Poke Bowls 101

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If you're an Instagram native or live near a major US city, you may have noticed all the hype surrounding "Poke bowls". It's one of the latest trends among foodies and health conscious people alike, with Poke places opening up all over the country. 

While it is newly trending, Poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish that has been around for centuries. Poke (poh-kay) means "to cut" in Hawaiian. The dish starts out with a firm fish, cut into cubes, and can be eaten on its own, or mixed with various sauces and seasonings and served over rice. You can almost think of it like "deconstructed sushi". 

In Hawaii, Poke will be found in any grocery store in different combinations. Traditional versions involve the fish seasoned with native limu (a sea algae) with crushed kukui nuts. Some varieties include raw fish while others include cooked, flavored with different sauces.

The recent hype over the Poke bowl comes from how customizable the dish can be, and how you can include so many fresh, healthy ingredients. The US mainland's renditions of the poke bowl are far astray from the traditional, with ingredients like quinoa, cauliflower rice, veggie noodles, etc. This has caused somewhat of an aggravation for the Hawaii natives. So while you're having fun customizing your poke bowl to your liking, do it with respect to the origins of the Poke bowl.

Building your own Poke bowl:

Step 1: Choose base

Brown rice, quinoa, cauliflower rice, soba noodles, leafy greens

Step 2: Choose your Fish

If you can get good quality, fresh raw fish, try salmon, fluke, yellowtail, hamachi, or ahi tuna. Cut the fillet lengthwise, working against the grain, into ½" strips. Then cut the strips crosswise into ½" pieces. If you prefer cooked fish, cooked shrimp is a good alternative. You can sub the fish altogether with cooked tofu.

Step 3: Choose Sauce/Dressing

The fattier and firmer the fish, the stronger your dressing can be. Mild flavored fish, like fluke, should be lightly dressed. Chili sauce, miso paste, Ponzu, soy sauce, and spicy black bean paste are great bases to work with. If you're being health conscious, just be aware of the sodium in your sauce and other funky additives that might be in it.

Step 4: Have fun with add ins

Choose at least one item from at least three of these categories to achieve optimal texture and flavor contrast.

Fruits/veg: sliced avocado, pickled radish, red cabbage, pickled cabbage, bean sprouts, kimchi, tomatoes, thinly sliced cucumber, shredded carrots, shiitake mushrooms, ginger.
Nuts: sesame seeds, chopped peanuts, cashews
Spice: Shichimi (Japanese spice mixture), dried chilis, red pepper flakes, crushed wasabi peas, thin sliced jalapenos
Alliums: scallions, sweet onion, roasted garlic
The options are endless, get creative!

 

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