By now, everyone has heard of the internet craze that is McDonald’s Szechuan sauce. With flavors inspired by southwestern Chinese cuisine, the sauce rose to infamy after an episode of the popular T.V. show Rick and Morty. McDonald’s brought back the sauce on October 7th, 2017 for one day in an attempt to appease fans of the show who were desperate to try some of the sauce. But where did Szechuan sauce come from?
McDonald’s introduced its Szechuan dipping sauce in collaboration with Disney and their then new movie Mulan. The sauce was modeled after Szechuan cuisine’s spicy flavors and was an instant success among customers. The sauce was originally introduced in 1998 but was soon discontinued after the release of Mulan. However in the surprise premiere of season three of Rick and Morty on April 1st, 2017, the nostalgic sauce was referenced, causing an uptick in demand for McDonald’s to bring it back. McDonald’s brought back its Szechuan sauce in October 2017 in very limited quantities and plans to offer it in higher quantities in 2018. The sauce’s popularity and exclusivity has led people to pay astronomical prices upwards of $80,000 on eBay for just one packet of the iconic sauce.
The taste of Szechuan sauce is based on traditional Szechuan cuisine. Szechuan cuisine was created in China’s Sichuan province in the Middle Ages. The fertile Sichuan Basin was the perfect location for the development of such unique flavors. The area’s topography shaped the area’s peculiar food style. Unlike other areas where herbs and mushrooms are more predominant, Sichuan’s mountains, hills plains and plateaus created an abundance rice and an assortment of vegetables. Pigs are still the most prevalent type of livestock, but cows are noticeably more common in Sichuan than the northern provinces. The people of Sichuan have learned to use almost every part of every animal from the tongue to the intestines in ways that bring out the unique flavors of Szechuan food. To preserve their food, the people of Sichuan used methods such as pickling, salting and drying that further enhance the taste.
Other than the indigenous crops and animals of southwest China, Sichuan food incorporates ingredients from all around the globe. Since around the 16th century, New World influences have been making their way to Asia. From Mexico came what was possibly the most important part of Szechuan cuisine: the hot pepper. The spicy kick from peppers found its way into some of the most iconic Szechuan dishes like: authentic Kung Pow Chicken, Shui Zhu Beef, and Dan Dan Noodles. The traditional spicy Szechuan sauce pairs perfectly with almost any Szechuan dish and adds a nice fiery kick.
From an internet meme to the extraordinary food of southwest China, Szechuan cuisine has a lot to offer!
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