Singaporeans can’t eat McNuggets without Curry Sauce

From ‘Curry sauce will be back:McDonald’s’, 15 Nov 2011, article by Jessica Lim, ST

CURRY-SAUCE lovers are up in arms over the unavailability of the dip at McDonald’s outlets. The fast-food chain started facing a shortage of the sauce – which is exclusive to Singapore – two weeks ago, but most outlets ran out only over the past weekend. The shortage led to fans going online to air their grievances.

Most hoped their favourite dip would make a return, and others called for a boycott of the fast-food chain. One consumer even started a petition on Facebook. Complaints started appearing on the McDonald’s Singapore Facebook page last Wednesday. Hundreds more poured in over the weekend.

…Its (McDonald’s) curry sauce is the fast-food chain’s most popular chicken nugget sauce here, and has been available for more than 20 years. Supplies come from the United States.

…Facebook user Firdaus Humphrey said: ‘I won’t be tucking in to my McChicken and McSpicy till the curry comes home.’ ‘I cannot live without curry sauce!’ exclaimed netizen Jorena Tan.

…Mr Charles Lim, 29, said he would still eat at McDonald’s, curry sauce or not, but he would be ‘sad’ without it. ‘It’s an essential part of every McDonald’s meal for me. I use it for fries and nuggets,’ said the graphic designer, who found out about the shortage when he asked for the sauce at a Tampines outlet last week. ‘It makes my McDonald’s meal Singaporean. It’s been around since we were young.’

Others such as Mr Pyi Soe, 32, were less bothered. ‘I don’t feel anything. If there is no curry sauce then I will just use chilli sauce instead,’ said the engineer from Myanmar. ‘Why is it such a big deal?’

There’s no doubt that the curry dip is just about the best thing about Chicken McNuggets. Mac’s nuggets were DESIGNED for dipping; just look how each piece is precision-cut to tuck nicely into the sauce container. It’s a classic food-condiment pairing like fish and chips with tartar sauce, roti prata and gravy, pulau hitam and coconut milk. You just can’t have one without the other, and I have never tasted a McNugget on its own, nor do I ever intend to. Rumour has it that it tastes nothing like chicken, but neither does the indispensable sauce taste anything like curry as we know it. You could say the nugget, with its deep fried texture, is merely the vessel for the sauce, that you could dip styrofoam tempura in the same sauce and not tell the difference. This outrage over a temporary out of stock situation not only proves  that we have a curry sauce addiction, but also that Singaporeans eat Macs WAY too often. Or maybe it’s all ‘Cook a Pot of Curry’‘s fault.

In my opinion, the closest ‘curry’ that the Mac’s classic resembles would be sweet Japanese curry. But let’s analyse the ingredients: Mac’s Curry Sauce vs an off-the-shelf Instant Japanese Curry Mix.

Mac’s Curry sauce: Water, sugar, soy sauce, maltodextrin, peanuts, modified corn starch, vegetable oil, spices, onion (dehydrated), citric acid, chili pepper, salt, garlic (dehydrated), MSG, curry FLAVOR, potassium sorbate (preservative), xanthan gum, titanium dioxide, extractives of paprika.

S&B Golden Curry Instant: Vegetables (potato, carrot, onion), edible oils (palm oil, canola oil, soybean oil), wheat flour, sugar, salt, curry powder, spices, monosodium glutamate (flavor enhancer), caramel color, powdered Worcestershire sauce, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (soybean), malic acid, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, calcium lactate.

What’s unusual about Mac’s curry sauce compared to your supermarket  instant fodder, other than the vague ‘spices’, is that it has curry ‘flavor’ (product of U.S) instead of ‘powder’. We don’t even know if it’s ‘natural’ or ‘artificial’, as required by the FDA for food labelling. It also contains a common food dye Titanium Dioxide, a chemical you also find in sunblock lotions. Which casts doubt on whether Mac’s curry sauce contains any actual CURRY at all, or is it really modified lab goo. It also has peanuts, which explains the hint of satay gravy in it. I find it strange to dip fries in curry sauce, but apparently Singaporeans love the taste so much they would even smother their lettuce with it, or smuggle it into BK and secretly use it for onion rings. But wait, what do the Americans know about curry and why are we calling the McNugget and curry symphony ‘Singaporean’ at all?

Enough about the sauce, what about the McNugget itself? I’ll leave it up to fans to decide on how much chicken they think each nugget contains, looking at the listing below according to Wikipedia. I’m not sure if it’s meat anymore, or washing detergent.

Chicken, water, salt, sodium phosphates. Battered and breaded with bleached wheat flour, water, wheat flour, modified food starch, salt, spices, wheat gluten, paprika, dextrose (sugar), yeast, garlic powder, rosemary, partially hydrogenated soybean oil and cottonseed oil with mono- and diglycerides, leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, ammonium bicarbonate, monocalcium phosphate), natural flavor (plant source) with extractives of paprika

The closest rival to a McNugget today would be KFC’s ‘Popcorn’ chicken, though BK has also ventured into the miniature-chicken market with their Chicken Tenders. A blind, sauceless, taste test would determine which fast food giant produces the best grade chicken finger food, before we may conclude with confidence that the McNugget is nothing without its dipping sauces. The first nuggets (imported from US as well) arrived in 1983 with the basic tomato and chilli accompaniments, stirring a ‘chicken war’ between Macs and KFC.  According to Mac’s nutritional chart, a typical Chicken McNugget meal takes up 338 kCal and has more cholesterol than a Hot Cakes with Sausage. But that’s excluding the effect of the sauces, which could easily bump up the calories, looking at how Singaporeans are gobbling the dips up. According to this Fatsecret website, the amount of calories in Curry Sauce (assuming it’s the same as what we’re eating) is 45 kcal per serving. Assuming the average McNugget lover could easily use up 2 packs for a 9 piece meal, this works out to be about 430 kCal in total (probably a conservative figure), putting it on par with the Double Cheeseburger (433 kCal). And that’s excluding fries and soft drinks.

Nonetheless, this is yet another unintentionally viral promotion of Macs and its signature sauce,  a conglomerate which has a knack of flipping complaints and bad news to their advantage, whether it’s a trivial out of stock situation or the withdrawal of pig Doraemons from their CNY promotions. But one thing’s for certain, whether calorie-loaded or tasting like Fab in satay sauce aside, Singaporeans are still ‘lovin’ it’ anyway.

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