Mukbang: Enjoy Watching People Eat? You’re Not Alone!
by Anjali Shiyamsaran | published Feb. 17th, 2019
For those who have never viewed a mukbang before, it may be difficult to believe how a person could make a living by broadcasting themselves online eating a large amount of food. However, mukbang has grown into an epic internet phenomenon that millions of people watch worldwide on platforms such as YouTube, AfreecaTV and Twitch.
Mukbang has proven inexplicably addictive for viewers everywhere, not to mention incredibly satisfying to watch — especially when you’re hungry. But, how did it become the phenomenon it is today?
The Background of Mukbangs
Mukbang initially gained popularity in South Korea during the 2010s. It involved people showcasing a wide range of foods from various cultural backgrounds through an online platform, and typically getting paid in the process.
While eating, mukbangers often add conversational content as well to connect with their audience. This helps make viewers feel less alone when they themselves eat. But, viewers can still enjoy mukbangs without their own meal in front of them — similar to any other YouTube video. They'll just have to avoid the strong temptation to eat once it begins.
Personally, in the days when I needed it the most, mukbang was there for me like no other. Watching other people eat king dumplings and giant burgers can be a surprisingly satisfying comfort during a stressful time in your life. However, mukbang viewers leave with more than just a physical satisfaction; they leave with the magical benefits that eating cultural foods has to offer, with the motivation to leave their comfort zone and try these foreign foods.
The Enticement of Mukbangs
Even for those who find it unsettling to watch and listen to people eating in real life, mukbang videos can become quite addictive. But why is it so appealing to so many people?
One possible answer is visual hunger, or the idea of “eating with our eyes.” Because the brain and visual system are so closely connected, looking at beautiful images of food increases the human desire for it, as well as the satiation of hunger. Many people naturally associate food with pleasure, so it brings them a sense of happiness when vicariously enjoying food through online mukbangers.
Some mukbang channels on YouTube are also devoted entirely to autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) and focus on producing different eating sounds. ASMR videos have grown increasingly popular over the years. They tend to be therapeutic for viewers since they are known to send relaxing tingling sensations from the brain down to the rest of the body. Furthermore, they can potentially lower a viewer’s stress level while improving mood and blood flow.
But, how do you know which kind of mukbang will tickle your taste buds? The only way to find out is to give some videos a try.
One of my personal favorite mukbang channels is that of Stephanie Soo whose YouTube videos consist of intriguing discussions about murder mysteries and entertaining personal experiences. Hundreds of thousands of viewers tune in every week to hear her cheerfully begin another mukbang with the catchphrase, "Dun dun! Mukbang!"
In addition to her sassy personality, her videos feature all kinds of delicious food, from Chick-fil-A, to Nuclear Black Bean Noodles, to two-pound King Crab legs. Her constant love for trying new foods has to be what I enjoy most about her channel, such as her videos with traditional Ethiopian injera and savory Indian biryani, as well as sweet Filipino ube cake and pork belly.
Her channel is definitely five-star, and I highly recommend any of her mukbang-related videos — just don’t be alarmed by her lack of filter at times!
HyuneeEats has also risen to the top of the mukbang popularity chart with over 1.1 million subscribers.
Her videos convey a cute and artsy aesthetic along with her adorably energetic personality. She shares love stories from her fans (who she calls “hyunee bees”) — while offering advice whenever she can — and bravely takes on spicy fire noodle challenges.
Hyunee eats everything from sushi rolls and sashimi, Vietnamese pho noodles and donut burgers — McDonald’s burgers with donuts instead of bread buns. She gives the viewer a variety of different food sensations similar to Stephanie Soo's channel.
HyuneeEats is yet another five-star mukbang channel, especially if you’re looking for some wacky food combinations and a burst of positivity.
With over 800,000 subscribers, MINEE EATS mukbangs involve foods with various ASMR triggers.
Minee will eat Japanese mochi and honeycomb for sticky soft eating sounds or fried chicken and cactus leaves for crunchy sounds. She tends to eat extremely unique foods, even ones you might not have known were edible in the first place, to produce enticing sounds.
Her earlier videos feature more conversation than her recent ones, which tend to focus more on her eating to create sounds that cater to ASMR. But both prove to be equally satisfying.
Minee’s channel quality is five-star; something about watching and listening to her eat foods I’d never heard of before has me craving the same meal right after. It's also a good channel to look into if you already like the idea of ASMR, but also still like the social aspect of regular mukbang videos
Zach from Zach Choi ASMR also produces some mukbangs focused on ASMR, as stated in his title. Since last year, Zach's channel has gained over 270,000 subscribers. Meanwhile, his most popular videos have garnered millions of views.
Crepe cake (colorful stacked French crepes), chicken and waffles and excessive amounts of cheese are some of the many things you will hear and watch him eat.
Zach's videos are on the side of no talking, so that the full ASMR experience stands at the forefront. Therefore, you won't get that chatty aspect of other channels, but you will receive the most effective ASMR.
I’d rate the quality of his channel as five-star; he’s definitely one to watch, specifically if you’re into burgers, fried chicken, and macarons shaped like K-Pop band members.
For me, in addition to the entertainment aspect, viewing mukbang channels has awakened an endless curiosity to try new foods from different cultures. I believe that the more people become exposed to other cultures, the more worldly and informed they become overall. Mukbang accomplishes this for people who are unable to frequently travel to taste international cuisines, and I feel that it positively changes the lives of viewers as a result.
Don't be scared to dive into this new form of entertainment — you never know how much you might enjoy it!