While the stereotype of the LA transplant is someone hoping to break into show business, New Mexico native Varissa Brum was attracted less by tinsel and more by another stringy object: noodles.
“I watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain, where he goes to Koreatown,” she recalls over a bowl of noodles at Mian in West Adams. “I remember being like, ‘I'm gonna do that one day. ‘And then when it came time for me to move, I was like, ‘I'm gonna go to Los Angeles.’”
Brum moved to LA in 2015 and initially struggled to find friends and connections. So, she turned to social media to share her food adventures and found an online community.
“My audience just follow[s] along to see where I'm going,” explains Brum. “And they'll go and check it out too. They'll be like, ‘Oh, I came here. I really love it. Thanks for showing it.’”
Brum quit her day job working in food and beverage marketing and now has more than 360,000 followers on TikTok under the moniker Miso Hungry. But after growing an online presence for many years, she recognizes the audience has changed their viewing and eating habits.
“It started out [with] shocker food … like a five-pound hamburger or a four-gallon noodle soup,” Brum says. “Now, they want to see a nice date night spot. … Gen Z wants more mom-and-pop experiences versus millennials when we were that age.”
Brum tends to focus on Asian restaurants in her content, though her half-Thai heritage frequently leads her to an unlikely destination: fast food restaurants. “Growing up, we didn't eat outside of the house much,” Brum remembers. “My mom [was] like, ‘No, I made curry tonight. And you're gonna eat it for five days.’ And I would just be like, ‘Please!’”
So while her followers will find Thai boat noodle or Japanese ramen recommendations on her TikTok feed, they also get servings of burgers and chain restaurants too. “As an adult, it's kind of my guilty pleasure, because I get to enjoy it guilt-free on my own terms.”
Brum has her mother to thank for another important contribution to her online food fandom, the name Miso Hungry.
“I had a little notebook in college that had … a bowl of miso soup talking to a bowl of soy sauce and it said ‘Miso Hungry.’ And she was like, ‘Why don’t you just name it that? That’s cute.’”