It has been a little while now since McDonald’s featured it’s Szechwan sauce on an episode of the animated series Rick and Morty. The episode featured a being from one of the alternate dimensional universes talking about the sauce that the fast food restaurant to coincide with the movie Mulan back in 1998. It created such a stir that McDonald’s announced they were bringing it back for one day only but didn’t bother to give most of their restaurants any of the sauce packets and greatly underestimated the demand from a show that was outside “the mainstream”. The fast-food giant quickly figured it out and gave it another try only for people to realize the sauce wasn’t THAT special to begin with.
But lost in all this was something a little further back in time when McDonald’s tried to make their chicken nuggets “Asian” and looking back on it now, it was cringe-worthy.
So while the Rick and Morty fans wax nostalgically about Mulan and fake Asian nugget dip, whether they actually remember it from first-hand experience or not, I want to look back at the restaurant’s “Shanghai” Chicken McNuggets from 1987.
First, it is not how it sounds. At first glance, you would think with a name like that you’d get a box of specially flavored McNuggets for a limited time only right? Maybe somethings coated in Sweet N sour sauce or something different. Nope. These were just the regular McNuggets boxes (the 9 piece or 20 piece) that came with special dipping packets, chopsticks, and a fortune cookie.
Read that again. Yes. McDonald’s gave out a fortune cookie and chopsticks to make these things “Shanghai”. And if this sounds a might bit racist, I haven’t gotten to the box and commercials yet.
To help mark this idea the nuggets came on their usual cardboard boxes they served nuggets in, except they were read with gold lettering in that fake Asian font you find standard with any art program on your computer nowadays. Take a look. It’s in there. Along with the aforementioned Chop Sticks and Fortune cookies, there were 3 all-new dipping sauces for the McNuggets, Sweet n Sour, Hot Mustard, and Teriyaki. I’ver heard word that the Hot Mustard and Sweet n’ Sour sauce you can get today was born from this promotion, but honestly, I am not entirely sure. I’m not a fan of hot mustard (and certainly wasn’t in 1987) so I couldn’t tell you.
And then there were the commercials. Sure, there was the bland ones with middle-class white people fumbling around with the chopsticks over really generic “Asian” music. But there was this gem from Canada.
Oh, boy, the 1980s do not age well with things like this. Cultural Sensibility wasn’t exactly a widespread thing back in the days of my childhood.
The idea was only around for a number of months just like all the other advertising ideas that McDonald’s would usher out before and since. It’s not exactly something that the company wants to fawn over and even remind people of. And with communication and being a different thinking society than 1987, The people of the actual McDonald’s Shanghai that is in China wouldn’t be too thrilled with this idea if it were to come out today. But maybe I’m wrong on that one.
So if you are sitting there thinking people going insane over a McDonald’s nugget dip is a strange idea, believe me, it can get a WHOLE lot worse.