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The BTS Meal: A cultural phenomenon

By Ava Zardynezhad, 9 July 2021—

Since late May, the world has been buzzing with talk of the BTS Meal — McDonald’s new celebrity meal collaboration. The meal consists of 10 pieces of McDonald’s signature chicken McNuggets, medium fries, a drink and two dipping sauces handpicked by the members of BTS off the South Korean McDonald’s menu. The meal has been a favourite among fans and to quote the Gauntlet’s Business Manager, Gurman Sahota, “[it] is a cultural phenomenon.” 

Unlike many, I didn’t grow up on McDonald’s. In fact, I hadn’t eaten there since high school. Moreover, despite being a K-pop fan, I don’t have any strong opinions on the Korean pop group, BTS. So, with a complete lack of nostalgic attachment to the food and strong indifference towards BTS, I thought I’d bring my objective opinion to the table. 

After checking three different locations on the app, I was finally able to order the full BTS meal. The whole thing came up to a whopping $13, which in my opinion, is too much for nuggets.

The food came packaged in pastel purple containers with BTS and McDonald’s logos on them. The sweet chili sauce came in a pastel pink packaging and the Cajun sauce came in a purple one. Both had their respective names printed in Korean as well as English. I was late to realize the value of the containers among the fan community and proceeded to throw mine in the garbage after I was done eating. For that, I sincerely apologize to the BTS Army — BTS’s fandom. 

I’d like to start by commenting on how good the nuggets were. This was the first time I was having chicken nuggets at McDonald’s but I wasn’t completely oblivious of the culture that has formed around McNuggets, thanks to the internet. I’ve got to say, I truly understand why they’re such a big deal. I’m sure the added hint of nostalgia would have made them even better, but they were quite wonderful without it. There was a perfect balance between the crusty outside and the crumbly and surprisingly juicy inside. The consistency of the ground chicken was also very good — neither too chunky nor too mushy. The seasoning was absolutely perfect. I could eat plain nuggets for days, no need for the dipping sauces. 

That being said, the sauces were the main feature of this meal. I started with the sweet chili. This sauce was everything I expected it to be and more. The taste and texture was similar to a typical Thai sweet chili sauce — a thick, glazy sauce with bits and seeds of chili in it. It had a pleasant heat that covered the tongue and a sweetness that followed closely after. If I had one criticism, it would be that the sweetness could be reduced a little. That being said, I really think this sauce was a game changer. It was a fantastic, complementary condiment for the nuggets. The nuggets were great on their own, but this made them better. The sweet chili sauce would be a great addition to McDonald’s regular menu. 

On the other hand, the Cajun sauce was an odd addition. From the first bite, it tasted really off to me. I could never get used to the tanginess when paired with chicken. The sauce is McDonald’s spin on Cajun remoulade, which is a thick, mayonnaise-based sauce. There were hints of vinegar and mustard as well as the subtle heat that came from cayenne peppers. No matter how many times I tried it with the nuggets, it never quite sat right with me. I would say this sauce would be a better match for seafood options on McDonald’s menu. However, I didn’t hate pairing the Cajun sauce with their fries. The creamy texture and the heat of the sauce resembled chipotle mayo, which — in my opinion, at least — goes really well with fries. 

There’s honestly not much to say about the fries and the drink. McDonald’s fries might be the most famous, globally renowned fast food menu item in existence. They’re perfectly crispy on the outside with a soft, starchy inside. They also have an iconic, fried smell. My only issue with McDonald’s fries — which is really only a personal preference — is how thinly cut they are. I don’t love that about them, but I’m also not complaining. 

The BTS meal acted more as a great marketing strategy for McDonald’s than anything else. With the solid global fanbase BTS has accumulated over the past few years, there was no doubt that the BTS meal was going to sell like hot cakes — which it did. In Korea, McNugget sales increased by 250 per cent. The promotion had similar effects in the Philippines. In the US, McDonald’s had more customers in the first week after the meal’s release than it had had all year. The topic’s trend on multiple social media platforms certainly supports such outcomes. Moreover, the sale of accessories and merchandise alongside the meal must have contributed to the accumulation of a great fortune for the band and the restaurant franchise alike. 

Overall, I wasn’t too impressed with the BTS meal. I do admit that the nuggets exceeded all of my expectations. The sweet chili sauce was also very nice. However, that still doesn’t make this meal better than a lot of other options on McDonald’s menu. I give the meal 2.5 out of 5 stars. 

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