Cooking and baking shows have been popular for years. People are fascinated by the art of food plating and the icing of cakes. However, in the last few years, a new genre of food entertainment has emerged: mukbangs. Rather than watching people complete baking challenges, we watch people eat sizeable mounds of food at an astonishing rate while talking to viewers.
Originating in South Korea, mukbang roughly translates to “eating broadcast.” Essentially, people who film mukbangs begin the video with an absurd amount of food which they will then eat in its entirety. The type of foods used in the video can range from homemade dishes—which are typically cooked on-screen—to the entire menu of a local fast-food restaurant, with meals lasting hours long. Those who partake in mukbangs draw viewers in by playing with their sense of indulgence and curiosity.
The trend began in the early 2000s, gaining popularity across Canada and the U.S. in 2015. While the majority of mukbang streamers were of South Korean descent in the beginning, it has grown since then, with some of YouTube’s biggest names taking part. In recent years, the trend has boomed in demand, allowing some of YouTube’s top mukbangers to make $10,000 per month. While this salary includes an income from the viewership on Youtube, it can also include outside sponsorships from food brands like McDonald’s or Burger King, who pay professional mukbangers to review their products during a binging session.
While eating large amounts of food is already a task, mukbang streamers have been encouraged to participate in a multitude of challenges. One of the largest challenges is the four-times spice fire noodle challenge, where mukbangers try to eat multiple packages of Samyang’s Spicy Mala Buldak Ramen—known to be one of the spiciest instant ramen packs you can purchase.
As mukbangs become more popular among mainstream YouTubers, content creators have been adding new aspects to entertain their viewers, like Stephanie Soo who guides her followers through gruesome crime investigations while eating buckets of fried chicken.
Other influencers like Zach Choi, whose entire social media presence surrounds the art of mukbang, eat their food of choice in complete silence to reflect another viral trend—the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR). Possibly adding to the rising interest in mukbangs, ASMR is the tingling sensation from pleasurable auditory stimuli, typically triggered by whispers or eating noises. The vitality of the ASMR movement on social media platforms has received mixed emotions as some people love it, while others feel strong, negative responses (particularly to mukbang ASMR videos). In some people, the sound of chewing or breathing causes intense anger, which is a sign of a condition called misophonia.
The question remains—why are people interested in watching these videos? Well, whether we love eating with our eyes, are amazed at the amounts people can eat, enjoy seeing someone suffer from super spicy noodles, or appreciate ASMR, mukbangs truly offer an all-you-can-eat experience.
Associate Features Editor (Volume 48 & 49) — A recent graduate from UTM, Dalainey is currently working on completing her post-graduate studies in Professional Writing in Ottawa. She previously served as Staff Writer for The Medium‘s 47th Volume and as Associate Features Editor for Volume 48. Through her passion for languages, Dal hopes to create a fun and inviting atmosphere for readers through her contributions to the paper. When she isn’t working, Dal focuses on developing digital art and writing her first novel. You can connect with Dal on her Instagram or LinkedIn.