What's for Lunch: Salmon Rice

Memeforum's New Cooking column

Introducing What’s for Lunch? where I try Tiktok recipes and then say if they’re good or not (and maybe a little something else)

Tiktok is a place where every day someone is trying to change your life with a recipe. Our culture has not fixed food yet. We have not figured out a way to check all the boxes of eating at once, or even most of the time. The balance in finding a meal that is both healthy and satisfying and easy to make while also accomplishing the other social goals we have for food. Something that makes us feel modern and skinny and put together while not also feeling like a punishment to eat. When someone presents us with a meal that achieves these factors we try and we try to make it work. All the better when the person presenting this meal to us has an enviable life. This month’s recipe is a bowl made by Emily Mariko with leftover salmon and rice and various accoutrements. I have done my best to replicate this meal with the ingredients and skills I had. I am incapable of following exact directions. I am an aquarius and believe that prescriptive directions only exist for people who don’t know themselves enough to know what they like. 

Let’s begin: 

First of all, I don’t have leftover salmon. I just started buying Salmon to eat on my own last week. I don’t meal prep so the salmon had to be fresh. I cooked it in my air fryer (a tiktok buy I wholeheartedly endorse) with the seasoning blend my mother uses. It’s an old family recipe that I won’t share but it’s somewhat spicy and creates a nice crust on the outside. The approach to the salmon is the thing I changed the most while remaining mostly the same. I’ve seen other influencers trying her recipe make it in a similar way so I don’t feel bad about straying from the path in this way.  It's cooked salmon, to my liking, and I’m eating it with rice. The general principle with each dish is the same. 

Second, we have rice. I also never have extra rice. I only make microwave rice and I eat it all when I make it. I worked with what I had. I microwaved my rice. I did not get a chance to try the hack with the ice cube but I know enough about microwaves to believe it works. So I have the same elements she has. White rice and Salmon. From here I follow her directions. I smush the salmon with my fork and put the rice on top. 

From here, I make two ramekins, one to do it her way and one to try it mine. In the first one, I follow her instructions to a T. Soy sauce, which I’ll eat but have no personal attachment to, sriracha, and kewpie mayo. I do not mix it because she does not mix it. I try to use the seaweed to pick up the rice and salmon. It does not work out so I use a fork. I eat the one bite and it falls out of the seaweed. In my attempt to be exactly like Emily, I fail. Knowing I cannot be exactly like her, I begin to forge my own path. I empty the salmon mixture onto the seaweed and eat it like a hand roll. It’s good. It’s fine. I have some kimchi as a palette cleanser the same way she does but then I remember this kimchi is over a year past it’s expiration date and is looking a little grey. (Does Kimchi go bad if opened? This is a real question that I need the answer to.)

I then ate my own version. I used hot chili oil instead of soy sauce. I mix up the salmon and the rice and the sauces. I dump it from the ramekin onto the seaweed and again eat it like a large hand roll. It’s better this way to me. For the rest of my dinner I eat it on a plate with no seaweed. Just rice and half a salmon filet. I add mayo and chili garlic sauce and mix it up with the rice. Two hours later, I eat two turkey corn dogs to finish off the meal. 

I failed in my journey. I cannot eat the lunch that Emily eats. I do not have her clean house. I do not have her somehow easy clean look. I can amend and alter and try again but I will never be Emily. I can certainly try but we all might be missing the point. When we watch her videos of her restocking her kitchen, we are in awe of her. She empties the rice from the bulk bag it came into a jar labeled rice. It is so simple, so clean, so easy. All our lives would be better in every way if we could just buy rice in bulk and put it in a jar labeled rice that sits on our kitchen counter. If we could be like Emily in the smallest of ways we could be like Emily in every achievable aspect.  

For her though, I suspect, the idea of keeping rice in its original packaging is as difficult as it is for us to keep up with adding it to the jar. No one has a kitchen that clean without some type A tendencies. She probably buys fresh veggies at the farmers market every sunday because to do it any other way feels wrong. She knows this about herself and this knowledge appeals to us, though we do not know that is what exactly appeals to us. She appears to be both comfortable with herself and has an aspirational life. We want that as well but we must figure it out on our terms. Emily's rules will not work for us if we are not already like that in some way. Still we try to be like her. We think her ease and comfort with herself comes from the rice. We think the rice and the jar and the ice cube are the secrets and if we pick those, we’ll be able to have it all. The rice in the jar is the symptom not the cause. 

I look forward to Emily's reign as it girl. She has a nice house and her food looks appetizing for the most part. As of right now she’s not trying too hard. I want to buy the bike shorts she has. I’ll make the meal she told me to again. If there’s anything particularly interesting in her intelligencer favorite things article I might get it. I want to know what coffee she drinks and what music she listens to. I know better. . I know the one cup of black coffee or whatever her preference is, is not the reason she is this way. But I will try anyway. Nothing I’m doing is working. I don’t breathe the clean air she does. I don’t wake up early enough and I certainly don’t work out. I am lazy and can only try Emily's way for so long. Just like we could all only go so far with Yogawithadrienne, Alison Roman, Jia Tolentino, and the Outdoor Voices exercise dress. If I buy the bike shorts I will not wear them to work out.  By the time they arrive I will feel bad for spending so much money (unless they're really cheap, in which case someone please send me the link). If she writes a book by the time it comes out, I will probably not read it. I hope it all works out for her though. More than anything I hope the happiness she projects is real and strong enough to carry her through us chewing her up and spitting her out. I hope she does not end up somewhere dark. I hope when we’re all making this salmon dish years down the line, we’ll remember Emily fondly.