Hawaii is famous for its white sand beaches, turquoise waters, palm trees … and poke! This traditional island dish has travelled a long way to give us all a taste of the tropical. Fresh, versatile and bursting with flavour, poke is the bowl of the moment and a mainstay on lunch menus across Canada.
Deconstructing the poke bowl
Poke (pronounced poh-kay) means “to slice” in Hawaiian, and the concept is simple. Take a bowl, dice up some raw fresh fish and/or vegetables … and dig in! The best part? You can prepare a poke bowl in minutes, switching up the ingredients to suit any crowd. Whether you’re eating alone or entertaining guests, the poke bowl is always a winner.
Keep it classic with an Ahi bowl
“Ahi” is the Hawaiian name for yellowfish tuna, the original poke ingredient. To make it the traditional way, cut the fish into good-sized cubes (around 2 cm on each side), add a simple marinade of soy sauce, spicy sauce and sesame oil, and enjoy. No other ingredients needed.
Add some umami to your poke
Umami may sound like a board game or an Ikea chair, but it’s actually the “fifth flavour” after salty, sweet, sour and bitter. It’s that flavour you can’t quite put your finger on. An earthy, meaty intensity that hits the back of your throat and leaves you craving more.
Here are some suggestions for ingredients that naturally contain glutamate (the amino acid behind the elusive umami flavour) and pair perfectly with poke: ripe or sundried tomatoes, dehydrated shiitakes, aged parmesan shavings, scallops, prosciutto chips, miso dressing, kombu seaweed, oyster sauce and fish sauce. Just choose your combo and serve on a bed of Japanese rice.
If you’d like to learn more about this incredible flavour, head to the Umami Information Centre website. This non-profit organization is dedicated to the worthy cause of spreading the umami word.
Do your part for the planet with a vegan bowl
Poke bowls are always a healthy choice. But if you like to eat right and take care of the planet, a vegan bowl is the way to go. One of our favourites features grilled tempeh cubes, roasted edamame, multi-coloured quinoa, mango strips and avocado cubes, drizzled with a nutritional yeast sauce—the parmesan of veggie food according to our favourite vegan, Jean-Philippe. Serve it all in an avocado peel and prepare to feel great!
Turned off by tempeh? Here’s a trick to make it tasty.
Tempeh tends to get a bad rap with its strange and bitter flavour. But there is a trick to making this fermented soybean protein taste good, and it’s all in the preparation. Normally you need to blanch the tempeh before cooking to take away the bitterness. But Jean-Philippe has a recipe that lets you skip this step, by glazing the tempeh in orange and cooking it in a broth. Two simple steps that’ll turn tempeh into your new favourite ingredient.
Raid your freezer for an impromptu poke
No need to plan ahead to make this creative poke. All you need to do is take a look in your freezer! You can throw together a poke bowl in minutes, with any ingredients that jump out. Perfect for when surprise guests show up and you don’t have anything prepared.
See those shrimp sleeping in your freezer? Now’s the time to bring them out of hibernation! Sautée them in butter, add a splash of rum, and you’ve got your protein covered. Give those frozen peas a quick bath in cold water to add instant colour and crunch. Then grab some fading carrots from your fridge, brush with oil and bake for around 30 minutes at 200 degrees to bring them back to life.
Give Alexis’ Teriyaki-style sauce a try …
- 1 serving (tablespoon) of soy sauce (make sure it’s Kikkoman Light sushi soy sauce)
- 1/2 serving of Mirin sauce
- 1/2 serving of rice vinegar
- 1/2 serving of sweet chili sauce (Madame Wong)
- 1/4 serving of honey
- A few drops of sesame oil
Bring to a boil, reduce a little and you’re done!
If you don’t have time to make your own sauce, Foodlavie’s peanut sauce is a great alternative. Or just reach for that jar of crunchy peanut butter hiding in your pantry.
And there you have it! Mini poke bowls whipped together in minutes and guaranteed to wow your guests.
Tips from chef Alexis
How to cook poke bowl rice like a pro
*Alexis loves Calrose rice but you can make this recipe with any kind of rice you prefer.
- Rinse the rice until the water is translucent (about 7 times).
- In a saucepan, add equal portions of rice and water (measured by volume, not weight).
- Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to the minimum.
- Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
- While you wait for the rice to cook, prepare the seasoning in a small saucepan:
1 portion of water
1 serving of rice vinegar
1 serving of white sugar
Bring to a boil and wait for the sugar to melt.
Once the rice is cooked, add the seasoning right away to stop the rice from sticking then leave it to cool. No time to make the seasoning? Just add some Mirin to your rice.
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