We are a society obsessed with food, and our affection for gluttonous media tells us so.
We watch cooking show contestants create themed desserts from pounds of sheet cake and gobs of frosting, and people tackle the world’s most daunting food challenges like in “Man vs. Food.” We click on viral food videos where cooks dye, fry or sugarcoat all of our favorite childhood snacks in less than a minute.
Mukbang (pronounced “muck-bong”) is a natural extension of this obsession. The mukbang genre, which originated in South Korea, involves the host eating a large meal on camera for an audiovisual binge-eating experience. Mukbang allows you to vicariously enjoy an egregious amount of food without guilt, and it completely departs from the neat portions and trendy food photos on Instagram.
As we’ve seen in the beauty community, the YouTube economy is seriously competitive, and few hosts can snag lucrative partnerships that allow them to make it a full-time career. But mukbang reviews do rake in millions of views.
Eating as entertainment is nothing new to our culture, and these YouTubers offer us a second helping:
Southern California-based YouTuber Kim Thai has two channels to nurture her love of fashion, beauty and food. Her food channel, Eat With Kim, baits us with foods we crave.
Thai’s mukbang videos explore a range of dishes, from decadent piles of king crab to Taco Bell. In the clip above, Kim demolishes an enormous bowl of beef pho. She raves about how good it is and shares tips about how to find the best pho spots as she slurps and chews. “I’m sorry, I’m barely talking because this is so bomb,” she says, before dunking a large spoon into the bowl.
Steven Sushi reviews a range of food, including popular fast-food restaurants and pricey food, such as lobster tails. This channel delivers on what to expect from the typical mukbang video: large amounts of food, candid reactions and commentary. If you love watching people enjoy food, Steven Sushi also brings the theatrics. He won’t just tell you how good it all tastes, but he might scream “Ugh, so good” or let out a long “mmmmm” before taking his next bite. Watch him devour this tall order of pizza and wings — his favorite meal — for a birthday mukbang celebration.
For mukbang that tugs on your heartstrings, N.E. Let’s Eat gets the whole family involved. Most videos are hosted by a mother and two children, but their extended family makes guest appearances. The family of mukbangers walk viewers through what they’re eating and exchange banter at the table, and they don’t hold back for the sake of table manners. They smack their lips, chew with their mouths open and often narrate the video mid-bite. However, the channel’s strength is exposing people to foods from Thailand and the Philippines. For example, the family hosts a boodle fight, a culinary tradition with roots in the Philippines, with two rounds of feasting. As the family rips into the platter of meat, seafood, rice and fruit, we get to listen in on brief conversation about where the dishes or traditions originate.
At the beginning of her videos, creator Bethany Gaskin belts out, “What’s up myyyy Beeloveleez?” in a singsong style with an occasional happy dance. Gaskin, also known as BLovesLife, started her channel in 2017 and is known for her lively reviews, food challenges, her signature sauce recipe and beauty content. She describes her channel as “G-rated family fun.”
"OMG. Do y’all see these shrimp!?,” she says as she reaches into a bowl of giant Alaskan prawns and holds them up to the sides of her face like a pair of earrings. BLoveLife’s eccentric commentary, love of family and taste in background images is similar to a reality TV show that charms you into watching the next episode.
Quang Tran’s food channel doesn’t advertise itself as a mukbang channel, but his feast cooking tutorials — where he creates a sumptuous meal inspired by pop culture or pure food lust — and restaurant reviews certainly fit the bill. Tran’s channel serves the foodie who enjoys cooking Internet challenges and learning new techniques, such as frying lobster. While some mukbang enthusiasts just order and eat, Tran shows you how to cook your own feast. He blends anime fan culture, a cooking tutorial and mukbang for a Dragon Ball Z-inspired feast. His silly quips between steps to making ramen from scratch or pork buns might persuade you to give these recipes a try.
YouTube couple Tae Page and Lou have perfected the art of discussion-style mukbang. While chowing down on a variety of homemade and takeout meals, the pair gabs about pop culture, their relationship, and offers advice to their fans. The duo combines several popular YouTube genres for a creative twist on the mukbang trend: relationships and dating, cultural commentary, “I tried this for the first time” food vlogging, and “ask me anything” (AMA) style stories made popular on platforms such as Reddit. Their affectionate exchanges between bites are a big part of their charm, but in the solo video above, Lou enjoys a lamb hot pot and dishes on dating experiences.