When McDonald’s began collaborating with big names such as Travis Scott, J Balvin and Diplo late last year, I had a hunch that BTS were bound to get their own McDonald’s meal at some point too. And then, they did.
There’s no denying that my expectations were pretty high when the news broke last month that BTS and McDonald’s would be teaming up for a special collaboration meal. Plus, McDonald’s definitely understood the assignment, treating the meal’s global release rollout as if it were a K-pop album and tour announcement, with teasers, a release timeline and an entire capsule collection of clothing and accessories to celebrate.
So, I wondered, what could possibly be part of the BTS meal? Would it include a hot item from Korea’s McDonald’s menu, like the double bulgogi burger or shrimp burger? Well, not quite: Hundreds of thousands of retweets later, McDonald’s revealed that “The BTS Meal” would be a 10-piece chicken nugget meal with medium fries and a drink. However, the selling point? Two limited edition sauces: Cajun and Sweet Chili.
With the ongoing excitement, especially after the release of “Butter” and four Billboard Music Award wins, I thought the BTS meal would be worth breaking my diet for a day to celebrate the group’s accomplishments. So, on release day (May 26), I drove to my local McDonald’s to pick up the much-anticipated meal for lunch.
As I waited by the second window drive-thru for my meal, I was greeted by a brown bag featuring the McDonald’s and BTS logos, which were wrapped around the bag in a pattern. “보라해,” Hangul for “I purple you” — BTS’ coined term for “I love you” — was printed on the bottom side panels of the bag.
Unpacking the warm bag at home, the K-pop fan in me was a bit disappointed to see that no photocards of RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V or Jungkook were included — something that would have made for an incredible selling point — though McDonald’s employees previously indicated the meal wouldn’t come with any special merch in weeks prior on social media.
Moving on to the actual food: I assessed the meal by dipping the fries and McNuggets respectively in the special sauces. Consisting of mustard, honey and spices, the tangy Cajun sauce had a subtle kick at the end, while the Sweet Chili tasted like what could be the saucy of lovechild of McDonald’s popular BBQ and Sweet & Sour sauces, with a dash of hot pepper sauce thrown in for good measure.
Out of the two, I was a expecting more traditional Korean flavor from the Sweet Chili sauce, and had hoped it might contain hints of gochujang (red pepper paste) or tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) sauce. In the end, the Cajun sauce won the taste test, as the Sweet Chili was a little too sweet for my taste. (“Sugar” was the first ingredient listed on its package.)
Overall, The BTS Meal itself is underwhelming—at least in the U.S., where the packaging is less branded than its purple Canadian counterpart. But the marketing and rollout of the highly-anticipated meal? Definitely worth celebrating. (Also: the Cajun sauce is more than worth trying!)
At the end of the day, The BTS Meal experience is worth the trip for any ARMY or general food lover. Moreover, I look at the collaboration not only as a celebration of both ARMY and the superstar music group’s ongoing, groundbreaking achievements, but also for diversity and the representation of Asian acts on a global level, especially during Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Now that’s a sweet taste I can get behind.