A quick online search about competitive eating and food challenges turns up numerous entries about the latest happenings in the realm of competitive eating internationally. Though not a new concept, the phenomenon of competitive eating has captured the public’s imagination in recent years, and is finding its way into the hearts and bellies here in Southeast Asia.
Most food challenges involve contestants competing on the amount of food consumed, the speed at which they consume it, and/or the level of spiciness tolerated. Food challenges have sprung up in restaurants and food festivals, and have even become full-fledged events in their own right. These festivals and events often attract strong attendance and media attention1.
Fuelled by social media, the engaging nature of competitive eating has enabled competitive eaters and food challenges to gain substantial following on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram. Competitive eating organisations have also emerged to host and regulate food challenges and manage competitive eaters to participate in relevant challenges. These factors have all come together to make food challenges and events a viable form of marketing for restaurants, food manufacturers, and even shopping malls2.
Here is a list of recent food challenges across Southeast Asia that have received healthy amounts of publicity, and sustained interest on social media.
Xiang Ji Mega Chicken Rice Challenge (on-going) – Challengers who finish 10 portions of rice and 1 whole chicken in 40 mins enjoy the $28 meal for free. Successful challengers also receive a $50 voucher. Singapore competitive eater Zermatt Neo took on the challenge to set the record time at under 30 minutes, generating social media buzz around the event and eatery3.
JCube Seoul Spicy Noodle Challenge (2015) – Contestants had to consume three bowls of Korean instant noodles, each of a different flavour with its own level of spiciness – original, wasabi, and a mixture of chilli powder and chilli padi. To complete the challenge, they also had to finish a 500ml bottle of Coke after finishing all three bowls of noodles. The winner won a pair of tickets to Seoul, and entered the Singapore Book of Records for clocking the fastest time in spicy eating. The event attracted over 250 contestants and generated media coverage in a local newspaper5
The Chilli Rush Challenge (on-going) – Contenders have 4 minutes to finish 12 spicy chicken wings brushed with bhut jolokia chilli sauce, a species of pepper that is 10 times spicier than the familiar chilli padi. Winners receive a T-shirt and a membership card to the restaurant6.
Mikey’s 9-1-1 Pizza Challenge (on-going) – To beat the challenge, contestants must finish a 1.6kg pizza sprinkled with Thai chilli, cayenne pepper, chopped habanero, and covered with ghost pepper powder in under 40 minutes. The pizza costs RM88.88, but successful challengers receive a cash prize of RM5007.
Gold Curry’s 10kg Curry Rice Challenge (on-going) – Contestants have one hour to finish the 10kg pork cutlet, sliced cabbage, curry, and rice meal7. Successful challengers receive the THB2,899 meal for free and win THB40,000 in cash8.
Regional – Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand
CP Biggest Eater Competition (2011-2012) – The four competitive eating champions across these territories had to go through local heats and finals to compete at the regional finale. Contestants had to consume as many CP shrimp wontons in 8 minutes to win the USD3,000 cash prize. The regional event drew strong participation and enjoyed significant media coverage9.
1The Straits Times (2016). Competitive eating gaining following with more events and challengers [online] Available at: http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/food/chomping-to-win
2The Straits Times (2016). Competitive eating gaining following with more events and challengers [online] Available at: http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/food/chomping-to-win
3The Straits Times (2016). Singaporean devours 4kg of chicken rice in under 30 minutes for eating competition [online] Available at: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singaporean-devours-4kg-of-chicken-rice-in-under-30-minutes-for-eating-competition
4The Straits Times (2016). Competitive eating gaining following with more events and challengers [online] Available at: http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/food/chomping-to-win
5The Straits Times (2016). Singaporean devours 4kg of chicken rice in under 30 minutes for eating competition [online] Available at: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singaporean-devours-4kg-of-chicken-rice-in-under-30-minutes-for-eating-competition
6The New Paper (2015). Photographer is ‘Singapore’s Spiciest Eater’ [online] Available at: http://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore-news/photographer-singapores-spiciest-eater
7MalaysiaTatler.com (2016). 5 food challenges to start your 2016 with a kick in KL and PJ [online] Available at: http://my.dining.asiatatler.com/tatler5s/5-food-challenges-kualalumpur-petalingjaya-2016#slide-2
8Gold Curry Bangkok Facebook Page (2016). Eating Japanese curry at Gold Curry Bangkok [online] Available at:https://www.facebook.com/GoldCurryBangkok/photos/a.3184430716
9CP Brand Website (2012). CP Biggest Eater Competition 2011-2012 – Asia Pacific’s first and largest regional eating competition smashes eating records [online] Available at: http://www.cpbrand.com/uploads/files/CPBE2011-2012-media-release.pdf