Emily Mariko’s Salmon Rice Bowl: are there bigger fish in the sea?


Kimberly Cui

Arranged neatly with snackable sides of dry seaweed, kimchi and cut avocado, Emily Mariko’s Salmon Rice Bowl captivates both the eyes and the stomach.

A seemingly simple fish dish from a hypnotic creator pulling it together was enough to grasp the attention of millions. The 36-second TikTok video posted by Emily Mariko, a 29-year-old Japanese American lifestyle influencer, garnered 7.4 million likes and 76.9 million views, the attention centered on the creator cooking what she calls the “best lunch of the week.” 

Ironically, the Salmon Rice Bowl’s rising popularity is partially due to Mariko’s deliberate facial expressions and mannerisms. The crisp composure she carries herself with and the unhurried pace at which she portrays inconspicuous flashes of her life inevitably draw a rapacious audience, hungry for more of Mariko’s slo-mo expressions that juxtapose the swift pace of real-life. Every crinkle of joy on her face after each bite of her lunch seems premeditated, undeniably contributing to the Salmon Rice Bowl’s marketability.

Are participants in this food trend genuinely enjoying this meal rather than just hypnotized by Mariko’s captivating mannerisms, or are there bigger fish in the sea of online food trends? We took it to the kitchen to see for ourselves. 

Ingredients and materials 

Cold poached salmon, cooked rice, ice cube, parchment paper, soy sauce, Kewpie mayo, Sriracha sauce, avocado, green onions, kimchi and dry seaweed. 

Cooking Process 

  1. Poach salmon (or make your parents do this while you get your nails done) or take leftover salmon from your fridge. 
  2. Use a fork to mash the salmon into pieces (Or bits? Flakes? Whatever you call mashed-up fish). 
  3. Add an equal proportion of cooked rice to salmon onto your plate. 
    1. If you are using leftover rice, place an ice cube onto the rice, cover the plate with parchment paper and microwave until the rice and salmon are warm. The icecube helps steam old rice. 
  4. Add your preferred amount of soy sauce, Kewpie mayo and Sriracha sauce; the condiments are typically squeezed out in a lattice pattern for show (Do not stress too much on this step; the lattice will soon be destroyed).
  5. Mix the ingredients until the rice is coated evenly. 
  6. Slice an avocado and arrange the pieces on the side of your plate. 
  7. Prepare a side dish of kimchi and open a pack of dried seaweed. (We suggest you pour yourself a glass of sparkling cider for your (or your parents’) arduous work!) 

Over the course of our lives and especially during lockdown, we have cast our net of culinary activities over numerous food trends, extending to cloud bread, Nerd ropes, s’mores bowls, Gigi Hadid’s vodka pasta (without the vodka, of course) and eating oranges while showering. And with our extensive experience, we’ve got to say, Emily Mariko’s Salmon Rice Bowl just may be the catch. 

Every crinkle of joy on her face after each bite of her lunch seems premeditated, undeniably contributing to the Salmon Rice Bowl’s marketability.

Though this recipe can be easily assembled with leftovers, the mix of warmed up fish and rice adhered by the concoction of various sauces creates a hearty and filling meal. The traditional Asian flavors that weave through the dish comfortingly coat each bite, and if the meal has been properly mixed, the vibrance of all the flavors truly shines. The creaminess of the Kewpie mayo soothes the saltiness from the soy sauce, while the mild spice from the Sriracha sauce is more biting, yet still tame enough for our sub-par spice tolerances to bear. Swaddling a glob of rice in a piece of dried seaweed presents the perfect bite, creating a crispy shell to the otherwise more supple meal. 

We wouldn’t be able to emphasize enough how filling and satisfying this dish is with a single breath. It effortlessly ties together nostalgia-inducing Asian flavors, ranging from hot sauces to umami-flavored pastes, to even the traditional yet wholesome taste of kimchi. The dish invokes an idiosyncratic feeling near indescribable, but if we were to miraculously summarize it, we’d claim it piquant yet nourishing. Though we both regularly enjoy Asian cuisine and salmon on its own enough to be exhausted by their flavors, this dish easily surpasses our expectations and will definitely be a new staple in our households. The convenience of this dish generates both a quick 10-at-night-but-no-energy meal or a spontaneous afternoon snack. Either way, the on-demand feature with the dish’s filling assortment of flavors elevates it to another level. 

A common complaint about viral food recipes is that they are just not quite right. When a mass of people attempts to create a popularized food, the dish becomes impersonal from inflexible instructions, robbing the subtle tastes that make food rewarding instead of simply fuel. The Salmon Rice Bowl, however, is an easy outlaw to this inclination by the dish’s customizability and necessary personal take. Mariko refrains from including specific measurements and freehands the ingredients instead. She liberates her audience from the “It’s too salty” or the, “I don’t like the texture!” Simply providing the possibilities (too salty? Less soy sauce. Too mushy? More kimchi. Too strong? Add avocado.), Mariko presents her personal recipe while simultaneously allowing renditions to appear unprompted. Since the bowl gained popularity, we’ve seen multiple versions of it including salmon bowl bakes and even college cafeteria adaptations of the meal. 

Granted, this would not be a completely objective review if we refused to mention a crucial detail: our insatiable hunger and our endearing friends. Like how songs sound sweeter as you listen when they’re stuck in your head, or how sleep feels deeper after staying up to ungodly hours cramming assignments, the Salmon Rice Bowl was full of flavors that probably couldn’t have tasted better under any other circumstance. We gathered with a group of friends to cook the meal, all of us bustling around the kitchen in ravenous anticipation. With our table full of warm food and friends surrounding to enjoy it, how could this dish be anything less than wonderfully exquisite?

So, the question appears again: are there larger fish in the sea? Will there be more food trends that invoke a deeper sense of comfort, inevitably drowning the Salmon Rice Bowl in the vast internet, condemning it as just another passing phase? Perhaps (though we argue not likely). Still, we have yet to encounter such a trend, so until then, Mariko’s Salmon Rice Bowl is more than enough to hook and reel us in.

Final consensus: 8.5/10; 9/10 on an empty stomach