The top 7 Asian-inspired food trends of 2021

2021 Asian Food Trends
  • 2021 saw an array of Asian-inspired food trends across social media, shared and promoted by Asian and Asian American creators.
  • One of the most viral dishes, Emily Mariko’s #SalmonRice, has more than 212 million views across several videos on TikTok.
  • Five of the most popular trends drew inspiration from Vietnam, Japan, Korea and India.

This year, Asian and Asian American recipes reached viral heights on social media, especially TikTok. We’ve rounded up seven of the most popular Asian-inspired food trends from 2021. 

  1. Korean corn dogs 

There’s always a line for something in Manhattan’s Koreatown, and this year it was for Korean corn dogs. But it wasn’t just in New York City – Korean corn dogs went viral all over the country this year. Although this street food has existed in Korea since at least the 1980s, Bon Appétit named 2021 the “Year of the Korean Corn Dog.” 

The most popular type of Korean corn dogs have a rice flour or yeasted batter surrounding a sausage, cheese or both. They are often topped with sweet and savory seasonings or sauces, as well as crunchy potatoes, panko bread crumbs and ramen noodles. 

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Korean Corn Dogs

On TikTok, the elaborate quarantine recipes of 2020 gave way to simpler weeknight recipes and meal prepping as many people returned to work in 2021. Asian-inspired recipes featured heavily in the most popular videos of the year.  

  1. Emily Mariko’s salmon rice
@emilymarikoBest lunch of the week!♬ original sound – Emily Mariko

Perhaps the most sensational of the trendy dishes was Emily Mariko’s salmon rice, which includes, pretty simply, reheated rice and salmon leftovers mixed with soy sauce, sriracha and Kewpie mayonnaise and is eaten with nori. One of the elements that made Mariko’s video so viral was the addition of a single ice cube to her rice before she covered her plate with parchment paper and microwaved it, which apparently helps steam the rice. The Japanese American creator has made several videos featuring this dish, but the most viral iteration ended up with 80 million views. 

  1. Vietnamese pizza (Bánh tráng nướng)
@jasmineandteaEasy street food recipes – banh trang nuong aka Vietnamese pizza #vietnamesefood #ricepaper♬ original sound – Jasmine and Tea

Creator @jasmineandtea has one of the most-liked videos about Vietnamese pizza (bánh tráng nướng) on TikTok. This street food uses a base of rice paper as its “crust,” and @jasmineandtea makes her version with egg, chili oil. sausage, cheese, kewpie mayo and sriracha. She wrote on Instagram that her recipe is “by no means ‘traditional’ or ‘authentic’ but it is inspired by the food you can get on the streets in Vietnam.” It takes less than 10 minutes to prepare, fitting neatly into the 2021 trend of simple and comforting street foods. 

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  1. Meal-prepped tiffins
@rootedinspice#lunchbox #tiffin♬ Float – Instrumental – GC

Creator @rootedinspice has uploaded several viral videos of her meal-prepped tiffins, which she describes as “the classic Indian lunchbox that’s stacked and insulated.” She preps several different meals to include within the tiffins, including overnight oats,  spinach paneer wraps with pickled vegetables and makhane, which she describes as “popped lotus seeds.”  Her most popular tiffin video has amassed almost 10 million views on TikTok.

  1. Cup noodle fried rice
@doobydobapReply to @doobydobap CRISPY RAMEN FRIED RICE! #ramen #ramenhacks #friedrice #noodles♬ original sound – Tina 최

Creator @doobydobap was inspired by a corner store in Seoul that made fried rice using crushed crispy ramen noodles and the spice packet, with the rice-and-noodle mixture served in the cup for an eye-catching presentation. Her own version of the recipe used Shin ramen noodles and seasoning. She fried the noodles separately from the rice to maintain crispiness. The ASMR of the video alone probably helped it reach nearly 12 million views. 

  1. Pickled Garlic Kimchi
@lalaleluuReply to @johneng33 BUSSINNNNN♬ original sound – Lala

The concept of too much garlic simply doesn’t exist for many Koreans, which is why this kimchi-inspired pickled garlic trend actually makes a lot of sense. Germany-based TikToker Lala (@lalaleluu) is credited as having created the snack after wanting to satisfy her kimchi cravings. Her original source for kimchi, a Korean neighbor, moved away, and Lala had no choice but to make do with what was at home. Draining the vinegar from the pickled garlic, she combines it with Sriracha sauce, gochugaru (Korean chili pepper) and thyme and shakes the ingredients until they’re mixed perfectly together. She’s assured those that are interested in making it that garlic breath is nothing to worry about since the garlic has been pickled. 

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  1. Dalgona
@audreysaurushave you tried dalgona before..? 💭 #LearnOnTikTok #TikTokPartner #dalgona♬ Vlog Video work Fashionable BGM(847726) – Tsuyoshi_san

With how much attention the Korean Netflix original “Squid Game” garnered around the world, it came as no surprise that one of the show’s food challenges became a popular trend on TikTok. 

Many TikTok users made their own dalgona treat as seen in the show, using sugar and baking soda. Then just as the characters were tasked to do, users would attempt to cut around the imprinted shapes once fully hardened. The risks were far less lethal, of course, with the worst of it being a giant mess in the kitchen. And while dalgona became a fun way to pass the time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, for many older generations in Korea it still remains a nostalgic street snack they might’ve eaten as children. 

Featured Images via Emily Mariko, Rooted in Spice, Jasmine and Tea and Image via @vinabobina

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