You Need To Try This is a running archive of all the awesome drinks and dishes we’ve come across over the course of our professional and private lives (or at least the ones we had the presence of mind and patience to photograph before they got in our bellies).
Some dishes flip switches in the brain so fast your head can spin. Some can even take you back, way back to when you were a child, triggering remembrances that strum the medial temporal lobe like a harp. Such was the recent case for me with the latest iteration of AnnaLena‘s fried chicken mainstay. According to my palate and the library of memories I associate with it, it is a dead ringer for 1990s Chicken McNuggets with Hot Mustard dipping sauce. I give it the date-stamp of the 90s because that’s really the last time I was an ardent consumer of the combination, and a little online sleuthing reveals that it is no longer possible to get it exactly as it once was.
For starters, the freaky innards of the McNugget, launched in 1983, apparently changed in 2003 and again in 2016, resulting in noticeably different tastes from the original. I’ve also learned that Hot Mustard sauce was supplanted by Honey Mustard sauce several years ago, and that it is now only available in select markets. There are even Facebook sites making light of its scarcity as if it were the Bigfoot of condiments. So yeah, I think we’re dealing with a food memory that can only reliably be recreated outside its place of origin.
At AnnaLena, chef Erin Searle buttermilks/fries the pieces of chicken and arranges them on top of a sweet/hot mustard sauce before littering the plate with mandolin-thin coins of turmeric-laced zucchini pickles. It neither looks nor sounds like the fast food staple of yore, but it sure does taste like it. I don’t know if this was Searle’s intent, and maybe I’m off my rocker, but it’s pretty uncanny how strikingly similar the flavour wallop is. The cost is $15, which is pretty sweet for time travel.