Archives for posts with tag: Sriracha

When introduced, McDonald’s Chicken Selects were a revolution in the fast food fried chicken realm. At that time, Chicken McNuggets were still mechanically pressed together from disappears parts of the chicken. While I remember liking the taste, in every box there’d be at least one McNugget with weird, unchewable pieces or other unidentifiable chicken part that was gross and made you hesitate to order them. McDonald’s started to rectify the problem with their Crispy Chicken Deluxe Sandwich, which offered a piece of white meat chicken, but the Selects were the first time they (or any of the big burger chains, as far as I can recall, had done an all-white meat nugget. Even pitched at a higher price point, they sold like mad. During my time at McDonald’s, whenever they were discontinued (Selects came on and off the menu at random, like the McRib), people would constantly try and order them. I even remember people driving off when informed weren’t available.

It never made sense to me why McDonald’s would take Selects off the menu. Even after McNuggets became all white meat, Chicken Selects occupied a different space between those and the (then) new premium chicken sandwiches as larger, more aggressively spiced chicken pieces. It makes sense that McDonald’s would want to bring a pricier item back to the menu. My only confusion is why it took so long for them to introduce a similar product.

McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Tenders are not Chicken Selects, but they are “chicken tenders battered and breaded … and made with all white meat chicken, with no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors.” The tenders come in packs of 2 (a newer release), 4, 6, and 10 pieces. Since I was also eating a Pico Guacamole Burger that day (review coming soon!) I opted for the four piece, with their newly released Sriracha Mac Sauce. It was $4.19 for the four piece box, which comes with two sauce packets.

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Our first order of business  is to discuss the packaging. The Box was slightly confusing to open even as I was sitting in a booth in the restaurant and would have been impossible to do so while driving without hitting a car or driving off the road. I appreciate fancy packaging, but one of the appeals of fast food chicken is that it can be eaten as a meal on the go and the tenders definitely fail that test so long as they’re served in this box.

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Onto the chicken itself, I’m guessing my tenders were smaller than usual, so I actually received five tenders… or someone screwed up and gave me extra food. Upon my first glance, Buttermilk Crispy Tenders were a darker hue than I anticipated. I was expecting more golden brown, but these were closer to actual brown. The breading was also thinner than I expected. I thought there’d be a thick, crispy coating, but these were thinner, like they only coated the chicken with seasoned flour after the buttermilk marination. When eating, that meant they were crispy, rather than crunchy, if that makes any sense at all (if not then make a mental comparisons between KFC extra crispy chicken versus a regular chicken patty like you’d find in Burger King’s Original Chicken Sandwich).

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By going with a thinner breading and eliminating a heavy crunch, these tenders needed a solid seasoning. Unfortunately, McDonald’s fell far short in this department. I barely detected any salt or pepper, let alone something more aggressive like cayenne or garlic powder. I know they want to heavily push their sauces and they expect customers to dip their chicken, but the food has to stand on its own. Otherwise, it’s just a vehicle for sauce, in which case why pay extra for these as compared with McNuggets (my quick math in the store had the markup as every Buttermilk Crispy Tender equals two McNuggets).

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The good news is that the chicken itself was nice and juicy. I believe it was real chicken pieces and pressed together chunks for different parts of a bird. They were generally thin and not terribly thick, but didn’t dry out. The texture immediately reminded me of Popeye’s, which is the gold standard of fast food fried chicken and unlike the texture of any other chicken I’ve ever eaten at McDonald’s, so they 100% nailed the hardest part of the item.

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Now is a good time to talk about the Sriracha Mac Sauce, since the buttermilk tenders needed an extra boost. Opening the packet, the sauce is really orange, which definitely catches your eye. Regular Big Mac sauce is never that color, so that brightness is definitely the Sriracha influence. While the color resembled buffalo sauce, the aroma was closer to Big Mac sauce, with a sharp tanginess that reminded me of the burger. The sauce was bold in flavor, and differed from regular Mac sauce in that it had some underlying heat to it.

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When it comes to flavor… this was Big Mac sauce with some added Sriracha, which was more of an underlying heat, rather than the main taste. When combined with the chicken, the experience was elevated. The tenders were dying for some extra flavor, and adding something with spice made them better to eat.

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Disappointed is honestly the word that comes to mind when recalling my experience here. After the smashing success of the Chicken Selects, I really thought McDonald’s would lean into that area again and produce another winner. I don’t want to fault them for coming up with something different that could have been even better, but they failed. If you’d told me they forgot to season the breading, I’d believe you. They needed something more, especially with all the fanfare behind their rollout. I’m honestly surprised they’ve been so well received. I ate these originally back in October then tried them again recently and had the same impression. In October, I ate these after the Pico Guacamole Burger and I kept thinking that I wished these were McNuggets instead. If you want something different and/or plan on dousing these in sauce, then order the Buttermilk Crispy Tenders. Otherwise save your money and wait for them to get a new recipe within a few years.

 

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After the Sriracha craze a few years ago, where it seemed like half the internet was composed of love letters to the sauce, things have calmed down. It has settled in as a good hot sauce, different than a Tabasco or Frank’s in taste and texture, but good in the right amounts on the right foods rather than slathered onto everything. Wendy’s, in their laudable quest to ensure I have new content as long as I continue to update this blog, decided to utilize Sriracha on their Spicy Chicken Sandwich (IMO, the GOAT of fast food chicken sandwiches). I originally wasn’t going to try this, but after a request from a loyal reader, I decided to eat the Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich.

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The Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich is priced at $5.49 (!) for the sandwich and $8.19 for a meal with a medium soda and fries. According to Wendy’s, the Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich is their “iconic Spicy Chicken, topped with one of kind Sriracha Jack Cheese, thick-cut Applewood Smoked Bacon, creamy Sriracha aioli, spring mix, and red onion … on a toasted Sriracha-infused bakery-style bun.” The sandwich was presented in a box, but it was so large that it was awkward to pick it up, which I remember happening before at Wendy’s. If these boxes are here to stay, they need to make them larger so one’s fingers can get around the sandwich.

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Upon opening the box, the sandwich smelled great; it was that spicy fried chicken aroma which I’ll never tire of. The bun looked bland. I originally thought it was a Brioche bun, but Fortune has corrected me. I would have preferred a regular seeded bun, but Wendy’s doesn’t actually serve those, so I’m tilting at windmills here.

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I lifted up the bun and saw the inevitable raw red onion. I did my best to take it all off, but I know I missed at least part of that mess. I also saw that the cheese hadn’t really melted yet. The sandwich, in particular the chicken, didn’t taste cold, so I don’t know why the cheese didn’t melt, but maybe Wendy’s needs to raise the temperature on their food holders.

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The bun was toasted and tasted like wheat…. with spice. It was a little weird and I wasn’t 100% certain that it was spicy until I confirmed it on the Wendy’s website. It was a nice touch to add Sriracha, but it didn’t stand out unless I was eating the bun without anything else. The chicken was a regular spicy chicken patty. No complaints, it was great. That Sriracha aioli was basically Sriracha sauce cut with some mayo. Since they couldn’t just spread Sriracha on the damn sandwich without scorching everyone’s taste buds, this was the way to go. It became easily spreadable while retaining its heat.

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I did manage to get one bite with every ingredient (including the onion). Of course, the onion overpowered everything. In the non-onion bites, the bacon was a standout in the sandwich. Wendy’s puts bacon on everything, and it worked really well here. It was smoky and crispy and helped balance every other ingredient which contained Sriracha. They were also good about putting enough bacon on the sandwich so that almost every bite had some. The Sriracha Jack Cheese, as mentioned before, wasn’t full melted. The cheese didn’t have a strong taste and if it hadn’t; been on the sandwich, I doubt I would have missed it.

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Through the first half of the sandwich, the Sriracha Spicy Chicken Sandwich tasted like a Spicy Chicken Sandwich turned to 11. Even though Sriracha was the star, the heat built steadily. My mouth wasn’t on fire from the first bite. I could see anyone who is sensitive to spice not liking this sandwich, because it is more intense than the Spicy Chicken sandwich. To help make this more palatable to more people, I think adding a tomato slice would have helped. I’m actually surprised the sandwich didn’t have a tomato, considering we got raw onion

 

While on the subject of vegetables, I do need to compliment the spring mix. Wendy’s has really stepped up their game in this area recently, and I do appreciate their effort. By giving better greens on the sandwich, it feels less like a fast food burger. I applaud the move away from pale, limp iceberg lettuce. When talking about a bacon spicy fried chicken sandwich, this is a minor point, but it’s the little things that add up to create a better whole.

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One of my usual Wendy’s complaints, and a distinct worry when I started eating this particular sandwich, was that it was going to be terribly messy. The sandwiches themselves don’t stay together, sauce leaks everywhere, and I need about twenty napkins to get through the experience, not including extra napkins if I plan on typing notes for this blog. I can say that the Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich did stay together with minimal leakage. The bread was strong enough to keep everything in one place and soak up the sauce to ensure it didn’t get on my hands.

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As mentioned above, the Sriracha Spicy Chicken Sandwich was hot, but not overwhelmingly so. It was a well put together sandwich where everything made sense (except the onion) and worked together to make a really good eating experience. Though the use of the Sriracha makes this a gimmick item that will never become a permanent staple of the menu, I do hope it’s brought back for return engagements in the future so anyone who likes the Spicy Chicken Sandwich but wants something a bit spicier can give this a try. If you’re in a Wendy’s and see this on the menu, it is definitely worth your time.