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McDonald’s 2023 New Sauces: Mambo and Sweet & Spicy Jam

Updated: Mar 28

Greetings, loyal readers! As for my disloyal readers, your perfidiousness (am I torturing my translators, or do I like to talk like a supervillain?) has been noted, and there will be a reckoning. The international colossus McDonald’s strode the earth with their immense red shoes and brought us new dipping sauces for our Chicken McNuggets (or Chicky Nuggies if you’ve been adopted by Pedro Pascal). Will these new sauces prove to be fan favourites, or will they disappear like 1987’s Cranberry-Orange Sauce? They’ll probably disappear, but if enough people clamour loud enough, maybe they’ll briefly come back like the riot-inducing Szechuan Sauce. I was there that day, October 27th, 2017 (cue Ashoken Farewell in the background), and while I didn’t personally witness any rioting, there were a lot of very angry people.

The two new sauces are Sweet & Spicy Jam and Mambo. Sweet & Spicy is fairly self-explanatory, but Mambo sauce warrants a deeper delve. Contrary to popular belief there are not five Mambo sauces (although a little bit of you makes me your man.) I apologize to both Perez Prado and Lou Bega, that joke was terrible. Mambo sauce in fact has nothing to do with neither the music nor the dance Mambo. It was originally called Mumbo sauce (and can still be found under that name) and was invented in Chicago in the 1950’s and likely transplanted to D.C. due to the creator’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. It then transitioned into popular sauce at Chinese restaurants and other take-out places. It can be found on a number of dishes, with chicken wings being most common. Before the “Taxation Without Representation” crowd comes to turn me into a half-smoke this was all determined by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, so put them into a (Ben’s) chili bowl instead. It was this legal battle that resulted in the Mambo name being adopted widely, as it cannot be trademarked.

So, before we go much further with the review, I have two confessions to make. I have WAY more than two, but the rest are for Anubis to weigh against the Feather of Ma’at to see if I get into Valhalla (my theology is rusty.) First, I have a hard time with spicy food. This is not to say I dislike it, but my ability to eat it seems to have decreased as I’ve gotten older. I’m trying to improve, but my attempts at putting hot sauce on eggs while listening to Eye of the Tiger has borne mixed results. My second confession is that even though I grew up in the shadow of Washington D.C. I have never had Mambo Sauce before. Whether this means I’m bringing a fresh unbiased opinion (Washington Football Team is a better name than the Commanders) or if I’m an ignorant fool who has no idea how it’s supposed to taste (they should have called them the Commander Salamanders), I’ll let you decide.

Since I’ve talked so much about Mambo Sauce, let’s try the Sweet & Spicy Jam first (I bet you thought I forgot about it.) [Expletive] this is really hot! Sorry about the self-censorship, but my editor told me that my cursing would cause the stars to fall from the sky or something (I wasn’t paying attention.) My overuse of parenthesis is still ok, though. Now, since I know I’m a wimp, I’m going assume this is around a lower medium heat for people who don’t have a tongue like a medieval serf’s. [Curse words] it’s exceptionally good, too. The frequent complaint of spicy food is that it’s just hot for the sake of being hot and lacks flavor, but Sweet & Spicy Jam avoids that by embracing the Chinese concept of Ma La (literally Numbing Spicy.) This was done by adding natural Sichuan (the spelling changes depending on which style of romanization you are using) Pepper Extract to Red Bell Peppers and Cayenne Peppers. It has truly complex flavor that lights up my brain like a pinball machine on uneven ground. It feels a bit strange dipping Chicken McNuggets into a sticky dense jam, but it also pairs well with various breakfast options as well. I risked the ire of Clan McDonald by putting it on a Bojangles biscuit and it was sublime.

[@!#?@, read this in Q*bert’s voice (no, I’m not going to try to make a sounds for a grawlix, my vocal cords are tortured enough)] Mambo Sauce is even hotter! Maybe not as hot as one of those hardware store hot sauces that has a name like “Beelzebub’s No-No Zone”, but way hotter than anything I would expect from an American fast-food joint. [Ancient Sumerian curse that awakens an army of Deadites] why do I keep eating this? I’m coughing continuously. My eyes are watering. My nose is dripping. My wife is laughing at me. Am I that dedicated to my work? Nah, that doesn’t sound like me (I’m a Gen X slacker.) I am torturing myself because I really like it. The ketchup, soy sauce, garlic, cayenne, and chili peppers, while not as complex as the Sweet & Spicy Jam, delivers an even more potent kick to my taste buds. I will definitely be grabbing some Mambo Sauce next time I head to the grocery, but maybe I’ll see if there is a mild version available.

In conclusion I heartily recommend both sauces. If your constitution is haler than mine, you should be fine, but if you are weak like me (or fail your saving throw), BE PREPARED. So far, I’ve drank two lemonades, three sodas, and pint of milk tea while writing this review.

By Martin Peyruc

Found at McDonald’s, but I shouldn’t need to tell you that.

Social media glyphs: #RecklessGastonome