From one-metre hot dogs to YouTube eating, this is living large – taken to a new level.
Melissa Leong

20 Feb 2018 - 1:02 PM  UPDATED 21 Feb 2018 - 5:45 PM

I recently visited South Australia where I was taken to the delightful town of Hahndorf, up in the Adelaide Hills. The German settlement is like a slice of Bavarian chocolate cake resting on the relatively white plate of country Australia, complete with much beer refreshment, Bavarian tunes, cherry strudel … and more pork product than you can poke a pitchfork at. We stopped in at The Hahndorf Inn, a pub renowned for dishing out platters of food on an epic scale. It claims to serve Australia’s largest German hot dog (it’s one-metre long, and comes with sauerkraut, pork jus and two kinds of mustard, for those who wish to play).

We came for lunch, but we stayed for the show.

On the table to my right, I witnessed a guy consume the aforementioned hot dog (he hacked it into four sections and washed it down with a pint of lager) and to my left, there was a tour group of eight, who took no time to demolish the one-metre hot dog as well as not one, but two Taste of Germany Plattes.

Each serve consists of a small mountain of Vienna, Bockwurst, Bratwurst and cheese Kransky sausages, a smoked Kassler chop the size of my head and an Eisbein pork hock, served with a minor mountain of mashed potato, sauerkraut, pork jus, mustard and a basket of freshly baked Bavarian pretzels for mopping up what’s left.

The platter, for the record, is a mere snip at $95 including a pork knuckle upgrade and quite frankly, why wouldn’t you? The experience was a frenzy. It was horrifying. It was … utterly fascinating.

It got me thinking, what is it exactly, that makes us so gosh darn fascinated with watching other people do impossible things when it comes to consuming food?

Move over regional county fairs – in an age where the Internet practically survives on videos of people doing extreme things (that and cute animals), it’s even easier to get our fix of far-out food fascination than ever before.

It got me thinking, what is it exactly, that makes us so gosh darn fascinated with watching other people do impossible things when it comes to consuming food?

“There’s always some curiosity with the extremes of human behaviour,” says psychologist and director of Melbourne wellness clinic The Mind Room, Michael Ingliss. “When we watch someone doing something you wouldn’t allow yourself to do, it’s a vicarious act,” he adds.

Heard of ‘mukbang’? If you haven’t, it’s not a category of porn. Well, food porn, perhaps. For the uninitiated, it’s a genre of streaming video that involves people eating copious amounts of food in front of a webcam, usually while interacting with fans watching and commenting live.

Originating in South Korea, mukbang BJs (broadcast jockeys, get your mind out of the gutter) have gained online fame for their extreme feats of eating. While academics have tried to explain the genre’s rise as a result of increasingly isolated individuals seeking untraditional socialisation through the very traditional act of sharing food, some people think it has come about as a way for people to satisfy their love of food by living vicariously through others. 

“It’s hard to describe. I just find it weirdly satisfying,” says chef Dan Hong about watching mukbang sensation Yang Soobin, a woman famous for consuming feasts fit for breaking famine and washing it all down with a few litres of Pepsi, to boot.

In the same way that the world has become obsessed with food television programs like *ahem* The Chefs’ Line, watching people eat as a sport takes this fascination to the next level, allowing us to indulge in the extreme and excessive parts of human behaviour, with none of the calories or consequences. It's arguably the other side of the coin to the wellness boom, I guess, but it’s all about balance, right?

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Who ate the spiciest bowl of ramen first at Sydney's Ichiban Boshi in The Galeries? The Chefs Line's Melissa Leong or SBS Pop Asia's Andy Trieu? Watch the fiery masterpiece unfold right here...

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