It’s as American as apple pie…in Hong Kong

Wayne Chan

By Wayne Chan
Northwest Asian Weekly

I’m on an important business trip in Hong Kong. I need to make sure I cover everything. Did I schedule a meeting with my attorney? Yes. A meeting with the packaging company? Check.

What about that meeting at the bank? Yup, got that covered.

Did I get an apple pie at McDonald’s yet? Ummm … what?

That’s right. I’m not ashamed to admit it — every opportunity I get while in Hong Kong, I partake in a McDonald’s apple pie, those tubular pastries packaged in tubular paper packages of tubalicious scrumptiousness.

The well-known American McDonald’s Baked Apple Pie (Photo from McDonald’s Corporation)

Some of you might wonder why don’t I just have McDonald’s apple pie when I’m at home in the U.S. Well, pardon me while I scoff at your ridiculous question. (I’m scoffing right now.)

For those uninitiated, primarily those who are under 30 and/or have never gone to a McDonald’s outside of North America, let me explain. Back in the 20th century (the 1970s and 1980s, to be exact), my parents would sometimes take us to McDonald’s. While there, my usual order would be their filet o’ fish and the aforementioned tubalicious apple pie. If my mom was feeling generous, she’d let me order two.

Yes, my local McDonalds still sells apple pies, but therein lies the difference. The apple pies they sell now are still tubular, just not tubalicious. On the contrary, they’re soft, mealy, mushy, slightly warm, and — worst of all — baked.

McDonald’s apple pies of yore were deep fried, with a light crispy shell and a hot, gooey apple pie filling that was so lava hot inside, you risked scorching a few layers of skin around your mouth if you ate them too quickly. Ahh, but that was a burn worth savoring.

In 1992, nearly all the McDonald’s in North America switched to the soft, mealy, mushy slightly warm version of their apple pies, instead of the far more delectable lip burning varieties that they sell in Hong Kong and other locales. You know how serious I am about all this when I can tell you the year in which this change took place.

The superior, deep-fried international edition. (Photo by Jennifer Boyer)

Are the North American versions of McDonald’s apple pies healthier than the new ones?

Possibly. But if you’re going to take away the delicious version of the pie with one that is healthier, but far less appetizing, why not go all the way then? Why not start selling baked broccoli pies from now on? OK, I’m getting all worked up about this.

After finishing all my business in Hong Kong, I flew into Shanghai, which is where I spend most of my time in Asia nowadays. But alas, the apple pie superiors in Hong Kong had yet a different idea with their pies in China. They’re fried just like in Hong Kong, and they’re apple pies alright … pineapple pies. Not only that, they have taro pies as well.

The taro pie has the same light and crispy shell of the apple pies of old, but it’s filled with a purple mushy filling that looks like what my kids would do to their food when we gave them turkey with mashed potatoes for dinner and blueberries for dessert.

So here’s where the apple pie purist in me must object again.

Being an Asian American, the irony isn’t lost on me that in order to have the old school, “American as apple pie” as it was meant to be, you have to go to Hong Kong to do it. On the other hand, when you start toying around with whether you should even have apples in your apple pie, well, those are fightin’ words.

If China is going to change the apple pie, how about we turn the tables? How about we start putting cream cheese in a won ton?

Oops, somebody already did that. It’s called fusion cuisine.

You don’t want to get me started on that. (end)

Wayne Chan can be reached at

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