The McDonald's Chicken Nugget Special That Came With A Fortune Cookie

These days, it's a fact that McDonald's chicken nuggets come with up to three complimentary dipping sauces, and if you're ordering the Happy Meal version, it comes with a free toy. But for a brief period in 1986, you could get your nine or 20-piece McNuggets with a free fortune cookie, a pair of chopsticks, and the chance to win a free trip to Shanghai. Known as "Chicken McNuggets Shanghai," this menu special came with three new "oriental" dipping sauces — Cantonese Sweet and Sour, Teriyaki, and Hot Mustard. The chicken nuggets themselves were exactly the same, though.

McDonald's rolled out Chicken McNuggets Shanghai at 7,500 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada and worked with seven different fortune cookie manufacturers to supply the "McFortune Cookies." Unfortunately for McDonald's customers who enjoyed this menu option, it wasn't around for very long. Chicken McNuggets Shanghai came out in early August and was gone by mid-September the same year. The only thing that ended up sticking around was the sweet and sour dipping sauce, which you can still get with your McNuggets today.

Why McDonald's started serving fortune cookies with McNuggets

McDonald's menu items from the '80s were certainly unusual, but a fortune cookie was still probably the last thing people expected to be served alongside the McNuggets. Explaining the company's decision to do such a thing, McDonald's spokesman Lana Ehrsam told The Miami Herald back in 1986, "We were just looking for another way to have some fun with McNuggets."

What might have influenced this decision was the growing popularity of Chinese-American takeout food in the U.S. throughout the '80s, as shown in a study published by Oxford Research Encyclopedias. During this time, Chinese restaurants such as Panda Express, which opened in 1983, began popping up all across the U.S. By 1989, the National Restaurant Association ranked Chinese as the top most consumed non-domestic cuisine in America. So, while McDonald's might have just been trying to "have some fun with McNuggets," the 1986 release does coincide with a time when adding a fortune cookie to the menu would've been a strategic sales opportunity.

What happened to Chicken McNuggets Shanghai?

It's hard to say how well Chicken McNuggets Shanghai would be received today, considering much of the promotion of the meals hinged on offensive stereotypes of Asians. A couple of customers from Reddit also remember McDonald's cashiers wearing rice paddy hats to promote Chicken McNuggets Shanghai when it came out. In 1986, however, this didn't affect the popularity of Chicken McNuggets Shanghai. It was a well-liked offering, according to the Los Angeles Times which covered its release. Usually, when new menu items perform well, they stay around for longer than six weeks. So, why was Chicken McNuggets Shanghai discontinued if it was popular?

The truth is, they weren't technically discontinued. It was always McDonalds' plan for Chicken McNuggets Shanghai to be a limited-time offering that would only be available temporarily while supplies lasted. McDonald's commissioned 40 million fortune cookies and 81 million chopsticks, and when those ran out, customers were simply no longer able to order Chicken McNuggets Shanghai ever again.