Mukbangs: Seafood Boils Escape the South and Build Eatery Empire

You may be familiar to videos of people eating large quantities of food, either in silence (ASMR) or conversation. This is known as Mukbang. It originates from South Korea and the literal definition means to “eat” and “broadcast.”

This trend rose to popularity in the late 2010s, especially in the United States. Everyday people created a new approach to showcase food by eating various meals online. Traditionally, it has been done through televised cooking shows or first-hand dining experience. But now a niche of YouTube can be credited for food frenzies and introductions to cultural cuisines.

Mukbangs popularized seafood boils and inevitably helped create the market to launch and expand an array of these types of restaurants. There has been a rise in supply and demand for seafood boils which can be attributed to the feasting trend. By a simple search of “seafood mukbang” on YouTube, one can find millions upon millions of views with people eating delicious trays and bags of steamed shellfish dating back to 2016. The following year in 2017, the Department of Commerce recorded the highest seafood consumption in the U.S. which included: crab, lobster, and shrimp among the country’s largest commercial values. Then it increased even more in 2018.

Simultaneously in that span, the mukbang community grew. The internet-dubbed “Queen of Seafood Boils”, Bloveslife, amassed nearly 3 million YouTube subscribers while chowing down crab legs, lobster tails, tiger shrimp, and much more. Familiar online faces like Trisha Paytas and Nikocado Avocado joined the movement as it inclined. Then those on the heels of the curb, such as Stephanie Soo, started a YouTube career with mukbangs.

Across the country in countless states like Philadelphia, New York, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, etc. reported quick expansions of seafood boil restaurants over the last three years.

The saucy version of the shellfish dish is referred to as Viet-Cajun, rather than the well known traditional Louisiana-style. As the name implies, the former mixes Vietnamese and Cajun ingredients which creates a tangy sauce in the process. The latter cooks the seasonings in the boil then drains it afterwards which leaves no sauce to develop. However, there is a shared history between the two territories which could explain the fusions of food and flavor. Both Vietnam and Louisiana were once French colonies.

As the mukbangs of seafood boils soared, in addition to viewership and popularity, so did the eateries. Many of the newer locations are Vietnamese or Asian-owned. Restaurants like Craft Crab, Juicy Crab, and The Boiling Crab have franchised the business to reach more regions and supply where there is demand.

This YouTube community plays a role in food trends from the large spread of meals, taste reactions, and inadvertent influence of appetite. It’s evident the restaurant industry took heed of this. Now businesses can anticipate the next food boom with the help of mukbangs. If people can eat a table-full of it, it must be good.

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