We tried Emily Mariko’s Salmon Rice Bowl from TikTok
Some people like to cook as a hobby to relax. If you’re not one of those people, Emily Mariko’s Salmon Bowl Recipe is about to change that.
The 29-year-old Japanese-American lifestyle content creator from the Bay Area, Calif., Has expanded her TikTok following into the millions after posting a video of her making a bowl of salmon and rice, a Japanese classic. Its version includes leftover salmon fillet, a scoop of leftover white rice, an ice cube (yes, an ice cube – we’ll get to that later), soy sauce, Sriracha, Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise and, for serve, avocado slices, kimchi and grilled seaweed snacks.
Sounds simple, right? Well it is, which is part of its popularity. But there’s something more about this dish that sets it apart from the galaxy of other step-by-step cooking videos on TikTok.
Mariko first posted the dish on TikTok on August 25 with the caption: “Still how I eat leftover salmon.” In it, she makes the recipe, only without the Kewpie, avocado, and ice cube. After some users suggested she add them, she remade the video with the new ingredients on September 21, which skyrocketed the home cook to stardom on social media. The TikTok now has over 45 million views and has inspired legions of people – including Lizzo – to make copy dishes.
This millennial vlogger now has legions of followers who panic when she posts a video making salmon for dinner because they know what to expect for lunch the next day.
“You all know what tomorrow is … 😏🧊,” one user commented on one of her salmon dinner demos, including the ice cube emoji to hint at Mariko’s trick of using a ice cube for steaming rice in the microwave.
After watching the video several times, I had to test the recipe to experience the viral sensation and better understand why it gained the reputation it has earned. Here is what I discovered.
First of all: the ingredients. In addition to avocado, all of the common Japanese condiments and garnishes can be found in most grocery stores and Asian markets. If you haven’t tried Kewpie, this is the key. Similar in color and consistency to American mayos, but they don’t contain lemon juice, potato starch, or other additives and preservatives. It also contains red wine vinegar, rice vinegar, and mustard flour, giving it that sweet, savory flavor that brings a subtle creaminess when mixed with rice.
Then it was time to crush the salmon. I really rammed my fork into the pieces until they broke and melded together. I then added a ball of cold rice (Mariko shared in another video her favorite type is Koshihikari organic short grain white rice), formed it into a loose ball over the salmon puree, created a small well in the middle with a spoon and place an ice cube on it.
I took a sheet of parchment paper and molded it around the rice ball and the sides of the plate. The ice cube helps create steam inside so that when microwaved, the rice and salmon stay moist instead of drying out. I usually add butter or oil to my rice when I reheat it, but this will be my new tip, as it has worked wonderfully.
I put my dish in the microwave for 1.5 minutes which was perfect. It came out smoking and the ice cube was almost still intact, so I pulled it out, as did Mariko.
Then it was gravy time (the best time). Like Mariko did, I splashed a fair amount of soy sauce on the rice until it was almost brown. Then I zigzagged a net of Kewpie and Sriracha on top.
Ready to mix! I transferred all of my contents to my serving bowl and tossed the mixture thoroughly, making sure all of that creamy, spicy sauce was incorporated into the rice and salmon.
Once everything was mixed, I added the sliced avocado to the bowl, placed a few kimchi balls in a side bowl, and grabbed a container of toasted seaweed snacks.
Finally: the taste test. Chopsticks are optimal for putting each bite together so that you can lay a bite of avocado on top of the rice, add a small piece of kimchi on top and then gently (because we all aspire to be as graceful as Mariko), pluck a leaf of seaweed and fold it around the bite.
Oh yes. A million times, yes. The dish lives up to the hype.
Filled with umami flavor, the mixture of rice and salmon is tender and slightly sweet when paired with the other ingredients. Avocado adds that smooth, buttery element that only avocado can provide, while kimchi adds funk, spice and acid. Grilled seaweed adds the crunch factor and even more umami. It is impossible not to go back until the bowl is clean.
As many may have noticed, Mariko doesn’t use music on her cooking videos or even voice narration. At first I didn’t like the overwhelming sound of the decomposing salmon, but when I did it myself, I realized that this was all part of the Mariko phenomenon. In the same way that people find serenity while watching ASMR videos, raking sand in a Zen garden, or squeezing a stress ball, preparing Mariko’s salmon bowl is like a mental massage. Like brewing a loose cup of tea, the salmon bowl takes intention but virtually no effort. As you get the meal ready in a matter of minutes, the whole process is deeply satisfying and has a calming effect.
The dish is ideal for a quick lunch or dinner with leftovers, where you can enjoy roasted salmon with rice and vegetables, just like Mariko, then turn it into a bowl of salmon for the next day.
I made the dish at the end of a busy weekday when the house was quiet. I finished the job (well, without photographing this dish), cooked my children’s dinner and put them to bed, which made them hungry. I felt the stresses of life melt away as I mashed the salmon, smoothed the parchment paper over the rice, and put together every bite of ingredients.
It will certainly be a dish that I will come back to when I run out of time, but above all, when I just want to have my moment of Zen while having lunch.