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Posted at 3:32 PM ET, 01/21/2011

Tweaking the American palate for foreign tastes (#RoyaleWithCheese)

By Melissa Bell

I'll admit it: One day in India, desperate for some non-spicy food, I broke down and headed for a McDonalds. After months of trying to get over my aversion to the overwhelming taste of all Indian food, I just wanted some simple cardboard-tasting burger. Since they don't serve beef, I figured I would settle for an awesome cardboard-tasting veggie burger called the McAloo Tikki. I was not prepared for it being smothered in spicy curry mayonnaise.

Ah, silly, little American that I am, I should have realized that while foreign countries may accept the golden arches, they probably won't accept our boring food. As Emily Wax explains from her latest dispatch in India:

For generations, Americans have tweaked Indian recipes to better suit their taste buds - think Level 1 curries and low-fat naan. Now, it's India's turn to play with American food as more U.S. restaurants open here.

Rocky Singh, who hosts a food roadshow called "Highway on My Plate," tells Wax:

With such a strong cuisine, it's very hard for people who are used to this powerful combination of spices and tastes and flavors. So [restaurants] have to Indianize.

But I'll always remember that McAloo Tikki, and file it away as just one more particularly Indian experience I had. The story is the same worldwide. Perhaps it's best captured in the first scene of the movie "Pulp Fiction":

Vincent: "You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?"
Jules: They don't call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?
Vincent: Nah, man, they got the metric system, they wouldn't know what the f--- a Quarter Pounder is.
Jules: What do they call it?
Vincent: They call it a "Royale with Cheese".
Jules: "Royale with Cheese".
Vincent: That's right.
Jules: What do they call a Big Mac?
Vincent: A Big Mac's a Big Mac, but they call it "Le Big Mac".
Jules: [in mock French accent] "Le Big Mac." [laughs] What do they call a Whopper?
Vincent: I don't know, I didn't go in a Burger King.

From Pulp Fiction's Royale With Cheese to my failed McAloo Tikki, foreign foods have flummoxed American tourists for years. But the tweaked American food can also bring back memories of the travels you've taken.

What are your favorite and least favorite tweaks to good old American fast food abroad?

Let us know by using #royalewithcheese or leaving your stories in the comments. Or if you've snapped a photo of your semi-foreign feast, submit it to our gallery here.

By Melissa Bell  | January 21, 2011; 3:32 PM ET
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The gamburger (hamburger), kartoffel frie (fires), and Coca-Cola lite (diet Coke) in Moscow were a lot better than in the US.
The place was VERY clean, someone constantly sweeping the floor.
On our trip from St. Petersberg to Moscow many of the students couldn't WAIT to get to McDonald's for some burgers and fries after eating what they termed mystery meat (some form of beef) and potatoes everyday.

Posted by: sfulghum | January 22, 2011 7:02 PM | Report abuse

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