June 1998 - As a product tie-in to the Disney movie "Mulan," McDonald's offered Chicken McNuggets "Szechuan Sauce," for a limited time.

April 1, 2017 - (One of the only good things that happened in 2017) "Ricky & Morty" Season 3; in the opening episode, Rick attempts to re-experience the joy of the Mulan Szechuan Sauce while inside an alien mind probe. Everyone begins talking about Szechuan Sauce. And wanting it.   

October 7, 2017 - For one day, McDonald's re-releases their Szechuan Sauce as a Rick & Morty product tie-in; sadly, only at a limited number of McDonald's locations and in a heinously limited volume. Fans got pissed. People wanted that sauce. Riot.  

Fallout from the 2017 "Sauce-pocalypse":  Someone traded a 2000 Volkswagon Golf Mk4 car for a packet of the sauce, people were selling the packets for $800 each on eBay, and many were struggling to find a way to reproduce this sauce (yes, how to make "bootleg" Mulan Szechuan Sauce). One of the greatest successes in this bootlegging endeavor was the YouTube program "Binging with Babish" - a seasoned expert in reproducing recipes (and... he actually had a sample of the Mulan Szechuan Sauce to compare his reconstruction to). 

[2/27/18 UPDATE] February 26, 2018 - McDonald's RE-RE-Releases their Szechuan sauce - and this time, 20,000,000 packets to prevent rioting - and more folks got to behold its glory and many people complained that it was not as exciting as Rick & Morty fans had rioted it to be. NOTE: Chef Andrisani (below) and I tried the sauce and the recipe below is indeed a legit redux of it (in fact, it's a little better). 
Fallout from the 2018 "Sauce-pocalypse (Redux)": people have been selling entire CASES of the Szechuan Sauce on eBay.  Like early BITCOIN, the approximate Szechuan Sauce (Mark III) value is currently a little above a dollar. For now. 
Executive Chef Alessandra Andrisani has been kind enough to assist us at the San Perdido Trading Company in reverse-engineering the McDonald's Mulan Szechuan Sauce because... well... we were too busy/lazy to wait in line last October (only to probably not get it anyway) and because this seemed like a worthy enterprise. And it was.

STARTING DATA: from photos of the 1998 and 2017 Szechuan Sauce packets, we have the list of ingredients of each:

1998 INGREDIENTS: high fructose corn syrup, water, tomato paste, grape vinegar, distilled vinegar, salt, soy sauce, water, wheat, soybeans, food starch, modified spices, dextrose, soybean oil, natural smoke flavor [plant source], xanthan gum, caramel color, garlic powder, cellulose gum, dried chili peppers, malic acid, natural flavors [fruit and vegetable source], onion powder, sodium benzoate [preservative], succinic acid.  

2017 INGREDIENTS: water, sugar, distilled vinegar, wheat, soybeans, corn starch, salt, contains 2% or less: corn vinegar, apple cider vinegar, ginger, soybean oil, sesame seed oil, xanthan gum, preservatives (sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate), spices, yeast extract, garlic, wheat starch, natural flavor, citric acid, safflower oil, dextrose.

• 1). There is a difference between the 1998 and 2017 recipes (most notably, 1998 uses tomato paste [likely for color and solids more than tomato flavor], 2017 does not; 1998 uses malic acid for fruity tartness, while 2017 uses citric acid for citrusy tartness; 1998 has "natural smoke flavor" while 2017 does not; 1998 uses succinic acid to add a tart umami flavor, while 2017 uses "yeast extract" instead [which "Binging with Babish" accommodates with "Marmite" - a commercially available yeast extract paste]; 2017 contains "ginger" while 1998 may not [unless it's included in the category of "natural flavors"]; 1998 uses high fructose corn syrup, 2017 uses sugar). Take home message: they're approximately the same recipe, but some of the differences are significant... and the 2017 recipe also attempted to be more socially up-to-date: using sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, yeast extract instead of succinic acid, etc., and the 1998 may have had more of a smoky flavor and may have been more opaque and reddish. Our recipe above utilizes "brown" corn syrup and toasted sesame seed oil, which adds more smoky/caramel notes.   

• 2). FUN FACT: The first few ingredients of both recipes are known as a "gastrique" in the world of culinary arts. Sugar (or Corn Syrup) with vinegar (and water to affect viscosity) are a common base for sweet-and-sour sauces, such as a sauce for "duck à l'orange" and common Chinese take-out "sweet-and-sour" sauce.

• 3). The "wheat" and "soybeans" are likely to add thickness/matter to the sauce. Both can be used to make a gravy denser.  

• 4). The "xanthan gum" in both recipes is effectively a "thickening agent" - giving the sauce a denser property. We achieve this (in our recipe above) with corn starch and by using corn syrup (OLDSCHOOL!).  

• 5). Our recipe above is an attempt to accommodate BOTH the 1998 and 2017 recipes, considering that they may not be identical: we went with the "Middle Path." If you want to go "next level," add one tsp of Marmite paste to the recipe: we were just too busy/lazy to look for it.                  




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