CAIRO, Egypt (AP) ? Big Macs, Filet-O-Fish and golden fries are available from Paris to Peoria. But the fast-food giant McDonald's occasionally bows to local tastes ? replacing beef with mutton in Hindu-majority India, serving Samurai Pork Burgers to Thais and garnishing burgers with fried eggs in Japan.
Now it's Egypt's turn ? with the McFalafel.
Last month, McDonald's franchises in Egypt began serving the traditional Arab snack ? deep-fried patties of ground beans flavored with spices ? on an American-style hamburger bun with tomato, lettuce, pickles and a spicy tahini sauce.
At about 38 cents, the burger-sized McFalafel is one of the cheapest items on the menu, but it is more than three times what a falafel sandwich costs at thousands of shops around the country. The McFalafel combo, called el-Miallem, or ``the boss,'' sells for about 77 cents and includes a medium Coke, compared to about $2.80 for a Big Mac meal.
Falafel ? also known as ``tamiyya'' in Egypt ? is usually served stuffed into a pocket of flat bread, and some have complained about McDonald's departure from that tradition.
Talaat Kamal, who sells falafel sandwiches for about 10 cents each at a Cairo restaurant opened in 1938, said he doubted Egyptians would buy tamiyya on a bun. ``This is traditional Egyptian food and the way they are doing it is not traditional.''
At a downtown McDonald's, 26-year-old salesman Walid Hussein chewed on a McFalafel with concentration and pronounced it good ? but not as good as the falafel at his neighborhood stand.
``It's better in Egyptian bread,'' he said.
Caroline Greiss, McDonald's marketing manager in Egypt, defended the McFalafel and said it's selling well. ``Our focus is to offer customers a high quality sandwich with an authentic taste,'' she said.
McDonald's sought an authentic touch for its advertising, too. Its McFalafel jingle features Egyptian pop star Shaaban Abdel-Rahim, whose hit ``I hate Israel'' helped fuel an anti-Israeli and anti-American campaign ? and by extension a boycott against McDonald's ? during Israeli-Palestinian battles earlier this year.
The latest Abdel-Rahim tune is decidedly less political: ``If you eat a bite, you can't stop before finishing the whole roll.''
Abdel-Rahim said he agreed to sing McFalafel's praises because it is ``traditional Egyptian food. I am ready to sing for foul (Egypt's national bean dish) if I was asked to.''
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