The Colonel’s Central Asian counterpart
KFC is, by far, the most popular fast food chain in China. Although it’s no longer a special occasion restaurant the way it was when it first opened in Beijing in 1987, it’s ubiquitous in big cities, where it’s a gathering place for Chinese hipsters and middle-class families alike; in my experience, it’s also impossible to escape the ads, which usually feature boy bands. Perhaps in response to the attention, KFC China is far better than its American equivalent, and it serves Chinese-style snacks like congee and an especially delicious egg tart.
Wherever it goes in China, KFC tries to adapt to local architecture. And so with one of its newest locations, in Xiangshawan, Inner Mongolia, also known as Whistling Dune Bay, the nation’s first desert resort, KFC has built a yurt to withstand the harsh climate of the Kubuqi Desert.
(Well, okay, the purpose of a yurt, or ger, is to be mobile to suit the nomadic herding tribes of the desert—but yurts also look cool, and I can’t fault KFC for succumbing to their charms.)
Chinese tourists who have visited the new KFC in Xiangshawan are delighted. Or at least they’ve been posting lots of pictures on Weibo, China’s equivalent to Facebook. The yurt itself is plain white with two red stripes and a KFC sign mounted on top. There’s a small takeout window, but there appears to be no dining room.
Weibo has helpfully compiled some of the best comments: “Some web users praise the fast-food giant for ‘following local customs’ (‘入乡随俗’). Others jokingly wonder if their home delivery services are also done by camelback.”
I have to say, though, that at least based on other photos shared on Weibo’s version of Twitter’s Nonstandard McDonald’s, there are a few other Chinese KFC locations that far outstrip the yurt in splendor, notably an elaborately tiled one in Shanxi Province and what appears to be a temple in Orange Isle, Hunan. Perhaps there is a book to be written, or at the very least an Instagram account, of seeing China through KFC.