with a one-of-a-kind burger. You don't have to go all fancy like your counterparts in India; no true Singaporean-Indian would find the idea of a McSpicy Paneer or Green Chilli Naan-Aloo appetising. On the other extreme, going all local on us with a Roti Prata wrap would be a bad idea too. Keep it simple with an authentic, juicy Masala Chicken Burger. That's how low the bar is at this point.
Deepavali falls on 27 October this year. We will be waiting, hangrily.