by Amy McCarthy, Eater, April 19, 2017
This Korean Food Phenomenon Is Changing the Internet
Nikocado Avocado grabs a pan of noodles drenched in a homemade cheese sauce, twirls up a forkful, and the eating begins — not just for him, but for the thousands of viewers who queue up his videos on YouTube every day to share in the experience. Nikocado Avocado is a “mukbanger,” or the host of his very own pre-recorded eating show.
Nikocado Avocado’s YouTube channel is just one of hundreds of mukbang-dedicated accounts that have cropped up in recent years. The videos, which feature YouTubers eating massive, calorie-rich spreads, originated in South Korea in the mid-2000s when enterprising food enthusiasts began broadcasting live feeds of themselves eating giant portions of top-quality beef, vegetables, and other foods.
Mukbang has become YouTube’s hottest food trend, and not for the fetish-related reasons you might think. Dining has always been inherently social. Despite the proliferation of smartphone apps that can deliver food to fuel the most furtive binges, humans still have a natural desire to share a meal with good company. “I honestly think it’s appealing because people want someone to eat with,” says California-based mukbanger Ashley Sprankles. “A lot of people are working and they don’t have someone to sit down with for dinner at night and it fills a void. They’re lonely, and they want to eat with someone.”
For some fans, though, watching mukbang broadcasts is less about interacting with a familiar face than it is eating vicariously. Most mukbang feasts are incredibly high-calorie — sometimes mukbang video creators consume more than 10,000 calories in a single video. In a time when there’s a new restrictive dietary fad popping up daily (like the gluten-free or paleo crazes), it makes sense that a carb-deprived health junkie would find some satisfaction in watching a stranger mainline a dozen Doritos Locos tacos from Taco Bell.
Analysis: While it’s sad that people are turning to the internet to mitigate their feelings of loneliness, it points out the necessity for people to be having these meaningful interactions over food. Mukbangs are a bandage to a much bigger problem.