Watching me eat – personal mukbang?
Hugh is on quite a strict diet at the moment so I’ve been very conscious of not eating in front of him. In Australia, if I’m on a diet I don’t want to see other people eat nice food. However, he wants me to always eat in front of him! Not only him, but Yoojin his trainer who is also on this diet wants to watch me. They make me sit down on the sofa and they sit on the floor and watch every single mouthful. It’s a bit unnerving. They want me to make noise and tell them how delicious it is. Hugh also watches so many food programs at the moment. For me I couldn’t handle it if I was on a diet like that, but for him there is something satisfying about seeing others eat delicious food. It helps him with his diet somehow.
We’ve talked about why Koreans love mukbangs in this video. There are some historical and cultural reasons why mukbangs are so popular online and why Korean food programs are filmed in a certain way. I still feel bad eating in front of Hugh, especially when I’m eating something like creamy pasta and he only had chicken breast and vegetables, but he insists it’s okay. I didn’t finish all my pasta last night and he found the bowl and came into my office and demanded I finish it. I would have thrown up if I had one more bite unfortunately so I refused. I saw him eyeing the half of a scone that I left after breakfast this morning too. Silently and sometimes not so silently, judging me. He wants to see me eating so much food right now so he can feel the satisfaction somehow.
At least this diet is only for 1 month and then it’s back to the normal healthy, but not extreme diet. It’s just for getting his special profile photos done in celebration of his weight loss and transformation.
(The original comic is here).
We revisit a comic from several years ago. This was when we were still living in Australia and I forgot to put kimchi on the table. As we mentioned in the video, Hugh obsesses about kimchi a lot more when he is not in Korea. He doesn’t eat it every day in Korea but in Australia has this desire to always eat it. It might seem like just a stereotype but it’s very important to Koreans!
Many older Koreans don’t consider a meal to be a real meal without rice and kimchi. So if they eat out and eat some type of foreign food they will still come home and eat some rice and kimchi. This type of ingrained thinking is possibly why it’s taken so long for foreign food to become popular in Korea, because there is a very strong cultural thinking of what a meal should be. Although many younger Koreans embrace all kinds of food, they have trouble convincing their parents to try new stuff and when older Koreans go on trips to another country they will try and take Korean food with them, rather than trying anything new.
In Australia it was easy to buy kimchi in Sydney and when we were in my home town I would make it for Hugh. These days we usually have too much kimchi as Hugh’s mother will send us kimchi. We still eat out a lot so we eating it several times a week even if we don’t have any at home. I’ve tried so many types of kimchi I know which ones I like and how fermented I prefer kimchi to be.
Making kimchi can be a lot of work and usually needs to be done over 2 days. If you are making kimchi for the first time I recommend reading a variety of recipes online several times so you understand all the steps. Also be aware that it will give off a strong smell in your fridge!
Exploring Korean markets and delicious street food!
We have shown Mangwon markets before in videos but we haven’t really been able to do it justice. This time we had Yoojin filming and Joel also got some good shots for us. I always find Korean open markets to be really fascinating and it’s a great way to see local culture. The street food places at the markets usually have somewhere to sit down inside which is more comfortable than standing and eating at the cart street food like in other places. I really like the tteokbokki there!
Local markets are a great place to do grocery shopping as the prices are a lot cheaper than the bigger stores. We generally buy our fruit and vegetables at the markets and only buy foreign items like cheese and butter at HomePlus or Emart. If you go to the markets in the evening the prices often drop even more.
Another reason to go to the markets is of course the food. There is great street food at the markets but also other small restaurants with great food and cheap prices. Since they are operating out of a small area and people can just take and eat as they walk, they can keep the prices down. Korean people eat out A LOT and these types of places allow people to do it regularly and cheaply.
If you are visiting Korea make sure you check out some markets as there are many around. Korean tourism often tries to push people to Gangnam or other modernized areas of Seoul but if you want a more authentic experience go to where the local people are shopping and socializing.
Mangwon markets also merges into the World Cup markets so it’s technically two markets in one. The Mangwon area is also an up and coming area with many small, quirky business and great food moving in. Once you are finished at the markets you can check out some of the great cafes in the area. Also the Han river is not too far away which is another important aspect of people’s lives in Seoul.
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How to say tomato?
Actually the Korean pronunciation of tomato (토마토) sounds similar to British/Australian pronunciation, but Hugh said many Koreans think it sounds cooler to say it the American way. As if it’s some example of English speaking skills and a way to show off! Many Koreans have a somewhat unhealthy obsession with American English which means they will judge other’s pronunciation of words if they don’t sound American. It’s unfortunate because Korean English speaking skills on a whole would benefit from exposure to more accents, not just an American accent. Foreign English teachers in schools are told to speak with an American English even when they are not North American. This obsession with the American accent, which they are already exposed to anyway, hinders Koreans when they have interactions with English speakers that have a different accent. And there are many types of English accents!
I have no problem with Americans saying “tomato” in a way is natural for them, but I scolded Hugh for saying it that way when there was no need to. He still gets judged on the way he speaks English, usually by Koreans who don’t speak English anywhere near as well as him! There is an idea many people have of how English is supposed to sound if you speak it well, but the reality is quite different. When a Korean adopts a strong American accent when they are not a native speaker (and haven’t been to the US) it can sound very jarring, especially to native English speakers that have a different accent. To me it sounds better if an accent is something that happens naturally and is not forced. So usually Hugh has a Korean accent and says some things in an Australian way and still has some slight tenancies he learnt in The Philippines.
I hope Koreans don’t continue to feel pressure to speak English in a certain way, even though it seems that I’m pressuring Hugh to speak the Australian way! hehe
I really did think this for a while because I’ve never been to one! I’ve never worked in a Korean company. Luckily it isn’t compulsorily to eat hwe at hweshiks because it seems to be a food that divides people. I’m not really a fan of Korean raw fish. A lot of Korean seafood can be quite chewy and some people do love it being chewy. We don’t though! I’m also glad that we work from home and don’t need to go to hweshiks because a lot of people seem frustrated when they have to attend and they go for such a long time. In Korea it’s very hard to bail and leave early. It’s actually one of the big problems facing Korean families and I’m sure the Korean government could raise the declining birth rate (which they are so desperate to do) if they just had a better work life environment for working parents. It’s hard to have children when work expects so much of your time outside of work hours, especially when it requires heavy drinking.
Why do Koreans love mukbangs?
We talk about the popularity of mukbangs in Korea and how that plays out in real life. Often western journalists want to reduce the idea of mukbangs to a simple sentence when they write articles about them but in reality there are many cultural reasons why Koreans love them.
Western journalists also have this idea that all mukbangs are about eating SO much food. While some people do that, it’s not what mukbangs have to be. It’s literally just someone eating while being broadcast, usually through livestreaming. Someone can even just be drinking as the Korean word it derives from means both to eat or drink. Often articles will say that mukbangs are popular because more and more Koreans live alone and are eating alone so if they are watching someone eat they feel less alone.
It can be part of it for some people, but that type of explanation ignores the fact that Koreans just love to watch others eat. It’s not surprising when you look at South Korea’s history of rapidly becoming a developed country. Even within Hugh’s lifetime he remembers not that much food when he was young and there not being much meat. His parents only had meat a few times a year when they were young because it was so expensive back then. Food is something still very special and in living memory there were times where there was not that much food. If a mother is able to cook well for her children she wants to see them enjoy it and gets enjoyment herself from watching them eat.
Hugh has a story from his grandparents that when people had a dried fish, they wouldn’t eat it right away, but would hang it from the ceiling and look at it while just eating rice and imagine they were tasting fish instead of rice. These days there are copious amounts of food in Korea, and it’s very cheap. There are many TV shows that show close ups of people eating food and food sounds are accentuated for the camera. Often in western cooking shows the eating part is just a small section at the end of the show, but Korean shows will show a much longer time of people eating and enjoying the food. For me as a nonKorean I really don’t like the sounds of someone eating or seeing a closeup of their mouth as they eat, but it’s very common on TV here. Korea’s relationship with food now has been shaped by their hard times in the past.
So now with food so easily accessible people tend to be more worried about gaining weight. People on diets like to watch mukbangs because they get satisfaction watching someone else eat. This plays out in real life too. Many times I’ve been with a Korean friend and at a restaurant and cafe and they will buy me food and when I ask them what they are eating they will say, “Oh nothing, I’m on a diet. I just want to watch you eat.” That would be very strange in Australia! When Hugh is sick he wants me to do a personal mukbang for him. So because he can’t eat he will watch me eating closely and even tell me what food to eat so he can feel satisfaction from what I’m eating.
People who do mukbangs, and are very popular, don’t necessarily speak a lot while doing them. They will answer some questions but often people are just telling them “eat this thing now” or “eat these together”. It’s not necessarily about the social aspect as much but the enjoyment of watching someone else eat.
What about in your country? Do you like to watch people eat?
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Hugh been going really well with his diet and exercise, but occasionally has cravings for fried chicken. I think he is starting to see fried chicken everywhere.
He is vlogging his progress so check out his videos on YouTube. The first one is here: