We Tried McDonald's Roujiamo & They Should Leave It to the Pros

By Joshua Cawthorpe, January 19, 2021

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‘We Try It’ is a regular series where we try the latest off-beat food and beverage offerings.

The latest attempt by McDonald’s to intrigue diners with Asian-inspired menu offerings has garnered a lot of negative attention online. 

Roujiamo, dubbed by some as the Chinese burger, is a braised meat sandwich with roots in Shaanxi alleged to predate Christ. This classic street food is popular all across China and surely an authentic version can be found within a 250-meter radius of wherever you stand in most cities in the country.

They range in price from about RMB5-15, depending on the decadence and quality. They will also appear in a variety of different buns, whether it be steamed, baked, or fried. The meat also varies from beef, pork, or lamb but is generally braised in aromatics and chopped or pulled.

Traditionally a breakfast food, roujiamo is only offered on McDonald’s breakfast menu. We ordered the McDonald’s combo early on a Saturday morning, which included a black coffee, hash brown and roujiamo for RMB20.5 (with a RMB6 delivery fee). A single sandwich alone sells for RMB12. At the same time, we ordered two roujiamo from a Shaanxi cold noodle restaurant in the neighborhood for RMB16.

The McDonald’s rendition came neatly packaged, wrapped in wax paper and placed in a small box. The bun looked strikingly similar to the photo on Meituan, but that’s where the similarities ended.

The first thing we noticed was the meager portion of meat, especially when compared to the local version. Although they come in many different styles of bread, we tend to favor the flaky pastry style to the more leavened bread-like bun that McDonald’s uses.


The Shaanxi restaurant version (above) and the McDonald's version (below). Image via That’s

One thing that McDonald’s does know well is the carefully engineered sauces. The flavor, although lacking the richness of spices and a long-simmered broth, had an adept balance of sugar and salt to satisfy any palate.

Chinese netizens were also quick to point out the shocking disparity between the generous meat portion in the image and the pitiful smear inside the real version. One image with an astonishingly small spoonful of meat was circulated widely and even made it into some news broadcasts.

The most shameful roujiamo. Image via @Ali大爷/Weibo

By Tuesday evening, the hashtag ‘McDonald’s exposed for selling roujiamo with very little meat’ had been viewed more than 200 million times with comments like “I feel like my IQ has been insulted.”

McDonald’s responded to the barrage of insults by saying that it would investigate the discrepancy and that this was not the intended way for the product to be served. 

By press time, some posts on Weibo suggested that the recipe had been improved alongside images of much more satisfying examples.

Regardless, we feel like the abundance of authentic, cheap and delicious roujiamo is reason enough for McDonald’s to stay in their lane. We will continue to support the migrant worker or local entrepreneur skilled in the art of Shaanxi cuisine.

But hey, at the end of the day, do we really have high expectations for McDonald’s? In the West, we all outgrew the expectation that the burgers would look like the picture around the same time that we outgrew the happy meal toys.

On a more positive note, at least the fast-food giant has paper straws now.

Price: RMB12
Who's eating them: Bourgeois Bohemians, germophobes

For more We Try It, click here.

[Cover image via That's]

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