Some people cook as a relaxing pastime. Emily Mariko's salmon-bowl recipe will change your mind if you aren't one of these people.
After posting a video of herself making a salmon-and-rice bowl, which is a Japanese-American classic, the 29-year old, California-based Japanese American lifestyle content creator, TikTok grew to millions. The recipe includes leftover salmon fillets, leftover white rice, an Ice Cube (yes, an Ice cube -- we'll return to that later), Sriracha, Japanese Kewpie Mayo, soy sauce and, to finish, sliced avocado, kimchi, and roasted seaweed snacks.
It sounds simple, right? It is simple, which is why it is so popular. There's more to this dish than what you see in the many other TikTok cooking videos.
Mariko posted the recipe on TikTok Aug. 25, with the caption "Always how do I eat leftover salmon." She makes the recipe but without avocado, Kewpie and ice cube. She redid the video on Sept. 21 with the new ingredients after users suggested that she add them. This made her a social media celebrity. Over 45 million people have viewed the TikTok, and it has inspired thousands of others to create their own versions.
The millennial vlogger has a huge following. They are excited when she posts a video of her making salmon for dinner. They know what the next day will bring.
"Y'all know tomorrow ..."" was one comment made by a user on her salmon dinner demonstrations. It included the ice cube emoticon to refer to Mariko's trick using an icecube to steam the rice in a microwave.
After seeing the video several times, I decided to try the recipe. This allowed me to see the viral phenomenon firsthand and to better understand its popularity. Here is what I found.
Let's start with the ingredients. All the Japanese condiments and toppings are available at Asian markets and grocery stores. This is the best way to try Kewpie. It is similar in color and consistency to American mayos but doesn't contain lemon juice, potato starch, or any other additives or preservatives. It contains red wine vinegar, mustard flour, and rice vinegar. This gives it a savory taste that adds a slight creaminess to the rice.
It was now time to mash up the salmon. My fork was really used to break up the pieces and then I mashed them together with my hands. I added a scoop of chilled rice to the mixture, which Mariko said was her favorite type of Koshihikari white short grain rice. Then I rolled it into a ball and placed it on top of the mashed salmon.
I used a piece of parchment paper to mold the parchment paper around the rice ball. Because the ice cube creates steam, the rice and salmon remain moist when they are microwaved. This is my new trick. I normally add butter or oil to my rice before I reheat it. But this worked amazing.
Next it was sauce time, which is the best time. Mariko followed my lead and I poured a lot of soy sauce over the rice, until it was almost brown. Next, I drizzled Sriracha and Kewpie on top.
Mix it up! All of my ingredients were transferred to a bowl. I then combined everything thoroughly.
After it was all combined, I added the sliced avocado to a bowl, and then placed a few scoops of kimchi into a side bowl. Finally, I grabbed a box of roasted seaweed snacks.
The taste test is finally here. You can use chopsticks to put each bite together. Place an avocado slice on the rice, then add some kimchi. Finally, gently (because we all want to be as graceful and graceful as Mariko), take a piece of seaweed and wrap it around the bite.
Yes, indeed. Yes, a million times. It lives up to its hype.
The rice and salmon combination is packed with umami flavor and can be paired with other ingredients to make it tender and sweet. Avocado adds a creamy, buttery texture, while kimchi adds spice, acid, and funk. The seaweed is roasted for its crunch and umami. You will find yourself going back for more until you finish the bowl.
Mariko does not use music in her videos, or use voice narration. Although I initially didn't like the sound of the salmon being broken down, I soon realized that it was part of the Mariko phenomenon. Mariko's salmon preparation is similar to how many people find serenity by watching ASMR videos, raking sand at a Zen garden, or using a stress ball. The preparation of a salmon bowl is similar to making loose-leaf tea. It requires little effort and takes a lot of intention. The whole process of making the salmon bowl takes only a few minutes and is very satisfying.
This dish can be used as a quick lunch or dinner, with leftovers. You can enjoy roasted salmon and rice, just like Mariko. Then, you can make a salmon bowl the next day.
The dish was made at the end a hectic weekday, when my house was quiet. I got home from work, took a photo of the dish, and made dinner for my children. They were hungry by the end. As I mashed the salmon and smoothed the parchment over the rice, I felt all the stress melt away. Then I assembled every bite.
This is a dish that I will always return to, not only because it's quick, but also because I want to have a moment of Zen while I eat lunch.