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(SAS-ASMR/YouTube)
What's the appeal behind listening to someone's hi-ref recording of noodle slurping? We investigate.

ASMR food videos (which stand for autonomous sensory meridian response) are on the rise in America, following a similar trend in South Korea. Mukbang, or “broadcast eating,” is a popular genre of video where hosts — ordinary people with regular jobs — prepare and/or consume large amounts of food on a livestream while either talking to their viewers or simply making the best food-eating noises possible. Large amounts may be an understatement; some of these meals are enormous. And when you’re talking about something called “Nuclear Fire Noodles” or contemplating 50 mozzarella sticks, things can technically get pretty interesting.

ASMR was originally created to help people experience a certain pleasurable tingling sensation in the brain and head by immersing them in particular sounds. They’re recorded using binaural microphones, which create an audio sensation akin to being in the room with the person speaking. Combine that extra-realistic sound quality with a naturally butter-smooth voice, and you’ve got a recipe for success. YouTubers have uploaded videos of themselves brushing their hair, creating artificial noises specifically to make one’s skin tingle (even if they’re resistant) or expertly role-playing the booking of futuristic space flight. Don’t knock that til you’ve tried it, by the way. And while it’s well-documented that some can’t stand the sounds of other people eating, others have the opposite problem: they can’t get enough of it. Thankfully, there’s a wealth of videos for that, too.

Why do the visuals and sounds of strangers eating appeal to certain people? From the general tone of the comments, it seems it help some viewers find validation in the foods they prefer, in the amounts and at the speed that they prefer. If that all just sounds like “pigging out,” you’d be in agreement with roughly a third of all people who watch simply to insult the hosts, the viewers, the ills of society and so forth. Still, subscription numbers for eating channels with or without host commentary are impressive, and the rapidly growing genre has spawned stars with upwards of half a million subscribers.


Unless you’re willing to get very creative, there’s not much left that someone hasn’t recorded themselves eating noisily, from the generic small mountain of July 4th hot dogs to the oddly specific “Pikachu-shaped pork cutlets” seen in the above video. But hey, if that’s exactly what you were looking to watch and listen to someone eat in order to unwind, you’re in luck.