The second thing to know about McDonald’s’ hyped “Szechuan” sauce is that it has precious little to do with Sichuan, the southwestern Chinese province known for its spicy, mouth-watering cuisine.
McDonald’s’ (over)hyped Szechuan sauce lands in China. We give it a try
The first thing? The taste is beside the (selling) point.
When the fast-food chain began providing the sauce in China on Wednesday – to no particular fanfare – it was promoted as the “viral” sauce, in the metaphorical, internet sense of the word.
“The viral sauce is here!” reads a banner on McDonald’s’ page on Weibo, China’s popular Twitter-like social media.
In the sauce’s supposed country of origin, the hype it generated in the US has become the product itself.
Inkstone went on a field trip to break down the transnational phenomenon for you – the taste, the hype and all.
The backstory goes all the way back to 1998, when McDonald’s released the sauce to go with Disney’s Mulan, the animated film based on the Chinese legend of a brave daughter posing as a man to take her elderly father’s place in the army.
The company stopped supplying the sauce when promotion for the film ended, and the world moved on just fine – until almost 20 years later.
In 2017, screaming mentions of the sauce in the popular cartoon series Rick and Morty brought it back to the American mind, and fanboy pressure (or good marketing) prompted McDonald’s to bring back the sauce.
The problem was, the rerun was weak sauce.
Supplies ran out quickly, disappointing fans who waited in line for hours and even causing riots in places.
McDonald’s said it was sorry, and began serving the condiment in the US again last month – 20 million packets of it.
The hype went from there. Fans – some in places as remote as in Guam – went into hyperventilation.
There was the hoarder.
ive got two packets of the szechuan sauce stashed away in my closet and im sitting on them like bitcoins— Funko Poppers (@FlannelFerret) 23 March 2018
And the activist.
i ran over some szechuan sauce with my car— Chocola (@TinyChocola) 22 March 2018
Now on to the realist.
China’s social media has reacted to the sauce with a collective “meh.”
Our intrepid reporter, Xinyan Yu, visited a McDonald’s in Beijing and had a try.
“It’s very sweet, a little sour and saltier than other sauces,” she wrote in Inkstone’s Slack channel.
There were no lines at the shop, no crazed fans, and there was absolutely no riot.
Her verdict: the sauce has nothing to do with Sichuan, much like how fortune cookies aren’t a Chinese tradition (they were invented in the US).
But you already knew that. Right?