Trends come and go. That’s kind of their thing. Take, for example, low-rise jeans. A whole generation swore those would never return and (shudder) look where we are now. The world of trends isn’t relegated to just fashion, of course. Food, too, is easy prey to the ebb and flow of a trend cycle.
There’s one recipe trend I’ve noticed circling back again and again, and unlike others, it’s not waiting the requisite time before reentering the moment. Over the past two years (the Pandemic Era, if you will), I’ve noticed something called sushi bakes, or sushi casseroles, peak in popularity, and then quietly recede—only to peak again shortly after. It seems as if every four to six months, the conversation surrounding a sushi bake swells. Readers, I’m here to report that we’re in the midst of a swell: The sushi bake is back.
For the uninitiated, sushi bake is a casserole-like dish in which the layers are made up of ingredients traditionally found in, well, sushi (most similar in likeness to the California roll). Most sushi bakes will have sticky sushi rice as a base layer, then a fish (usually imitation crab or salmon), and layers of Kewpie, sriracha, and other sushi accoutrement. The dish is credited to Mimi Qui Reyes, a Filipino celebrity nail artist who started making her sushi bakes as early as 2015. She continues to sell them on Instagram.
For the most recent sushi bake surge, we have TikTok user Lizzy Wong (@lizzymwong to thank. She uploaded her iteration of the recipe at the very end of 2021. In the two-odd months since, her video has been viewed over 18 million times and liked by more than 2.6 million TikTok users.
In her video, Wong touts the recipe’s popularity and its purported benefits: “If you bring this to a family gathering, people are going to love you.” She then dives into its rather simple preparation. She washes rice, shreds a pound of imitation crab with a fork, chops and mixes it with 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons sriracha, 3 ounces cream cheese, 3/4 cup Kewpie mayo, (“Do not substitute for regular mayo,” she warns,) 1 teaspoon wasabi, and 2 chopped scallions in a bowl.
To three cups of cooked rice she adds 1/3 cup rice vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3 tablespoons sugar (typical seasonings for sushi rice). She then places and presses the prepared rice into the bottom of a 9x9-inch baking dish. It looks to be about 1/2-inch-thick. She sprinkles some furikake atop the rice and adds a layer of the imitation crab mixture, as well. More furikake and a drizzle of equal parts sriracha and Kewpie goes on top of the whole affair before it gets tossed into the oven under the broiler for ten minutes. It emerges toasted and browned across the top—its crunchy exterior gives way to the creamy combination of flavors inside. To eat, she spoons some out and eats it on a folded bit of roasted seaweed snack.
Wong’s approach is simple, straightforward, easily replicable—all of which make it a no-brainer candidate for viral fame. As some of the comments on her video indicate, it’s the surprise ease and bold flavors that make this a knockout recipe.
As mentioned, this is far from the only time a sushi bake has made its rounds on the internet. A year ago, writer (and Food52 Resident) Hana Asbrink, wrote about the dish for Bon Appetit, explaining that the sushi bake was an early pandemic trend she noticed cropping up on social media feeds among those based in the Philippines. Her rendition calls for masago or tobiko in addition to the imitation crab as well as cucumbers and avocados (which is an issue of its own). Some other sushi bakes on TikTok date from before Wong’s: @myhealthydish, who posted in November of 2021, adds in cooked salmon as well;@spicyavocada’s dates back to May of last year.
It doesn’t seem like the sushi bake is going away anytime soon. Now is probably as good a time as ever to stock up on sushi rice, imitation crab, and avocados (if you can find them).
Have you made a sushi bake yet? What did you add to it?
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