Echo Eats: McDonald’s BTS Meal

Background

Since the Famous Order Program first started, McDonald’s has successfully launched multiple successful partnerships with household names such as J Balvin and Travis Scott. Most recently, McDonald’s recently joined forces with the Korean boyband, BTS to launch another edition of their celebrity collaboration meals. While the fans of BTS which are collectively known as ARMYs rejoiced, one is then left with the question as to what led to the collaboration? In an interview with Sirius XM, it was revealed that the boys have had a long history with McDonald’s ever since they were trainees. In a statement, Jungkook described McDonald’s as the friend who has always been there for him with burgers, fries and soft drinks providing the perfect definition of happiness for him.

The members of BTS have occasionally been spotted enjoying a McDonald’s meal whether they are on a break, tour or even filming. Several members of the renowned boyband such as J-hope, Suga and V even own McDonald’s themed merch. McDonald’s holds a special place in each of the boy’s hearts for various reasons. Suga for example associates it with his family and was reminded about how his parents used to bribe him to go to the mall by getting him McDonald’s Fries. Meanwhile, Jimin associates McDonald’s with his high school years. In an interview, he explained that during his long commute he would make sure to stop at the McDonald’s located at the express bus terminal.

Having said that, this fast-food company held a lot of memories for BTS before they debuted. The McDonald’s store that was located 10 minutes away from their dorm became a spot for the members to eat and catch up at any time of the day amidst their busy trainee life. The two dipping sauces, Sweet Chili and Cajun were inspired by popular recipes from the restaurants in the boyband’s native country of South Korea. 

Review

So, how does the heavily-hyped McDonald’s BTS Meal actually look (perhaps most importantly, taste) like? Well, depending on your expectations, one may be underwhelmed by the lack of differentiation between the BTS Meal and McDonald’s existing offerings; or one may be overjoyed to see a generous dose of purple — BTS’ signature colour — splattered across the food’s packaging. Either way, with two new sauce types personally recommended by BTS to savor from, let’s crack on with the review of the BTS Meal itself.

First up, good ol’ Coke. Stern critics may point out that it’s just a regular cup of Coke, there’s nothing to shout about, right? Well, they’re partially accurate in certain aspects, but there is a difference here. Coke got the BTS treatment and received a stunning glow up, wrapped around in purple plastic smothered with a dollop of BTS branding and the text ‘The BTS Meal’ proudly displayed at the forefront. The placebo effect intended by both BTS and McDonald’s certainly worked its magic here — Purple Coke > Regular Coke. It’s a no contest. 

Let’s move on to the main course of the meal; the Chicken McNuggets themselves. A decent serving size of 10 chicken nuggets was included, and to be honest, it’s outstandingly average. Don’t get me twisted, that’s not necessarily a negative. Simply put, McDonald’s has perfected the McNugget formula – a bite-sized chunk deep-fried in heavenly goodness. Let’s face it, McDonalds’ nuggets are far superior to KFC’s nuggets even without BTS’ involvement, and the BTS Meal further stretches McDonald’s lead despite the nuggets themselves being virtually similar all along. What’s the secret sauce, one might ask? 

The answer to the aforementioned question is not one, but TWO unique sauce offerings that were specially curated for this meal as a result of BTS’ recommendation. All jokes aside, the contrasting profiles of both sauces really seals the deal in making the BTS’ Meal alone worth trying out. Personally, the Sweet Chilli sauce is wholly reminiscent to the taste provided by the chilli sauce used in Thai cuisine, which is utilised to great effect in most Thai dishes. Tangy, laced with honey notes whilst offering a satisfying kick without being too overbearing, it is safe to say most Malaysians who tried the meal would agree that the Sweet Chilli sauce would be a worthy addition to the jaw dropping list of amazing spices found in all aspects of Malaysian cuisine. 

The Cajun sauce, on the other hand, possesses a rather interesting profile that has strong barbeque and mayo accents. Coincidentally, it reminds me of honey mustard too (Subway sandwiches, anyone?) with it’s vinegary sensation. With a near-perfect harmony of citrus and paprika hints thrown into the mix, it’s the stuff of fast food greatness. In my personal opinion, the Cajun sauce is the best McDonald’s dipping sauce in ages, hands down. Can McDonald’s make this sauce a permanent fixture in today’s menu, please?

Verdict 

Rating: 6/10

Price: RM15.70 

Comments: Again, this particular BTS Meal is merely a regular Chicken McNuggets meal doused in BTS’ themed clothing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as McDonald’s nuggets are some of the best around in the fast food world. However, the two new sauce offerings really kicked things up a notch, with the Cajun sauce proving to be a spectacular highlight. Overall, a solid meal which would please BTS enthusiasts. 

Opinions and Thoughts of BTS fans

After waiting for more than a month since it was announced, fans of the Korean boy band were excited that it was finally available on 26 May 2021. However, a mixed response was received when fans were asked about their thoughts regarding the meal. Some fans found the hype surrounding the meal to be unnecessary. This was because it caused lines of people to queue in front of McDonald’s just to purchase the meal although the number of COVID-19 cases were increasing exponentially. Having said that, most of the fans when asked stated that they were happy because for once Malaysia was not overlooked. As the saying goes, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. While some fans enjoyed the taste of the sweet chili sauce others did not and vice versa. 

Whilst that’s the general consensus of BTS fans, what are the opinions and thoughts of specific BTS fans individually? To find out, we have conducted a brief interview with four of the most passionate BTS fans out there to give their two cents.

Q: What was your actual experience consuming the meal, and what are your general thoughts & opinions about the whole collaboration between BTS & McDonald’s?

Clarisse Lim Qian Hui: 

“I was really excited when I first heard about the collaboration, because McDonald’s is affordable and so readily available as there are many outlets nearby. The BTS meal consisted of 10 nuggets, medium fries, and a medium-sized coke along with two new flavours of dipping sauce (sweet and sour sauce and Cajun sauce).

I was already a fan of nuggets, so I was really happy about it! I’m not really a fan of chilli so I personally didn’t really like the sweet and sour sauce (though some others liked it), but I absolutely loved the Cajun sauce, which most people would describe as a mix of mustard and wasabi. The packaging is really cute, and I’ve seen so many ARMYs creatively reused the pieces of packaging by putting them into keychains, reusable cups, frames etc.

Overall, I’m really happy to be able to eat the BTS meal at least once but I wished I ate more before they stopped selling it because the Cajun sauce is so good!! I think that this was a really nice collaboration because many ARMYs had the chance to buy the meal and could do charity work as in many countries, they raised funds to give BTS meals to COVID-19 frontliners.”

Ally Kuan Vei Zhi:

“I have had no experience consuming the collaborative meal, but I definitely like the idea of the collaboration, it gives the fans something to look forward to and to be excited for, this collab is also a more accessible one in which many ARMYs around the world can enjoy together with BTS.”

Joelle Lee Ming Yin:

“No one expected such a collaboration when the BTS meal was released to the public,  there were many posts of hints and spoilers on social media by McDonald’s employees all over the world, which got everyone thrilled and curious. As expected, the meal was delicious, and the collaboration piqued the public’s interest. I honestly believed that once the meal was released, that was the end of it. They did, however, release merchandise. The sauces, I believe, were the most distinctive aspect of the BTS meal; they are unique but may not be to everyone’s taste; however, given the limited availability, it was worth a try.”

Darlene Arifah:

“I personally thought that the BTS meal was a great idea, combining both my favourite fast food restaurant and my favourite people together, what more can I ask for? Everybody, including me, went crazy when they announced the upcoming collaboration. I was stoked and wondered what they could possibly do? A new ice cream? A new burger? The possibilities were endless. 

When I first got it, I was starstruck by the packaging. The purple and white was a great combination and the colour purple is a very significant colour among ARMYs. I genuinely did think of keeping the bottle, paper bag and nugget box as a memory but my parents told me to throw it away *sad face*. Although I was quite disappointed with the content of the meal. Don’t get me wrong, I love the nuggets and BTS but I wish there was something more, and also the merchandise which unfortunately only some countries were able to obtain the photo cards of the members. Although it was just the nuggets, I still loved the new sauces. The Cajun sauce was especially good but I didn’t really try the Sweet Chilli sauce since I’m pretty used to the taste. Overall, I did enjoy the whole experience and it was a nice treat to myself. “

Q: How would you describe your feelings towards BTS’ music, in addition to BTS as a group and as individuals?

Clarisse Lim Qian Hui: 

“Some people like to categorise BTS into just ‘K-pop’, but BTS’ music has a huge variety of genres such as R&B, pop, rock, rap, EDM, hip-hop, and ballad. I think there is something for everyone if they give them a chance and listen without prejudice, just like I did when I first got into them.

It’s also cool that BTS has creative freedom in their music, they have a lot of part in writing and producing them. Their lyrics are very meaningful if you look up the translations. One of my favourites is “Even all the scars from your mistakes make up your constellation” in their track, Answer: Love Myself. Their music has comforted a lot of people through tough times, inspiring them to reach for greater heights and to love themselves.

As a group, they complement each other perfectly; each member has a distinguishable voice, some of them usually sing while the others rap but all of them dance. As individual people, they have their own unique styles in creating music, shown in their solo work. As for their personalities, all seven members consistently prove they are not just pretty faces but are also beautiful on the inside. We get to see how intelligent, funny, kind, caring and considerate they are towards one another and others around them as well through numerous variety shows, documentaries and vacations through the 8 years they have been together.”

Ally Kuan Vei Zhi:

“I fell in love with the meaning and messages in their music, group songs, solo songs, which they all displayed sincerity. BTS has such a versatile style that I find joy listening to their music anytime. 

Another aspect of BTS that intrigued me at first before becoming an ARMY is their close friendship and bond among one another, they all shared their love and passion for music and creation, and I felt like there was something special about them, maybe it was the moments that showcased their humour, their stage performances, their chemistry and charisma, or their meaningful songs I am not completely sure, I can surely say however that I am so lucky and happy that that something drew me to them.”

Joelle Lee Ming Yin:

“BTS’ music has always carried a deeper meaning, such as powerful social messages. All the members are extremely talented and, in their own way, one-of-a-kind. The group had faced numerous challenges in the past, but they had always overcome them by teamwork and never giving up on their dream. It is incredible how a South Korean boy group from a small entertainment company can have such a significant impact on the world.”

Darlene Arifah:

“I’ve been a fan of BTS ever since 2018, though I did hear about them ever since 2014/2015. The song that introduced me to BTS was “Boy In Luv” and I recalled myself replaying the MV over and over again in my room, trying to copy the dance. Their music has healed me countless times and I can say that there is not one bad song that was released by them. In fact, my all time favourite album from them is “Love Yourself: Tear”. BTS, as a group and individuals, have a very special place in my heart and I am incredibly proud of how far these boys have come. I must admit that it has been quite an interesting rollercoaster ride “stanning” them but I have no regrets. I love each and every single one of them and hope that they can continue following their dreams.”

Closing remarks 

While BTS poised to continue their dominance in the music scene on a global stage, with their recent single “Butter” becoming the undisputed song of the summer, the BTS Meal comes as a delightful treat to passionate ARMYs in many countries. Although certain ARMYs had hoped to see a more adventurous meal combo, or wished that the BTS Meal came with official BTS merchandise such as photocards of the group or the group’s individual members, the BTS Meal can be considered to be a resounding success, as it successfully brought together many McDonald’s and BTS fans around the world. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues its relentless rampage, little gestures like the BTS Meal can go a long way in providing a much-needed dopamine shot to ARMYs around the world. In such a testing period, sometimes all we need in life is hope, happiness and a sense of comfort. The BTS Meal certainly brought that in abundance. 

*All pictures except those specified are taken by the author.

Written by: Chris Phang & Sumitra Cheong

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