Everything you need to know about poke bowls

06 Sep 2019

Healthy and delicious, the poke bowl is the holy grail of take-away food, but just what is it, and why all the fuss?

By now, you would have heard the term poke (pronounced “POH-keh”). Social media is awash with influencers posing their way through this must-have summer lunch. Cool cafes have ditched their Buddha and smoothie bowls in favour of this fresh, protein-packed meal, and hipster neighbourhoods are being invaded by a procession of hole-in-the-wall poke bars

But for all the hype, poke truly is worth it. Here’s why:

 

What is a poke bowl?

Essentially, poke bowls are just sushi jazzed up and despite their rapid rise to fame, they are nothing new.

A Hawaiian word, ‘poke’ means “to slice or cut” and refers to the raw marinated chunks of fish – usually tuna – that star in the dish. In the late 1880s, local fishermen across the islands created the dish from scraps of their tuna catch, combining them with seaweed and pickled onions, served over a bed of rice with soy sauce and sesame oil – influences of Hawaii’s Japanese migrant population.

Now a global phenomenon, poke is highly customisable but in its most common form, it is a salad combining cubes of raw fish (most commonly yellowfin tuna) seasoned with traditional Japanese flavours (think soy, sake and sesame seed, for example); white rice seasoned with rice wine vinegar; strips of nori seaweed; a pickled vegetable of some sort; and fresh greens for freshness and crunch, like edamame beans, avocado and spring onion.

 

Why are poke bowls so good for you?

Sounds delicious? Poke bowls taste even better when you realise how good for you they are. A perfect balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate, poke bowls are also great sources of vitamin B12, vitamin A and magnesium.

Of course, poke bowls can be as healthy as you’d like them to be – want less carbs? Replace the rice base with shaved cabbage or diced cucumber; or opt for brown rice or quinoa. Decrease the fat content by going easy on the sauces (hold the mayo!) and re-consider your protein – a sashimi-grade white fish, prawns and even tofu are good choices. For a bowl that contains an even greater density of vitamins and minerals, add more fresh ingredients like kale, tomato, kimchi, beetroot, carrots… the options are endless.

 

Secrets to creating the perfect poke bowl?

The good news here is that there are no ‘poke’ rules however, the following pointers will help you create a bowl that’s guaranteed to satisfy:

  • A truly awesome poke combines contrasting temperatures, flavours and textures.
  • A good poke bowl starts with its base – the rice should be warm (fish should be cold). Sushi rice is best, but contains added sugar to help it stick, so for a healthier option, go for plain white rice, brown rice, quinoa, soba noodles or shredded veggies.
  • Don’t over-cook the rice – starchy, stodgy rice will ruin your bowl.
  • Only use the freshest ingredients you can find – if you’re using raw fish, it MUST be sashimi grade and cut into even, thumbnail-sized cubes.
  • Don’t over-season the fish – you’ll ruin its flavour.
  • If you’re not into raw fish, cooked seafood is fine, as is poached chicken and tofu.
  • Always add crunch to give your dish texture – wasabi peas, seaweed, sesame seeds, crisp pickles (kimchi, cucumber or ginger, for example) and crushed nuts all taste great.
  • Don’t forget the dressing for the rice and fish – it’s where much of the flavour comes from. Soy sauce, vineyards, sesame oil, sesame seeds and spring onion all work well.
  • Don’t forget the toppings at the end – we recommend wasabi mayo, sriracha, coriander and seaweed. Try to stick with Japanese or Asian-inspired flavours.
  • Plate individual ingredients together on top of the rice, and arrange them by colour. A poke should be pretty!

 

Here at The Black Truffle, we’ve been on the poke bandwagon for a while now. Our bowls change according to availability and seasonality of fresh ingredients however, favourites of ours include seasoned white rice, soba noodles or cauliflower rice topped with chunks of perfectly poached salmon, edamame beans, bean shoots, home-made kimchi, sliced snow peas, tofu, sesame seeds, charred greens, sautéed spinach and coriander.