28 December, 2014

Seafood Balls (海味小丸子) - Taipei, Taiwan - December 2014

McDonald's Taiwan 2014 - Seafood Balls

Consumed on 24 December 2014
Location - McDonald's Nanjing East Road, Taipei, Taiwan
Price - $39NTD ($1.22USD) with a combo. $49NTD ($1.54USD) standalone.
Calories - Unknown

After a day in Okinawa (and regretting not to stay longer), my wife and I flew the short 90 minute hop over to Taiwan so we could visit a friend who recently had a baby.  I used to fly through Taipei every couple months when I lived in Korea, but since moving to Singapore, I have only been there a single time in the last two years.  McDonald's Taiwan isn't huge on promo items, and for years, I never had anything new, but like Korea, they have been stepping it up a bit in recent months and my friends that live there have teased me with a range of new items, recently they've had French Mustard Burgers, "Tropical" McFlurries, a Sichuan Spicy Burger, and even Youtiao for breakfast.  Although I missed out on any new promos on my visit to Korea this time, I was lucky enough to try two new items in Taiwan, both fish related, and I'll be reviewing one of the two today, the Seafood Balls.

I've had Fish Sticks way, way back in the pre-blogging days in Egypt, but this is surely the first time I've ever had a Chinese-style Fish Ball from McDonald's. Rather than grabbing a random 'local' sauce and slapping it on a burger, McDonald's Taiwan went the more direct route, and simply took the staple Taiwanese (and Hong Kong) snack food and simply started serving it on the menu.  I've had fish balls on the street countless times in many different Asian countries, and most of the time you can't really be too sure about the quality of the fish you are eating.  At least McDonald's was promoting that these were sustainably caught, and although you probably aren't going to be served crab and lobster like I was in Okinawa, these surely are, all fish. Strangely, specifically Indian Ocean Nemipterus Fish

The promotional photos show yellow balls, so I had assumed that these were going to be the lower-quality yellow fish balls (Wikipedia says yellow fish balls are <20% meat).  As you can see in the photo above, they were in fact all 'white' meat fish balls but with a slight breading coating acting as an outer shell.  I've had fish balls both coated and uncoated before, and I typically prefer the uncoated ones.   I assume they went this route so they didn't have to use their own oil specifically for the fish, and could simply use the same oil as Chicken McNuggets.  For those of you that have never had Chinese fish balls before, they are chewy and bouncy, but these were a bit too bouncy.  If I took one of these balls and tried to bounce it off the table (Don't worry, I didn't try), I expect they would have bounced nearly right back into my hand.  I think this was because they weren't served fresh from the fryer, but seemed to be sitting for a while as not only the breading was limp, but the centre was lukewarm.  Although the ball was clearly fish, it didn't taste that fishy at all.  Fish balls need to taste fishy, or else you are just eating a chewy flavourless ball, but the biggest disappointment was the lack of any sauce. Fish balls are usually served in either a soup, or covered in sauce, not usually fried and plain.  I could understand they didn't want to develop, test, and ship out a sauce for this $1 side, but they could have at least provided a McNugget sauce for dipping, as on their own, they were far too dry to enjoy on their own.  I ended up dipping the balls into the sauce from my burger (yet to be reviewed) and this greatly improved on the flavour.  

I went in excited to review these, and did want to like them, I truly did.  They had all the interesting points for a promo item that I like to see, they were limited time item, cheap, something I've never seen before, and used local flavours. They had all the ingredients for true 5/5, but this just didn't preform. They could have given a basic cup of the sauce they topped their new burger with, like the did in Australia with the Sweet Potato Wedges, and this would have saved it from a failing score.

Rating - 2/5