On her YouTube channel, Kanchhi Maiya Bhandari cooks appetizing, classic Nepali dishes while dressed in traditional gunyucholi attire. There’s no over-the-top music or narration in the 10-minute-long videos, as the 50-year-old quietly cooks on fire in metal and earthen pots — while cooking, she rarely talks to the camera held by her son. There’s a strong ASMR effect, as the only sounds you hear in the videos are the ones you would hear in a village in Nepal: birds chirping, water gushing, hot oil crackling, and the sound of meat charring over a fire. Most of the videos end with her saying, “mitho chha” (tastes good) — now a trademark of her videos.

Kanchhi Maiya makes spicy chicken gravy for her YouTube channel.

The overarching sentiment in the comments on the channel KanchhiKitchen, which has 362,000 subscribers and gets millions of views, is one of yearning. Her followers — Nepalis at home and the Nepali diaspora abroad — often post about how they long for a simple village life. Bhandari and her son created the channel during the Covid-19 pandemic, when they got to spend time together at their ancestral village in Sangkosh, Dhading, in central Nepal. Rest of World asked the duo about their unique social media stardom.

What inspired the channel?

Prakash: I always praised my mother’s cooking and wondered how we could share the taste of her mouthwatering recipes with other people. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we decided to launch a YouTube channel to showcase village cooking. When we had nothing to do, I thought, why not make a video of my mum cooking some Nepali food? Also, as we are cooking in a village setting, why not dress her up in the traditional gunyu-choli?

Kanchhi Maiya’s recipe for sweets made from melon has over a million views.

What motivates you to keep going?

Kanchhi Maiya: I receive a lot of messages saying that our videos remind people of their home in the village and I remind them of their mother. This motivates me to continue doing what I do. Sometimes, people whom I have never met before approach me and tell me that my face looks familiar to them.

Something you will never change?

Prakash: Organic, green, and sustainable cooking is what you see in the videos. We now want to introduce new concepts to our channel. For example, I can take my mom on a tour around the country, meet different people from different regions, and share their recipes. We are also soon planning to launch a homestay at our house where guests can enjoy the food we cook. But we will always remain true to our organic, green, and sustainable way of cooking.

Kanchhi Maiya prepares mutton curry in a clay pot.

One downside to fame?

Kanchhi Maiya: There’s nothing in particular that I don’t like. Sometimes, the comments are not flattering. We also receive a lot of criticism from some people who don’t like what we do. In the beginning, the negative comments made me feel sad, but, these days, I take them as part of my work.

Prakash: I make sure I filter the comments before reading them to my mum. I want to protect her from all the negativity.