Poke bowls (pronounced ‘poh-keh’) are a popular Hawaiian dish popping up all over the world. Usually made from raw fish, rice and vegetables, Poke combines hot and cold elements with raw and cooked proteins, to create one absolutely mouth-watering meal. Although the poke bowl has been around for centuries, its recent popularity is due to it being a simple, fresh, and a great takeaway choice for those with health on their minds. Read on to discover the history of the poke bowl, and to learn how to create your very own poke bowl at home.
The history of the poke bowl
The poke bowl has been a staple food in Hawaii for centuries, but has only just become a global phenomena, now being available in kiosks, restaurants and specialist takeaway joints the world over. In Hawaiian, the word ‘poke’ means ‘to cut’, representing the cube shapes of the meat in a poke bowl. Traditionally, the poke bowl was made by dicing thick cubes from the cheaper cuts of fish meat, like the head or tail. Generally, the meat used is either from ahi (tuna) or tombe (Hawaiian albacore), sitting on top of a bowl of rice.
The poke bowl can be found all across Hawaii in grocery stores, where most people on the island source their poke fix, and usually include mayonnaise, Korean-inspired chili sauces and miso. However, over time, the poke bowl has been reinvented on the US mainland and has travelled all over the world, becoming a hugely trendy and popular dish. Many chefs have become adventurous with the ingredients they put in modern poke bowls, deviating far from the original Hawaiian recipe. New styles often incorporate ingredients like quinoa, zucchini noodles and tomatoes, in response to a societal trend towards healthy food options.
Guide to creating your own poke bowl
If you can’t find poke bowls in your area, or you’d just like to incorporate your own flavour combinations, why not make one yourself at home? They’re surprisingly easy to make, and no matter the style of poke bowl you’re aiming for, they all follow the same basic steps:
1. The base
Start by choosing a base for your bowl. Traditionally this is a layer of rice, however you may choose soba noodles or leafy greens if you prefer. Japanese sushi rice is the best option for rice in terms of quality, however you may opt for coconut jasmine rice, or a brown rice substitute.
2. The protein
Next comes the meat, which should be cut lengthwise working against the grain into 2cm strips. Then cut across the strips into 2cm cubes. Usually the meat will be ahi tuna, fluke, hamachi, salmon or shrimp. For vegetarian poke bowls, tofu is the most popular choice.
3. The sauce
If you’re using a fattier and firmer fish, the dressing can be packed full of rich flavour. For more delicate fish, opt for dressing the fish more simply. Ponzu, shoyu (soy sauce), gochujang and spicy black bean paste, all work well as a starting base to which you can add your own unique flavour combinations.
4. The rest
Creating a good blend of texture, depth and balance means adding a few extra ingredients to the bowl. This can be anything from fresh fruits and vegetables like avocado, shiitake mushrooms, radish and bean sprouts, nuts, seeds or spices.
A few spins on a classic
With so many different variations of poke bowls out there, we’ve pulled together some of the best recipes to suit any taste buds.
If you love spice, salmon is a great choice for the protein. This Lady and Pups recipe shows you how to make the perfect sticky, spicy salmon and avocado poke bowl. Or for a less traditional, and very healthy seafood poke, this recipe from A Common Connoisseur puts a truly unique spin on poke, combining tuna, quinoa, avocado and watermelon. Or, if you’re looking to eat out instead of cooking at home, Kobe Jones serves up a delicious Seafood Poke featuring sashimi cubes in a poke sauce.
It’s just as easy to make a poke bowl without the meat. This vegan and gluten free poke bowl recipe uses tofu instead of fish and combines brown rice, kale, carrot, and avocado for a healthy version of the traditional poke bowl. Alternatively, this poke bowl from Bon Appetit uses both tofu and mushrooms for an extra protein hit.
For a paleo version of the poke bowl check out this recipe from Simply Julie and Chelsea. It keeps the traditional cubed fish, but replaces the rice serving with slices of cucumber to absorb the sauce, and adds mango, avocado, seaweed salad and sesame seeds for garnish. The tropical flavours of the dish are reminiscent of the poke bowl’s Hawaiian origins, and make it a perfect summer dish.
Try a poke bowl today
The humble little poke bowl is currently taking the world by storm, with plenty of different and unique twists on the original popping up all the time. If you’ve never had a poke bowl before, start out trying a classic tuna version like they do in Hawaii. Or if you’d prefer to make your own at home, or have specific diet requirements, give some of the above recipes a go. And if you’re a lover of modern and trendy dishes Japanese inspired dishes in general, be sure to check out your nearest Kobe Jones restaurant, for a unique and memorable dining experience.