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This Super Popular Asian Chain Is Launching a New Chicken Sandwich

And this one had us at "umami mayo."
FACT CHECKED BY Mura Dominko

Jollibee knows how to make an entrance. Just a few months after announcing plans to greatly expand operations in the U.S., the Philippines-based company is now diving headlong into the Chicken Sandwich Wars, with the release of two new crispy chicken sandwiches with an umami flavor profile.

Starting today, the new Jollibee Chickenwiches will be available across all U.S. and Canadian locations. They come in two varieties, Original and Spicy, and are an inventive take on the ever-popular fast-food item. While chicken sandwiches are already huge in the U.S., with just about every fast-food chain launching its own version, the Jollibee Chickenwich succeeds in bringing something new to the table: an interesting sauce.

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Jollibee outshines the competition with its unique choice of condiment. Across the board, from McDonald's to Wendy's, KFC to Popeyes, chicken sandwiches usually come with one of two spreads: mayo or spicy mayo (or "pepper sauce" at McDonald's). Jollibee switches things up with an entirely new condiment, the umami mayo, a savory spread unique to the Jollibee brand, which you'll find in the chain's Original sandwich. The Spicy version, meanwhile, is rounded out with sriracha mayo and fresh jalapeños.

jollibee chickenwich
Courtesy of Jollibee

In addition to the sauce, the Chickenwich has plenty of other novelties for your tastebuds—especially in the chicken department. Jollibee's sandwich is made with a double hand-breaded, specially brined chicken breast filet. It's a new offering for the chain, but one that draws on its long history of serving high-quality fried chicken. Jollibee found early success with fried chicken dishes like its popular Chickenjoy meal, and it brings the same attention to detail to its new Chickenwich line.

The Filipino chain got its start in 1978 in Quezon City. Tony Tan Caktiong and his family, the owners of a small ice cream parlor, had found success expanding their menu to include hot meals and sandwiches. They decided to pursue fast food full time and reworked their parlor into a new, quick-service style restaurant: Jollibee. Several decades later and the Jollibee Foods Corporation now operates over 1,400 restaurants worldwide.

Jollibee first reached the U.S. in 1998, with a branch in Daly, Calif. Since then, the chain's North American footprint has grown to a modest 66 stores, spanning 12 states and four Canadian provinces. That will soon change, according to the president of Jollibee North America, Maribeth Dela Cruz. Jollibee plans to hit 300 stores by 2024, and is already well on its way to constructing 28 new locations by the end of this year.

The company has its sights set on a global footprint on par with McDonald's and Yum! Brands. Success in North American markets is at the center of those plans. "The big vision of our company is to become one of the top-five restaurant companies in the world, and North America for one is going to be a key market for that international expansion," said Cruz, in an interview with QSR Magazine.

The launch of the Chickenwich line is an important first move in Jollibee's entry into the U.S. market, where chicken sandwich sales are still going strong. Given the chain's reputation as a proven fried chicken restaurant, the Jollibee Chickenwich stands a good chance of redirecting business from competing chains.

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Owen Duff
Owen Duff is a freelance journalist based in Vermont, home of Ben & Jerry’s. Read more