Social media isn’t just launching the careers of culinary celebrities. It’s leading to entirely new flavor combinations and recipes.
In China today, social media isn’t just about sharing content and influencers: it has also sparked food trends that have in turn materialized as new products. Video platform Douyin is at the heart of this craze: it allows ordinary people to create stunt-style videos using food, and in the process create campaigns for brands — sometimes intentionally, sometimes less so.
Predictably, perhaps, the platform has launched the careers of several celebrities. For example, Ms Yeah has won international media coverage for her cooking hacks involving homeware. In a sort of MacGyver-meets-Masterchef fashion, she shows viewers how to use an iron to cook beef, say, or how hot wires and drills can be used to grill fish. Ye Shi Xiao Ge is another internet sensation, who films himself cooking and eating in the wilderness. He has even released his own Douyin Beef Sauce, a nod to the platform that made him famous.
New flavor combinations and recipes emerge from this milieu, too. Entire channels on Douyin are dedicated to unexpected food combinations, like chocolate-fried rice or ice-cream noodles. These sensational ideas sometimes inspire brands to create new products. Haidilao (a hot-pot chain) and Coco (a bubble-tea chain) have introduced items to their menus which were inspired by stunts performed on Douyin. One involved stuffing a raw egg and shrimp paste inside a tofu ball and boiling it. So viral was it that you can now order the “Douyin dish” and waiters will know what to bring you.
This is a 12-part series on Food Megacity: how urbanization and technology are changing the way China eats. The full series can be found here.