Why You Can't Stop Watching Emily Mariko's Food Videos

You've probably scrolled through all of the TikToker's clips in the last few months — and there are some pretty solid reasons behind your obsession.

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It's been nearly two months since TikTok creator Emily Mariko first introduced the term "salmon rice" into the American lexicon and videos of people smashing chunks of leftover fish into platefuls of rice flooded social media feeds. And in those seven and a half weeks, Mariko herself has become a household name, with her viral recipe racking up 74.8 million views and her follower count skyrocketing to a whopping 7.1 million people.

But the 29-year-old Californian isn't just a one-hit wonder. Aside from that trend-setting fish-and-rice delicacy, Mariko also posts TikToks of herself whipping up tantalizing no-frills dishes, including toast topped with nut butter and pomegranate seeds, and of meal prep inspo, such as the clip of the creator snapping Brussels sprouts off their stalk, rinsing them off, then storing them in a container. Folks who aren't Mariko stans may argue that those videos are dull and unoriginal, yet they've somehow racked up 6.7 million and 17.6 million views, respectively, as of publication.

So what exactly makes Mariko's content so damn captivating? Shape tapped two pros to make some sense of the internet's latest obsession.

The Reasons Behind the Emily Mariko Craze, Explained

Her Videos Show an Easily Adoptable, Balanced Take On Eating

Spend just five minutes scrolling through Mariko's TikTok, and you'll see everything from healthy-ish eats (e.g. rotisserie chicken with broccolini, stuffed white mushrooms, and rosemary-topped purple potatoes) to comfort foods (e.g. pasta with meat sauce, "Frito pie," and store-bought pastries). And to Mia Syn, M.S., R.D.N., a registered dietitian nutritionist in Charleston, South Carolina, that variety is what makes Mariko's content so enjoyable. "She shows a balanced way of eating that isn't overly healthy or restrictive but puts an emphasis on fresh, whole-food ingredients through her farmers' market hauls and meal prep videos," she explains.

Adding to the appeal is Mariko's wide array of dishes. Other foodies on the internet tend to stick to a niche, whether it be plant-based eats or minimal-ingredient dishes. Mariko, however, is constantly shaking up her cuisine-of-choice (think: Hawaiian one day, Italian the next, and Japanese the following), ingredients used, and dishes created — many of which may not be in the viewer's wheelhouse. "While [in] one video she makes kale chips, another she is cooking fresh mussels, so you get a range of recipes that a novice home cook may not have tried to make at home before," says Syn.

That said, Mariko's recipes are relatively simple. Her Japanese curry recipe, which may sound complicated to the unfamiliar, consists of just five steps; her salmon rice makes use of last night's leftover fish and pantry staples; and her roasted chicken and veggies is familiar and accessible for folks who aren't that adventurous in the kitchen. Simply put, Mariko's content appeals to the masses' taste buds, and the recipes areactually doable to recreate at home, too.

Her Videos Might Stimulate ASMR

Standing in her kitchen, rocking cozy-looking athleisure sets, Mariko gives off "effortlessly cool yet approachable" vibes, and her videos make you feel like you're learning from a friend, says Syn. "Many of her cooking videos are without music or voiceover [and] simply [feature] the sounds of cooking and prepping meals, which I find calming to watch," she adds.

And these slicing, dicing, and sizzling sounds coming from a friend-like figure may stimulate autonomous sensory meridian response, aka ASMR, in some people. "ASMR is a deeply relaxing feeling often accompanied by light and pleasurable brain tingles," says Craig Richard, Ph.D., a professor at Shenandoah University, the founder of ASMRUniversity.com, and the host of the ASMR podcast Sleep Whispers. It can also change how you feel, promoting relaxation, comfort, peacefulness, and more. To induce ASMR, you typically need to experience positive, personal attention, as well as a "gentle voice, touch, sound, and/or movement," according to his website. IRL, you're most likely to experience it during an intimate moment with a kind person, such as a caring parent, teacher, hairdresser, clinician, best friend, or partner, he explains.

That said, Richard wouldn't classify the majority of Mariko's videos as "traditional" ASMR, as she isn't constantly focusing her attention on the viewer, looking into the camera, speaking in a softvoice, or purposely creating soothing sounds for them. Still, "she does provide viewers with a special, close-up peek into her daily life, in a quiet, gentle, and comforting way," says Richard. "Her videos feel like a wonderful ASMR-inspired mini-vlog. Similar to ASMR videos, Emily's videos are likely to make the viewer feel special and close to her."

Even though you're not physically chilling with Mariko in her kitchen, she's virtually letting you in on her everyday activities, just as if you were a dear friend, notes Richard. "The quiet nature of those moments with Emily can represent a depth of friendship or closeness that doesn't need to be filled with lots of nervous chatter," he says. "Quiet, gentle moments between two individuals can bring a wonderful calmness and comfort." And that intimacy alone can be appealing to viewers, whether they experience ASMR from her videos or not. (Want to make friends IRL? These expert pointers will help you break the ice.)

The Potential Benefits of the Emily Mariko Infatuation

If your exponentially high screen time is making you feel a tad guilty about spending hours scrolling through Mariko's TikTok, know that there could be a few perks of doing so. In particular, Mariko's meal prepping and cooking videos serve as reminders that all foods — regardless of "health" status — can have a place on your plate, says Syn. "I think people can take note of Emily Mariko's meals in the sense that all food is meant to be enjoyed, from fresh produce from the farmers' market to In-N-Out Burger," she says. "Her videos can also inspire people to cook more, try new foods, and be more adventurous in the kitchen." (ICYMI, research shows there are plenty of benefits to trying new foods.)

What's more, the calming, friendly nature of Mariko's videos might just melt away your worries. "Several peer-reviewed research studies have reported that ASMR videos help viewers to reduce their stress, decrease their heart rate, and fall asleep more easily," says Richard. "If viewers experience ASMR when watching some of Emily's videos, then they also may be receiving similar benefits."

Translation: If scrolling through dozens of Mariko's meal prep and food porn videos fends off the Sunday Scaries or changes your perspective on what "healthy eating" should look like, keep at it, friend. After all, as the viral TikTok sound goes, this is an obsession that doesn't hurt anyone.

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