It caused a craze in the United States. But in China, it’s just leaving people confused.

McDonald’s faced huge lines and angry fans when it brought back a limited supply of Szechuan dipping sauce for McNuggets in the US last year, underestimating the demand from fans of sci-fi series Rick & Morty.

The sauce was originally released in 1998 as part of a tie-in for the Disney film Mulan. But it came back into the cultural spotlight in early 2017, when an episode of the hit TV show detailed Rick’s quest to taste the sauce again.


McDonald’s brought the sauce to China on Wednesday for a limited run, and netizens don’t understand why. One Weibo user said: “It doesn’t have any special taste….is the American version better?”

Part of the problem is that Szechuan sauce doesn’t resemble the cuisine of the region it is named for. Sichuan (the accepted spelling of the province) is known for extremely spicy food -- and this sauce isn’t.

Another Weibo user said, “Do Americans have some misunderstandings about chili sauce? The Szechuan sauce tastes like soy sauce.”

The sauce’s original name does suggest some cultural confusion. In 1998, packets bore the name “Mulan SzeChuan teriyaki dipping sauce” -- a strange name given that Sichuan is in China, and teriyaki is part of Japanese cuisine.

The US version of McDonald's Szechuan Sauce. (Picture: McDonald's)

While Rick & Morty isn’t as well-known in China as in the US, it does have fans in the country. On Douban, China’s most popular site for movie and TV show reviews, the first season scores 9.6 with 48,426 votes. (In comparison, season 1 of Game of Thrones scores 9.3 with 186,348 votes.)

But that may not be enough to save this Chinese-named sauce made by an American company (based on a film about a Chinese character made by an American company) from being criticized by Chinese consumers.

“I tasted McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce today,” said one post on Weibo. “It’s sweet, it’s sour, it’s spicy, it’s not Szechuan. I suggest China and the US make this a key point when they talk about intellectual property.”