I don’t watch TV. But one of the things I started to get hooked on during the pandemic is watching YouTube videos.
I watch shows on animals, sports, and once in a while, I watch mukbangs, or food eating shows. I have always wondered why people make these shows and beyond that, what kind of folks watch them.
I read that a big part of the mukbanging experience is the potential ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) and people who experience this phenomenon claim they receive immense pleasure from watching or listening to everyday habits like whispering, hair brushing, folding clothes and more. ASMR artists often perform in videos with food, and sounds like slurping, chewing, crunching and many other noises emitted while eating give many devotees the "tingles."
For mukbang fans, or for people who tune into these shows, ASMR can almost be hypnotic.
I like watching some mukbang videos because listening to stories about someone else’s life over a good meal can be interesting and I like to learn about the history of the dishes they are eating or the dishes they prepare.
If you have watched any mukbang video, you know that there are shows where the host finishes all he or she orders — and then there are those that don’t. The host may chow down on everything from dozens of bowls of ramen, to buckets of fried chicken, multiple pizzas, piles of crab legs, pails of candy and even heaping helpings of salad.
For myself, I like watching some mukbangs because listening to stories about someone else’s life over a good meal can be interesting and I like to learn about the history of the dishes they are eating or the dishes they prepare.
Let me say that I am not keen on how they are able to gobble up all that they order because honestly, sometimes it doesn’t seem healthy.
Here are four food shows that I came across on YouTube, which made me come to like watching. You be the judge.
Korean Youtube: Mukbanger Tzuyang
This is a popular mukbang or “eating show” by YouTuber Tzuyang. She is Korean and her show, though in Korean, has English subtitles.
I am attracted to her show because, as she eats, she likes to explain why she chose the food and a little about the history of the restaurant and place she is eating at. She is young, 24 years old, and very polite.
Tzuyang has over 4 million subscribers, normally orders multiple servings or even at times everything on the menu. Although she is petite, she is known for her big appetite.
I am shocked by the amount of food she eats. And many times I switch YouTube shows when she starts eating, but I do like that she takes her viewers to rural places in Korea and shows a lot about how farmers, fishermen and restaurant owners make their living.
Korean Youtube: Mukbanger Hamzy
Hamzy has over 7 million subscribers. The reason Hamzy is quite popular is because of the way she cooks food from scratch and then she eats what she cooks in the videos, no matter how much it may be.
I like her show because it normally begins with Hamzy buying ingredients and then going back to her condo to cook the food.
Although she does not explain or methodically measure the ingredients for her meal, I find joy in watching her prepare the food. And also in preparing the table she eats at. Of course, it helps that if she has a beef or chicken dish she may give little pieces to her black poodle, who sits on the couch as she eats.
Filipino Youtube: Vlogger Wander Z
I recently discovered this vlogger, who goes by the name Wander Z. He is new to vlogging but has a total of 60,900 subscribers. His jokes can be funny, but only if you have a Pinoy sense of humor. He lives in California and started vlogging with his grandparents, who went to the US at the start of the pandemic.
I like his YouTube videos not so much for what foods they eat, which can be largely Filipino, bought in the stores in California where he lives, or home-cooked meals he prepares when he has time; I enjoy his vlogs with his lola Lualhati Valencia-Ignacio and his lolo Johnny Ignacio.
They like to share stories about how the life of the grandparents were when they were in the Philippines (they seem to have been in the US for two years already) and how they long to return to the Philippines once the pandemic is over.
His vlog is like comfort food in the Philippines — boodle fight-style, where the food is on the table and each one digs in as they eat. They also always invite their viewers to get their food and join them, so Pinoy. Comforting.
Migrationology By Mark Wiens
“I believe when you travel, there’s no better way to connect with people, than through food,“ says American Mark Wiens in a video.
No matter what culture or country one is from, or wherever one travels to, the one thing the viewers have in common with Mark is that food plays a huge part in their lives. As of last count Migrationology has 7.9M subscibers.
Mark is married to a Thai and lives in Thailand. I find his videos on the culture of Thailand, the different dishes and how these are prepared, full of information and insight. When he speaks of Thailand in Thai, it makes watching him more authentic.
Migrationology takes its viewers out of their comfort zones through Mark and inspires viewers like me to take a different look at a culture through food.
Strictly Dumpling By Mikey Chen
Mike “Mikey” Chen grew up working in his parents’ Chinese buffet restaurants all around the US.
I like that he serves his 1.4 M YouTube subscribers fun, light-hearted and educational videos.
Mikey Chen’s full-time job is to post videos on YouTube from his food adventures all over the world.
He also likes to go to hole-in-the-wall restos in the US, where he lives, or in any other country he travels to, and explain to his viewers all about the history, ingredients and how the food they serve is eaten. It really makes his show worth watching.
“The best way to experience a different culture is, really, to take a bite out of it,” he says in one of his videos.
Good Show, Bad Show: Who Knows?
“I came across the Korean mukbangs as I was looking through my Korean faves,” says Dr. Dulce Sahagun, a practicing psychiatrist for almost 30 years with the Medical City and Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health. “Initially I thought it was an instructional for cooking Korean fave dishes.”
But she was surprised, aghast and unbelieving when she saw how the Korean host ate. She became curious about whether there are people in Korea who eat that way in real life.
Mukbangs are also known as eating broadcasts. These shows have become prominent during lockdowns, probably because they offset loneliness brought about by isolation.
“Mukbangs are also known as eating broadcasts. These shows have become prominent during lockdowns, probably because they offset loneliness brought about by isolation,” Sahagun shares. “Somehow there is virtual communication in the visual and auditory effects provided by the food show.”
But Dr. Sahagun warns that since those doing these shows aren’t obese or sickly, they might send the wrong signals that eating mukbang-style is good behavior. She also wonders whether these shows can make gluttony normal.
“However, excessive mukbang watching can have negative effects and can lead to internet addiction and eating disorders,” Sahagun warns. “More studies must be made to understand this emerging phenomenon, which can predict adverse effects on our mental health.”
Watching mukbangs may be dangerous or even unhealthy if what we imitate is how they stuff their stomachs with excessive amounts of food. But if watching and learning about a culture and different types of food is educational, perhaps the shows can’t be a bad thing. Can they?