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5 international fast-food chains with menu items you’ll only find in Shanghai

From sesame milkshakes to yellow rice wine cocktails

Photograph: courtesy Shake Shack
One of the best ways to explore a city is through its food and in a place like Shanghai, there's ample opportunity to do just that anywhere from Shanghai-only restaurants to big, international chains. If you're looking for a bit of the latter, the well-known Western fast-food chains below have their eye on the local market and have created flavours offered only here in the Middle Kingdom.
Tim Hortons (Tims Coffee House)

Tim Hortons (Tims Coffee House)

Hours-long queues greeted Canada's Tim Hortons when its first branch in China opened in February. Aside from its classic Double Doubles and snacks, the cafés here offer Steeped Black Lemon Peach Oolong Tea and Blueberry Roselle Tea. Another Shanghai-exclusive, its famous Timbits (doughnut holes) now include Salted Egg Yolk flavour, a savoury addition to the series.

Shake Shack

Shake Shack

Since its first opening in Xintiandi, Shake Shack has been slinging its famous burgers and crinkle-cut fries that have made it a worldwide hit. Its first Shanghai branch (located in Xintiandi) has four desserts you'll only find here, such as the Strawberry Yu(zu) Garden Shake – a super creamy shake made with vanilla frozen custard, strawberry sauce, yuzu juice and matcha cream cheese. Its Shack Attack shake is a rich blend of brownie bits (sourced from Al's Diner), chocolate custard and chocolate chunks. The new branch at Jingan Kerry Centre also offers two Shanghai-only concretes, including Happy 2 Be Home (made with sesame and butterfly pastries) and Keep Calm and Kerry On (a sumptuous red velvet mix).

Starbucks Reserve Roastery

Starbucks Reserve Roastery

One of the biggest Starbucks in the world, Shanghai's Starbucks Reserve Roastery sells everything from coffee to cocktails and lots of them. Head upstairs to the bar where you'll find one of this location's most popular cocktails, the Shanghai Lane Romance – cold brew shaken with Chinese yellow rice wine and plum syrup and served with two preserved plums. If you're only there for a caffeine fix, try its brews with the Pantheon Blend Vintage 2019. These beans are roasted inside the facility and create a smooth, well-balanced coffee with floral and berry notes.

Taco Bell

Taco Bell

At one of the city’s five Taco Bell locations, try its Shanghai-exclusive Crayfish Crunchy Taco and then wash it all down with the California Sunset, which is an orange-flavoured oolong tea with a subtle sweetness.

McDonald's

McDonald's

We're all familiar with the Big Mac (and Coke-flavoured wings, anyone?), but have you tried Macca's congee? Congee (savoury rice porridge) is a Chinese breakfast staple, so McDonald's tops it up with salted egg yolk and strips of chicken and puts that together as a combo with a sunny-side-up – a filling start to the day for only 6RMB (from now until 26 November throughout mainland China). 

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