Gorging gluttons: How the ‘eating for fame’ trend is catching up in NepalThe number of Nepali mukbang content creators on YouTube has grown exponentially since 2020, and many of them have amassed a huge following on the platform.
In March 2020, when Nepal went into lockdown, Salmi Tuladhar, like many others, suddenly found herself with a lot of free time. To pass her time, Tuladhar started watching mukbang videos on YouTube. At a time when restaurants were closed in the country, it was by watching these mukbang videos that Tuladhar satisfied her food cravings.
“Until recently, I only watched foreign mukbang videos, but now I also watch Nepali mukbang videos,” says Tuladhar.
The trend of making mukbang videos started in South Korea more than a decade ago. In this genre of food video, people film themselves gorging on a huge quantity of food. The word ‘mukbang’ is a combination of two Korean words, ‘meokneun’, which translates to eating, and ‘bangsong’, which translates to broadcasting.
By 2014, mukbang had become a global phenomenon, but in the midst of the pandemic in 2020, the trend started taking off in Nepal. Since then, dozens of dedicated mukbang channels made by Nepalis have cropped up on YouTube, making it one of the most popular forms of content on Nepal’s YouTube content scene. Some of the more popular mukbang channels have thousands of subscribers, and their videos easily cross 100,000 views.
One of the most popular mukbang channels in the Nepali YouTube scene is Stuti Entertainment, with more than 171,000 subscribers. The channel was started in 2018 by Yashu Niraula Poudel to make vlogs of her daughter, Stuti.
“A few years after we set up the channel, Stuti lost interest, and we stopped making videos. But when Nepal went into lockdown in 2020, Stuti came across mukbang videos made by foreigners, and she wanted to make something similar. We have since been making two to three mukbang videos a week,” says Poudel.
Unlike the majority of mukbang videos, which feature a person or two eating, Stuti Entertainment’s mukbang videos feature Stuti and her parents. Every once in a while, Stuti’s grandparents and her brother also make guest appearances in the videos.
The year the Poudels started making mukbang videos, Pujan Rai and his wife Khlemuhang Rai also created their own YouTube channel. Their channel, Ok Let’s eat, has more than 75,000 subscribers, and the couple has already uploaded more than 200 mukbang videos within two years.
Before starting their mukbang channel, the couple watched a lot of South Korean mukbang videos. During 2020's lockdown, the couple didn’t have anything to do, so they decided to start their mukbang channel on YouTube.
“During the lockdowns, we made mukbangs every day by basically filming everything that we ate. We now make mukbang videos twice a week,” says 31-year-old Pujan Rai.
Unlike other Nepali mukbang channels, ‘Ok Let’s eat’ mostly features Nepali dishes. “As a professional chef, it’s much easier for me to make Nepali dishes that viewers might find interesting,” says Rai, who also teaches at hotel management colleges in Kathmandu.
The makers of mukbang videos that the Post spoke to say that they make anywhere between US$300-800 every month just from YouTube.
“Earlier our videos only showed us eating, but when we learned that YouTube paid more money to cooking videos, we started incorporating the cooking aspect with our mukbang videos,” says Poudel.
This fact could be the reason why the recent videos of Nepali mukbangers seem to have included a section where they first make the food.
But amassing views and gaining subscribers by making mukbang videos is easier said than done. Given that there are thousands of mukbang channels on YouTube vying for viewership, Nepali mukbang makers, to gain traction, have had to focus on making content that is not just interesting but also technically sound.
When Dil Maya Gurung started her YouTube channel Dmaya Mukbang, two years ago, she filmed her videos using her smartphone.
“I soon realised my video and audio quality wasn’t up to par with many mukbang video makers out there, so I decided to upgrade my gear and bought a camera, a tripod and ASMR mike,” says Gurung. “Engagement on my channel started seeing improvement from then on.”
In April 2020, Gurung uploaded a mukbang video of her eating panipuri. The video quickly went viral, and it now has more than 613,000 views. Since then, several of her videos have crossed the 100,000 views mark, and her channel now has more than 39,000 subscribers.
The Poudels even make mukbang videos on suggestions made by their viewers, and to keep their viewers engaged, they converse in their videos as well.
In her early days as a mukbanger, Gurung also tried making videos on requests made by her viewers, but things, she says, didn’t go as she planned.
“People started getting offended when I addressed a particular person’s request and not theirs. That’s why I decided to stop taking requests, and now I make mukbang videos based on what I want to eat that particular day,” says Gurung. “To attract new viewers and retain your existing viewers, you have to understand your viewers’ demographic and do things accordingly. For example, most of my viewers are from India, and they prefer to see me eat with my bare hands, and that’s why I eat with my bare hands in my videos.”
Researching and experimenting on what type of content works, say mukbangers, is equally important. Pujan Rai, who spends considerable time researching mukbang content, says that mukbang videos of non-veg food fare better than veg food items.
“According to my research, how many views your mukbang video gets depends a lot on the type of food you cover,” says Rai.
In the world of mukbang videos, the food portion is also an important factor—the bigger the food portion, the higher the chances of getting more views.
However, according to Praniti Singh, a clinical and bariatric nutritionist, mukbangers should be careful about their food portions.
“Given that the majority of us lead a sedentary lifestyle, eating a huge amount of food isn’t healthy. Our lifestyle has changed a lot in the last few years, but what hasn’t changed is the amount of food we consume,” says Singh. “Our elders could eat the same amount of food we eat today and yet remain healthy because they laboured in the fields and their bodies required that amount of food to function. This isn’t the case with our generation. Those who make mukbang videos on a regular basis should make sure that they workout at least 30 minutes every day.”
Ever since Rai started making mukbang videos, he has started jogging for 30 minutes every day. This, he says, is to minimise the negative impact of eating huge portions of food for his mukbang videos.
Even though eating huge portions of food might not be healthy, mukbang makers the Post talked to say they do not see themselves stopping making mukbang videos.
“Since we sit and eat together as a family in most of our videos, many people have commented about how they have started eating with their family members after watching our videos,” says Poudel. “It is these things that keep us going.”