Why did Cheetos become the new it thing?
Stuffing our faces with neon-orange, cheese curls is a kind of battle cry against health food, according to Nevin Barich, a food-and-beverage market analyst by day and junk-food blogger by night. “Whenever there is a big push towards healthier food and healthier beverages, I think in contrast, there’s always going to be a kind of backlash... where you can see an opposite trend towards items that are basically the opposite of what the primary trend is,” he says.
Cheetos also just happen to bring back those warm and fuzzy feelings from our childhood. “There’s something to be said for nostalgia,” Barich says.
He’s not alone in this idea. The inspiration for the fiery, Hot Cheetos-stuffed Inferno Sushi Burrito from Okipoki in Downtown stems from sentimentality. You also might find yourself sweating after taking a bite of the sushi burrito, as it’s stuffed with spicy tuna, drizzled in spicy mayo, and then rolled in a vibrant red furikake-and-Flamin’ Hot Cheetos crumbs blend. “While growing up, a lot of us had an intense obsession with Hot Cheetos (it’s still pretty severe for some of us) and we would often joke about incorporating it into an item on our menu,” Josh Estrada of Okipoki says. “What started as a jesting suggestion eventually turned into a popular order request as others, too, were able to find a sense of nostalgic satisfaction for themselves.”
While many Americans can’t even imagine a life before Cheetos, this junk-food obsession can also start later in adulthood. That’s where Jjan’s 420 Fries come into play; it’s an ooey-gooey dish for anyone with the munchies, consisting of crispy fries smothered with nacho cheese, and topped with sticks of Flamin’ Hots and a sunny-side-up egg. The love for the crimson curls go way back for Tommy Lee, the co-owner of the Koreatown gastropub, but he’s doing something a little different -- he’s introducing the spicy snack to some Koreans for the first time. “Most of our customers here -- Koreans who were not raised here, immigrants -- don’t really know about the American culture,” Lee says. “When I was in high school, we used to eat [Hot Cheetos with cheese] all the time, so I wanted to introduce how we eat nacho cheese with all kinds of stuff.”