For Those of Us Who Love McDonald’s Sweet-and-Sour Sauce

In May, when McDonald’s began providing a BTS-branded meal — Chicken McNuggets, a medium Coke and fries with two new sauces, Cajun and candy chili — followers of the Okay-pop boy band swarmed shops world wide to snag a style. Others collected the sauces to resell on eBay. I discovered it exhausting to flee the advertising, and the mayhem. I noticed adverts for the meal in all places: in my Twitter feed, on TikTok and YouTube and, one evening in early June, on a stroll house from drinks with pals in Manhattan. There it was, splashed throughout a McDonald’s storefront. I finished in to strive the meal for myself.

Save for the 2 limited-edition sauces and the purple packaging — a colour deeply related to the band and its fandom — there was nothing significantly particular in regards to the meals. It was an everyday McNugget meal (which, to be clear, is nice). The Cajun sauce, a mayonnaise-forward quantity, delighted me with its mustardy warmth, the nose-clearing sort. The sweet-chili sauce tasted like exhausting sweet spiked with red-pepper flakes and jogged my memory of my favourite McDonald’s sauce rising up: sweet-and-sour.

The true pleasure of a nugget lies within the dipping.

As a meals author, I typically really feel strain to write down about do-it-yourself meals. But as a reader, I do know there are a lot of meals experiences exterior the kitchen that may mark us indelibly, too. It’s simple to wax lyrical about an ideal roast rooster, however what a couple of Chicken McNugget dipped in sweet-and-sour sauce? While the sauce, a mainstay of American Chinese eating places, normally has a tomato-y aspect, the attraction of the McDonald’s model lies in its easier style and its use of apricot and peach purée. But it’s the feel that makes the sweet-and-sour a piece of artwork. You can see it every time an A.S.M.R. YouTuber dips a McNugget into the sauce: The amber liquid balloons across the rooster like a raindrop rising larger and larger on a water-resistant floor. When the nugget emerges, it seems to be draped in a skinny, completely even layer of sauce each time — no extra. The two had been made for one another.

I’ve dipped many rooster nuggets in my life. But after I was a child in Georgia, the particular lure of McDonald’s was the PlayPlace, a plastic fantasy world of slides, tunnels and, as a rule, a ball pit. I keep in mind the best way the whole lot within the ball pit was slicked with grease, every plastic sphere and floor sticking to my pores and skin as I performed Marco Polo with my brother. The PlayPlace was additionally the place my mom went to satisfy different Korean mother and father with little youngsters. I can nonetheless hear her chorus: “Excuse me, are you Korean?” Back then, there weren’t many Korean folks in Georgia, particularly when my mother and father immigrated to the United States in 1983. These outings had been a salve for all of us: As my mom and her new pals gossiped over French fries and Sprite, my brother and I hopped across the playground, intermittently working to her for that rooster and that sauce.

Years later, after I ordered that BTS Meal, I requested for a pair of packets of sweet-and-sour along with the 2 particular sauces. As I labored from house the following day, I stared on the leftover sauce sitting on my desk and thought: How exhausting might or not it’s to recreate this for lunch? I went to the kitchen to strive a do-it-yourself model that hit the identical notes as that rectangular packet with the lime inexperienced label that I grew up adoring. I discovered that apricot preserves gave me the fruity sweetness I needed, particularly as soon as it was stirred via with a bit of rice vinegar, soy sauce and onion powder. Though I can’t say this sauce was a precise duplicate, the flavour was flooded with a savory high quality, the type that makes you smack your lips. For extra intrigue, I speckled that shiny, honey orange floor with a pinch of red-pepper flakes, impressed by the sweet-chili sauce from the BTS Meal. The pepper made it sing.

Now I wanted one thing to dip. My mom taught me potato-starch coating helps you get the best crunch on fried meals, so I dredged some tofu that was sitting in my fridge and cooked it in a pan. It’s actually not the identical factor, however it’s great how the feel of pressed tofu, pan-fried till shatteringly crisp, eats lots like a Chicken McNugget and cooks up gorgeously each time. But the true take a look at was how the do-it-yourself sauce draped the tofu — in any case, the true pleasure of a nugget lies within the dipping. When I dragged a bit of tofu via the shiny sauce and lifted it, the coating was skinny and completely even. They had been, as they are saying, made for one another.

Recipe: Crispy Tofu With Sweet-and-Sour Sauce