Mukbang, the Online Social Trend That's Eating the UAE
We take a look at Mukbang, the popular South Korean trend of eating for entertainment and why it's still so popular.
16 July 2020
Mukbang has steadily begun to satisfy cravings that UAE residents didn’t even know they had.
At some point in your life, you may have been curious about the entire McDonald's menu but you haven't tried every single item available. Or perhaps you've played with the idea of eating nothing but vegan food. Maybe you've daydreamed about adding every single thing offered at a fancy buffet to your dinner plate.
Without eating your weight in burgers and fries, there's an online trend called Mukbang where you can satisfy these curious cravings.
What began as a South Korean foodie fad of watching strangers down days' worth of food online has become a phenomenon around the world, including the UAE. For years now, there are people in the Emirates who have been opening YouTube to spend up to an hour at a time to watch people binge-eat.
And not just a regular meal. In these videos, people can inhale up to a whopping 4,000 calories in one broadcast. There's also a good number of these viewers who are paying money to watch and support these binge-eating videos.
What is mukbang?
Mukbang (pronounced as "mook-bong") is a combination of the Korean words "mukja" (meaning "let's eat") and "bang song" (meaning "broadcast"). Together, the words are mashed into "eating broadcast". In these online (usually live) eating shows, the person eating will typically consume an extraordinary amount or an usual type of food.
The decade-old trend began in South Korea where professional mukbangers could earn up to around USD 9,000 / AED 33,000 a month through paid donations from fans, charging for mukbang content, and partnerships with live-streaming/video platforms such as YouTube.
What happens in a mukbang?
A traditional mukbang involves a live eating show where viewers chat with the broadcasters, request specific foods, and/or donate gifts or money. Outside of South Korea, mukbangers in countries such as the US and UAE prefer to record themselves eat and upload the video.
Anything can be eaten during a mukbang, from shellfish and noodles to burgers and pizzas. The rule of mukbang is that the bigger the quantities, the better the challenge.
However, mukbang is less about gorging on food until you become sick, but more so about building a connection with your audience over a delicious meal. Large portions help extend the broadcast time and allow the broadcaster to speak more.
Why do people watch mukbang?
Mukbang provide some viewers with the secondhand satisfaction of watching someone else eat food. Others watch mukbang videos for the entertainment of watching someone down two days' worth of meals in one sitting or eat out-of-the-ordinary food like living squid. Some watch mukbang videos to get a virtual taste of their favourite dishes during diets.
Regardless of the reason, mukbang largely originated from a widespread longing for companionship while eating a meal alone.
Is a mukbang career worth it?
While an online feeding frenzy sounds like a dream gig, after all you're getting paid to eat all the foods you want without moderation, there are several downsides to getting into mukbang.
The trend often proves to have serious challenges for the broadcasters' health. Sitting down eating all those calories leads to bloating, stomach pains, weight gain, digestive problems, and other health issues.
Some professional mukbangers have resorted to regular gym visits to control their weight. However, not every online binge-eater experiences drastic health changes.
Mukbang in the time of a pandemic
During the COVID-19 outbreak, countries around the world have either encouraged or enforced social-distancing measures to keep everyone safe from the virus. The point of this social binge-eating online trend is to fill the human desire for companionship during a meal.
Want to watch someone eat their way through a full restaurant menu so you know what to order when you brave the outside world again? There's heaps of mukbang videos for that.
Do you wish to hear someone speak with a soothing voice while they eat through a delicious array of desserts? That exists, too.
Mukbang helps fulfill that craving for closeness that many of us may have felt during this global pandemic, especially for those who live alone.