Pan believes he is no match for top competitors such as Joey Chestnut — an American who recently ate 69 hot dog buns in 10 minutes — as there are few regular contests in China.
US competitions can feature prize funds worth thousands of US dollars, but Pan is paid small amounts by local restaurants hoping to drum up trade.
“I don’t make much money,” he lamented.
At the kung fu school in Liuyang, in central China’s Hunan Province, he ate just under 40 bowls of noodles, short of his record, but topped them off by swallowing a plate of live, squirming worms.
Wearing a bandana reading “Big Stomach King” and a cycling jacket with faintly visible food oil stains, Pan grimaced as the invertebrates writhed between his teeth.
“I have to clean my own clothes, and I’m not good at it,” he said. “I live alone because it’s hard to find a partner when you have this profession.”