I was six in 1998, the year Disney’s Mulan came out. Though it's been nearly two decades, I have vague recollections of the movie tie-ins with McDonald’s, specifically a set of flimsy paper lanterns and a plush of the movie’s mustachioed dragon of mascot, Mushu. But I’ve got no memory whatsoever of the Mulan-inspired sauce, McDonald’s Szechuan dipping sauce, that left as quickly as it came.
Apparently, I’m the only one who doesn’t remember.
This past Saturday, Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim aired the debut episode of the new season of Rick and Morty, the widely-loved animated comedy show. This long-gone McDonald's condiment was a fixture of this particular episode, premised on one of the titular characters’ longstanding obsession with McDonald's Szechuan dipping sauce. For 30 minutes, Rick is tending to a monomaniacal desire to consume McDonald’s Szechuan dipping sauce, which he hasn't tasted in years.
Since the episode aired, there’s been a steady drumbeat of people clamoring for McDonald’s to resurface this product, which was discontinued in 1998. There’s been not one, but a whopping ten petitions on Change.org in the days since (here’s the most popular, with over 30,000 signatories as of writing); a stream of Twitter users have chimed in, too, voicing their desires. The corporate McDonald's Twitter account got in on the action with a playful, but cryptic, response to the show's creators, while one of the chain’s corporate chefs, Mike Haracz, replied to a desperate Twitter denizen that he’ll see if he can pull any strings to make this product return.
Shop the Story
Decaying packets of this coveted sauce are now selling on eBay for hundreds of dollars. (Are they edible? Your guess is as good as mine.) Literal photographs of the sauce are being sold there, too. The chorus became so loud that a McDonald’s spokesperson told USA Today earlier this week that a reissue wasn’t out of the question.
Jury’s out on whether this product will come back, though, in recent days, it's careened into something of a real possibility rather than a pipe dream for this show's fans, which I think constitutes something of a miracle. Never underestimate the organizing powers of the internet. A live-action version of Mulan is due to come out next year, though Disney and McDonald’s ended their partnership over a decade ago, so there's little hope that McDonald's will use that occasion to join forces with Disney and revive the sauce.
In the meantime, YouTuber Andrew Rea of Binging with Babish has created a handy video tutorial on how to make this sauce at home. Well, it's his best guess, at least, derived from a Reddit recipe. (Rea specializes in this; take a look at his channel, wherein he creates dishes drawn from television shows and movies.) I don’t have hundreds of dollars to dish out for this condiment, and I doubt you do, either, so following Rea's guide is the best we can probably do for now. As someone who's got exactly no stake in this situation whatsoever, I will say only this: After hearing about this condiment for days, I've never wanted McNuggets more in my life.
Do you have any recollection of this sauce? Please let us know in the comments.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.