Buffets are like candy stores. Better if the menu is full of your favourite items. You start eating, one dish at a time. The starters are enticing, you want to try them all. You take the second, third helpings of tikkas because they are so darn good. The main course is in your sight. Naan, biryani, mutton curry are over-flowing in your plate when you are hit with the rude realisation: “I’m done!" The buffet suddenly seems overwhelming. Could I have skipped the starters, you wonder? You think you’ve eaten a lot. You know you have eaten a lot. Must be my tiny appetite for not doing justice to the lovely spread, you blame yourself. That’s exactly what separates us (the amateurs) from the professional binge eaters, who are masters in the art of mukbang.
Mukbang is a trend that started in South Korea in 2010 and literally translates to “eating broadcast.” According to food blogger Simon Stawski, who co-founded Eat Your Kimchi, mukbang became popular due to the lack of companionship while eating. Stawski told TODAY Food, “In Korea, it’s not common for people to go out to eat by themselves. Dining is a social activity, and you don’t sit and eat alone. For those that can’t eat with others, they’ll more than likely stay home to eat alone, but they’ll still have the urge to socialize while eating, which is what I think mukbangers replicate.”
As the craze for mukbang gained pace, people started live-streaming the binge-eating videos on platforms such as Twitch and YouTube, which resulted in a global reach of the trend. Typical mukbang videos have the creators gorge on the food with a very prominent sound of biting, chewing, and slurping that causes an Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR). Many believe ASMR is a big reason behind the craze for mukbang.
In recent years, several Indian content creators have taken to mukbang. While mukbang videos in South Korea had dishes that ranged from spicy noodles, dumplings, fried chicken, Indians can be seen binging on almost everything, from kilos of mutton/chicken biryani to a whole leg of lamb roasted along with an oily curry.
Take Madhuri Lahiri for example. She runs the channel MaddyEats on YouTube with 1.85 million subscribers. In one of her videos earlier this year, Madhuri finished 100 momos in one sitting. Yes, 100 momos.
While Madhuri ate 100 momos, Jyoti Dhoundiyal, who runs the channel Foodie JD that has over 400,000 subscribers, finished 50 fried eggs in one sitting in one of her videos.
Does It Pay?
Indian mukbangers eat a variety of delicacies in their videos that includes food from restaurants as well as homemade food. Both would require quite the amount of money and, therefore, the content should bring in revenue in order to be sustainable.
Kumar runs the YouTube channel Saapattu Raman that features his father and currently has 1.22 million subscribers. Back in 2019, when his channel had 3,74,000 subscribers, Kumar had told The Print that he earned up to Rs 9 lakh a month by posting just one video per week.
Is Mukbang a Little Weird?
While the millions of views speak volumes of the fact that mukbang videos have quite a big fan following, for some, they remain cringe-worthy. “I never for once in my life could watch a mukbang video for more than a minute. Be it an Indian mukbang video or a video created by someone residing outside India. The question remains unchanged i.e. Why would I want to sit and look at people eat and that too in such a nasty manner?" Anindita Ghosh, who runs the page @the.gastronomical.voyage on Instagram told News18.com.
“I don’t really understand why people watch these videos. Maybe they are hungry, maybe they want to binge eat but can’t so they satisfy their cravings by looking at someone else stuffing their face more than their mouths can hold. Or maybe they just enjoy the nasty chewing and eating ‘ASMR’ effects," added Anindita.
Is Mukbang Healthy?
It goes without saying that eating such a humungous amount of food in one sitting can never lead to good health. Dr Bhaskar Bikash Pal, a gastroenterologist at Peerless Hospital, Kolkata, told News18.com: “Just like binging on alcohol is harmful, binge eating such large quantity of food that often includes red meat is harmful and can lead to several health problems including hypertension, high cholesterol and fatty liver."
One such example of a person starting off seemingly “healthy" to facing health problems (by own admission and video documentation) many mukbang videos later, Nikacodo Avocodo, a notorious content creator on YouTube has faced criticism for “glamorising" over-eating, and prioritising views over health.
With that said, mukbang in India remains a polarising content. Loving or hating it is your choice as long as you are a viewer. But if you plan to indulge in the art of mukbang, keep the experts on speed dial.