Veronica Wong sits in front of the screen with a broad smile on her face and cute bangs, casually chatting with her 1.48 million subscribers as she indulges in dumplings, Japchae, noodles and Kimchi pancakes. You can hear the slurpy sound of ramen and the crunch of scrumptious dumplings. Her loyal fanbase of over one million viewers loves watching her eat, including me!
What exactly is mukbang?
Punch that seven-letter word into YouTube, and you’ll find thousands of videos of people eating. That’s right. Just… eating. And they’re eating a ton of food. It sounds weird, and honestly, it kind of is. Watching someone eat doesn’t sound like it could offer any sort of intrigue, but once you take a deep dive into the world of “mukbangers,” you realize there’s a massive sect of society that actually loves watching hosts stuff their faces with lots and lots of food.
In recent years, food obsessions have turned to a new video genre named Mukbang taking over YouTube. It launched personalities with hundreds of thousands, even millions of followers. The word mukbang is a mash-up of the Korean words “muk-ja” (let’s eat) and “bang-song” (broadcast). If you’re unfamiliar with the video genre, it’s (often) live footage of a host eating generous amounts of food in front of a camera while interacting with their audience.
The trend originated in South Korea, where the videos became popular via live stream channels. Mukbang went viral, and a new league of content creators started their own channels. Eri, who runs ASMeRi Eats, eating her way through highly desirable delicacies, has garnered over 340k subscribers for her YouTube channel while people like us watch her eat.
Although the trend emerged from South Korea, the American and Indian mukbangers are quite different. Unlike Korean mukbangers, Americans do not typically livestream. Koreans plan their streams around dinnertime hours so viewers can feel like they are sharing a meal with a friend. And yet, Americans tend to be more conversational in their videos. Even though their performances are pre-recorded, they tend to indulge their audiences in real-life conversations and drama. This aspect paves a way to connect with the host beyond the food. But who cares, right? All I wish to hear is the munching ASMR of the food!
It’s fascinating how food triggers our senses and develops our behaviour when it comes to what we like to eat. A big part of that neurological factor is the ASMR (autonomous sensory-motor response) mukbang videos can evoke. ASMR is commonly described as a brain-tingling feeling, and people find it very relaxing. The familiar sounds of eating (slurping, chewing) and the imagery of mukbang videos supposedly trigger ASMR for many viewers. Some people find the sounds of chewing, sipping, and slurping extremely relaxing, and they fire up the videos for the sounds over physical eating.
Mukbangers earn tons of money by just eating!
Most people slave through their nine-to-five jobs, trying to earn a living. But, the lucky bunch of mukbangers who run super popular YouTube channels often have no need to work regular hours. Believe it or not, simply binge eating in front of a camera on a regular basis can bring a boatload of money. Why would someone do anything else?
This genre has proven to be very profitable for content creators, often earning them sponsorships from popular food chains and restaurants in exchange for exposure. According to NPR, Korean mukbang hosts reportedly earn up to $10,000 per month, with brands sponsoring the most popular YouTubers.
Korean mukbangers tend to eat traditional Korean dishes. In contrast, American mukbangers eat a wider variety of foods, from rare tropical fruit to burgers to smoked ribs, often based on theme challenges. And Indian mukbangers? Well, they give us the best of all the worlds!
Why are millions of people so drawn to watching perfect strangers eat in the first place?
Every aspect of these videos has been taken to the absolute extreme. Mukbangs are reliably one of the most over the top genres on YouTube. Starting with the enormous portions. In the world of mukbang, bigger doesn’t seem to be only better but a requirement! It’s been said that if you’re eating a normal portion of food in a mukbang, it’s not a mukbang; it’s just eating food on camera. Vast quantities of foods are very common in most American, Indian and Korean mukbangs on YouTube. They seem necessary for success in the genre, with creators regularly sitting down to four-five 6,000 calorie feasts. Healthy and normal portion mukbangs, on the other hand, seem to be a real flop. Based on their comparative views, no one seems to really be interested in watching them.
Things that people have never seen before are very, very popular with viewers. Because of this, creators, particularly those in the ASMR genre of mukbang, are always trying to find new and exciting foods to eat on camera.
Many mukbangers even invent their own brightly coloured and exciting foods out of I’m not sure what. Some of the stuff they come up with is honestly really impressive and takes some serious skill.
YouTube star Naomi Macausland, famous for her HunniBee ASMR channel, has risen to massive popularity for her ASMR relaxation videos. From lipsticks made with fondant and spaghetti to highlighters made with chocolate ganache, edible hair brushes to edible spoons and champagne bottles, she’s done it all! Enough to garner a total of more than 6 million hungry subscribers!
Mukbangs are not just eating on camera. They’re binge eating on camera. The amount of food being consumed is crazy. And some people are doing this every single day. I don’t even necessarily 100% blame the mukbanger either. People are obviously more interested in watching someone eat a ridiculous amount of food than they are in seeing someone eat a regular sensibly-sized dinner. Just not as interesting. People want a show, and that’s not it; quantity is really the tip of the iceberg here!
So you might want to add “mukbang” to your vernacular because this trend is blowing up quicker than any Eminem track.