Editor's Note: We put our omputeh from Kentucky, the land of KFC, to the ultimate test. Will he be able to give an unbiased opinion and decide on one KFC to rule them all?
It’s a Chicken Conspiracy
You know a country loves its KFC when it has .00419% of the world’s population but is home to 2.9% of the world’s KFC’s.
And that country is Malaysia!
Ever since the first Kentucky Fried Chicken opened its doors in 1973 on Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysians have had a love affair with Colonel Sander’s secret recipe of eleven herbs and spices that has since exploded into over 600 restaurants in the country today.
America’s KFC MUST Taste Better, Right?
I was lucky enough to grow up in the original “KFC-Land”, the state of Kentucky and ever since moving to Kuala Lumpur, the one question that I am asked more often by Malaysians than any other is, “KFC must be so much better in America, right?”
And the answer I always give is, “No!”, as eating Malaysia’s version of KFC truly seems better than the KFC I remember eating in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky USA. With the continuing questions from my Malaysian friends, I decided it was time for me to take matters into my own hands, or in this case take KFC chicken into my own hands, and do a taste test comparison between Malaysia’s beloved KFC and America’s beleaguered KFC.
The state of KFC in America
KFC may be number one in the hearts and stomachs of most Malaysians, but in America, according to BusinessInsider.com, KFC is only the eleventh most popular fast-food chain by sales. Another fast-food chicken chain, Chick-fil-A, has surpassed KFC in recent years to become the eighth most popular chain. It’s expanding at such a fast rate in the States that I’m sure the Colonel is turning over in his grave. For years, KFC in America has been plagued with problems of quality and service, as many people think that the corporation has been focusing more on growing its 4,500+ stores in China than it has on its dwindling 4,400+ stores in America.
A “Chicken Experience” Like the Colonel Intended
Before I could fly to Louisville, Kentucky and check out the KFC where it originated, I needed to first do a taste test in Malaysia (it’s hard work but someone has to do it), so I went to the KFC in Mid Valley Mega Mall to start my comparison by ordering a two-piece Snack Plate. While the KFC was extremely busy on an early-Sunday afternoon, as it always is, the service was good and I was seated with my piping-hot ayam goreng
about 10 minutes after getting in line to order.
I asked for, and received, one Original Recipe breast and one Hot and Spicy breast, both of which were of good size and served hot. I started eating each piece in the fashion that MUST be followed by anyone eating KFC anywhere in the world: by pulling off some of the skin and savouring it first.
The skins of both pieces were flavourful, with the Original Recipe piece having a softer skin and taste, yet still satisfying, followed by the Hot and Spicy skin that was a more tasty and crunchy burst to my taste buds. I was not disappointed with the meat of the Original Recipe piece, as it was soft, juicy and tasty, but again the Hot and Spicy meat was full of that extra “kick” of spiciness, which made it just a bit more pleasing to me.
Walt’s Finger Lickin’ Good Scale: 4 fingers
KFC America: Better Than I Remember It
Fast-forward exactly one week to America and I drove to a stand-alone KFC in Louisville (most KFC’s are stand-alone there, as opposed to being located in malls like most KFC’s in Malaysia) for Sunday lunch.
There was no two-piece Snack Plate on the menu and it took some convincing the worker to get a three-piece meal, which included two breasts, one Original Recipe and one Extra Crispy, as there is no such thing as Hot and Spicy in America. And because Americans like white meat much more than dark meat, KFC charges extra just for the privilege of getting two pieces of breast meat! (Editor’s note: gasp!)
The first thing I noticed about both pieces of chicken was they were much bigger than the pieces in Malaysia. While they were both served piping hot, the skin on the Original Recipe piece was a bit of a disappointment, as it was rather thin and even hard to take off to eat by itself.
It did, however, have a bit more ‘Original Recipe’ taste than its counterpart in Malaysia. The Extra Crispy was just that: extra crispy, but with much less taste than either Original Recipe in America or the Hot and Spicy in Malaysia; not really having a distinguishable taste at all.
The biggest difference in the chicken in both countries was that the KFC America chicken was way beyond being ‘juicy’; it was actually quite greasy, as I needed multiple napkins just to finish my meal.
Overall, the quality of food and the service at KFC in America had vastly improved since I last ate there many years ago.
Walt’s Finger Lickin’ Good Scale: 3 fingers
KFC is More Than Just About Chicken
Two things Malaysians have to understand about American restaurants are that portions are always bigger, or “Yuge” or “Bigly”, as the current American President says (hence the large size of many Americans) and all restaurants give free drink refills; as many as you want, on all drinks. All KFC locations have drink stands out in the middle of the restaurant, where you serve yourself and is a big plus compared to almost all Malaysian fast food places.
At KFC America, you do have a bigger choice of sides than just mashed potatoes and gravy and coleslaw, including green beans, mac and cheese and corn. (Editor’s Note: mac and cheese as sides? Wow.
For comparison purposes, I chose the mashed potatoes and gravy that had exactly the same taste in both countries, along with the coleslaw that had a less satisfying, less sweet and more vinegary taste in America. However, the containers of both were twice the size in America, again, always a plus for plus-size Americans!
KFC’s in the States have always come with a ‘southern biscuit’ (not a cookie-type biscuit but a warm, yummy, flaky American biscuit), which does win out over the buns that are served in Malaysia.
Where’s the Nasi…and the Chili…and Most Importantly, the Cheezy Wedges?
There are things that KFC America doesn’t have that KFC Malaysia does and one of those is that ever-important part of the Malaysian diet: nasi
While there is that wonderful drink station in the middle of the KFC America dining room, there is no such thing as a ‘sauce station’ in America, like there is in Malaysia, where one can fill up on their choice of chili sauce, Thai chili sauce or ketchup.
Instead, in America there are small containers of sauces such as BBQ, honey mustard and buttermilk ranch, all of which are kept behind the counter and that you will be charged extra
for if you want more than one. (Editor’s Note: double gasp!
Finally, if all things on both the KFC Malaysia and the KFC America menus were of equal taste and equal quality, KFC Malaysia would surely win any comparison for the simple fact of having one menu item that can’t be found in the States: Cheezy Wedges!!!
While not a part of every KFC Malaysia meal I enjoy, just the idea that something so decadent and so delicious is available in Malaysia whenever the need arises, is a real comfort.
Cleaning Up After Yourself in America
Believe it or not, both the service and the overall cleanliness of KFC’s in Malaysia are better than their American counterparts. At all fast-food places in the States, you have to clean up after yourself, along with throwing away your own trash, which sometimes leads to half-cleaned tables.
There also tends to be fewer workers per store at fast-food places in America, which usually leads to slower service and a greater degree of wrong or incomplete orders (as was the case for one family member of mine during our KFC visit).
(Editor’s Note: it would be nice if Malaysians knew how to bus their own tables. Just sayin’.
Colonel Sanders Would Be Proudest of Malaysia
Can you think of a visit to KFC without Hot and Spicy chicken, without your choice of chili sauces or without any nasi
? That’s what you get in KFC America!
For me, I can honestly say that overall, KFC is better here in Malaysia than it is in America
. The overall “dining experience” is better, based upon quality, taste, cleanliness and service.
Malaysia would be the least of all places to put the Colonel in a fowl
(*wink) mood, and that’s not only good for the spirit of a food pioneer that KFC America calls “the first celebrity chef” but that’s a very good thing for all of us ayam goreng
lovers in Malaysia!