4.307 Bean Royale

-Cycle 4, Item 307-
8 (Fri) November 2013

-Sui Generis-
Bean Royale


at Burger King (Abu Dhabi International Airport)

-Abu Dhabi-


Day 7 (see previously 4.306 Shish Tawook Rap...) (in transit).

On my way home from Cairo.  Layover in Abu Dhabi International Airport for a few hours, right around dinnertime.

Bean Royale is a Burger King sandwich.  At the time of ordering, I assumed it to be a regional item, perhaps something along the lines of falafel/ta'amiya, but I've learned since that it was originally developed in the UK market--which, come to think of it, does have sizable South Asian and Middle Eastern populations, many vegetarian--and sold as "Spicy Bean Burger."  In any case, it consists of a patty containing both mashed and whole beans, breaded and deep-fried, topped with yellow cheese, tomato, some kind of ketchupy sauce.  Not that bad.  Way better than any of the abominable gimmicks at Burger King Korea (see for example 4.275 Mr. K...).

With the Triple Whopper, XXL Your Way, and Burger King Towers, they're not kidding around.

Sadly, I missed out on a chance to try the Chicken Whopper.  Before Burger King, I'd ordered a plate of butter chicken with rice at a Middle Eastern-themed stall elsewhere in the food court, trying to make my last meal in the neighborhood as local as possible.  But it was pretty bad.  And then I realized that a region-only burger, even if at an international fastfood chain, might be even more interesting.  After the Bean Royale, however, I was stuffed.  I should've gotten the Chicken Whopper anyway, just for a taste, and wrapped the rest to go.  Next time for sure.

For lunch earlier in the day, at Cairo International Airport, I did manage to squeeze in two regional items at McDonald's: the McArabia Chicken and the McArabia Kofta.  The chicken consisted of two thin processed chicken patties, topped with shredded lettuce and a tomato slice and the standard McChicken sauce, wrapped in a pita.  The flavors were somewhat predictable, not at all Arabic, but the soft and chewy pita, like a magic carpet, transformed the experience into something exotic (not really).  The kofta was similar, only with ground lamb patties and the Big Mac sauce.  The chicken was better.  Either way, way better than any of the abominable gimmicks at McDonald's Korea (see for example 3.253 McSpicy Deluxe Snack Wrap).

And sadly, I also missed out on a chance to try the Chicken Big Mac.  Definitely next time.

In many ways, Korea now seems to be a victim of its own success.

At the conference, I was struck by how comfortable everyone was speaking in English, even though it's their second language after Arabic.  Because the higher education systems in the region are still largely underdeveloped, students pursuing upper degrees all go abroad, typically the UK or US, where they're immersed in the language for at least 4 years, probably much longer, so their ability to communicate in English at an academic level is nearly flawless.  By contrast, because Korea has a decent system in place, most students choose to stay home, which is fine, but the difference shows in international situations.

I'm wondering if perhaps the fastfood context is analogous.  Burger King UAE and McDonald's Egypt, for example, probably don't have the capacities to develop new products on their own, so they adapt existing items from larger markets or depend on some regional R&D center, either of which likely has invested significant efforts to carefully design items that would appeal to a wide range of customers.  Burger King Korea or McDonald's Korea, on the other hand, operating in a market big enough to justify independence, compelled by the general Korean obstinance concerning food, unaware of their incapacity to create a competent sandwich, insist on going it alone, usually to disastrous/laughable/shameful results.

On a final note, totally unrelated to food, I'd like to share the playlists of songs that listen to when traveling, specifically upon departure and arrival:


- Takeoff: "Come Fly with Me" - Frank Sinatra  (admittedly, I got the idea from Catch Me If You Can)

ARRIVE [country]

- Landing: "Money for Nothing" - Dire Straits (timed so that Sting's "I want my MTV..." fades in during approach and the opening guitar riff kicks in right when the wheels hit the ground--major adrenalin rush)

- Taxiing to the Terminal: "Across the Universe" - The Beatles; "Top of the World" - Carpenters

- Disembarking: "I Burn for You [live - from Bring on the Night]" - Sting

- Getting through Immigration/Customs: "Somewhere over the Rainbow ~ What a Wonderful World" - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole; "We No Speak Americano" - DCup w Yolanda Be Cool; "Peter Gunn Theme" - The Blues Brothers; "Machine Gun" - Commodores; "Hey Ladies" - Beastie Boys

- Walking out the Gates: "Smooth" - Santana w Rob Thomas (yes, from Love Actually)

- Securing Transportation: "Soul Bossa Nova" - Quincy Jones and His Orchestra

- On the Ride into the City: "Desert Rose [demo version]"

DEPART [country]

- Takeoff: "Raiders March" - John Williams (seriously)


- Landing: "Back in the USSR" - The Beatles

- Taxiing to the Terminal: "Back in Time" - Huey Lewis & The News; "What a Wonderful World" - Louis Armstrong

- Disembarking: "Air on a G String" - Dominic Miller

- Getting through Immigration/Customs: "Cello Suite 1 in G (prelude)" - Yo-Yo Ma; "The Sounds of Silence" - Simon & Garfunkel (January 1992, arriving in New York following winter holiday in Korea, on the subway back to my dorm room at Columbia, on my trusty CD Walkman, I listed to this song (I was into 60s folk rock at the time); a couple weeks later, I watched The Graduate for the first time, which includes a remarkably similar scene featuring Dustin Hoffman; since then, I've almost always listened to the song on my way home from a trip abroad)

- Walking out the Gates: "Soulful Strut" - Young-Holt Unlimited (yes, The Parent Trap)

- Securing Transportation: "Sweet Home Alabama" - Lynyrd Skynyrd

- On the Ride into the City: "Bring It on Home to Me" - Sam Cooke

The point is, listening to "Raiders March" on the flight out of Cairo made the entire trip worthwhile.  "Desert Rose" in Abu Dhabi was also very cool.


  1. observation 1: you know how i always manage to bring any topic back to myself? in a similar way, you always find a way to be that proud korean, by saying (1) koreans suck at coming up with their own version of western fast food but that's because of korea's huge sucess, and (2) koreans speak english poorly but that's because their education system is so good people don't need to go abroad. okay i guess. i'm no expert in either field.

    observation 2: it's cool that you expect there to be a "next time" at these desitnations. i guess if work takes you there, work takes you there. boringly for me, work usually only takes me to korea.

  2. observation 3: shocked that you tried the mcarabia kofta, after that 0.0 kofta incident.

  3. observation 4: you don't have a single song on that playlist written after my birth....and I'm no kid anymore...

  4. re OBSV1: not sure if you're being sarcastic here. my point was actually quite derogative: koreans think that, with some rapid progress (in some areas) over the past couple decades, they're now world-class even though (in some areas) they're still far from it.

    re OBSV2: it's egypt, are you kidding?? i didn't do any sight seeing this time, so i gotta go back to see the pyramids someday.

    re OBSV3: well, kofta is just any kind of ground meat, usually meatball. they're everywhere. in fact, for lunch the next day, after we'd figured out that the kofta had been the problem, kofta was served in the cafeteria. one of my colleagues from korea told us not to touch it. i said, jokingly, "well, you know they're different kitchens, right?" she said, seriously, "well, they probably contain the same kinds of ingredients." she's an MD, public health expert.

    re OBSV4: Desert Rose (1999), Smooth (2001), We No Speak Americano (2010), and the 2 Bach pieces were recorded in the 2000s.

  5. re observation 1: i know you think you're being derogative, but the "derogative" comment has a quite complimentary/flattering reason behind it. that's all i'm saying.

    re observation 3: yes, i know that kofta at macdonald's is different than the kofta that got you sick but if i got the worst food poisoning of my life eating a hamburger, i'm pretty sure i'm staying clear of all hamburgers for a while, not because i'm afraid that the next place i bought a hamburger from would have the same food poisoning problem, but because i just don't want to touch a hamburger for a while. just saying.

  6. re 1: okay, yes, the premise of my point was objectively positive. but i don't think that it's much of a stretch, not really that complimentary, to state the obvious fact that korea has a decent educational system or large fastfood market. funny, as i was writing, i really felt a bit uneasy that i was being too negative.

    re 3: now that u mention it, yes, i'm surprised that the kofta at lunch didn't gross me out. i actually didn't eat it, but only because it was all dried out and weird looking. i've heard of people NEVER eating something after they were food-poisoned by it. i guess i'm more forgiving/resilient when it comes to food. i mean, if a bad bowl of MNM put me in the ICU, in a coma, i think the first thing that i'd want upon waking up is another bowl of MNM.