Eric Akis: Poke bowls surf in from Hawaii

Eric Akis

After a recent column on how to make a burrito bowl, a few readers asked if I could offer a recipe for a poke bowl. It sounded like a tasty, on-trend idea, so here it is.

Poke, pronounced “POH-kay,” is a palate-awakening, Hawaiian-style raw, marinated fish dish, often seasoned with ingredients Asian immigrants introduced to those islands.

article continues below

Poke is widely popular in Hawaii and interest has definitely reached North America.

Numerous restaurants on this side of the Pacific list it on their menus, including some in Victoria, such as Island Poke (islandpoke.ca) and E:Ne Raw Seafood and Sake Bar (nuboene.com), to name a couple.

But making poke at home is not that difficult. To make a poke bowl, all you do is set the poke in an attractive serving bowl with enough complementary ingredients to create a meal for lunch or dinner.

In one of today’s recipes, I set albacore tuna poke in a bowl with seasoned sushi rice and garnishes. The latter included avocado, cashews, shallots and pea shoots.

Beyond fish and other seafood, many ingredients can be flavoured “poke-style.”

In my second recipe, marinated tofu and edamame are the stars of a poke bowl that also contains seasoned sushi rice and garnishes such as grated carrot, radishes and chopped macadamia nuts.

Feel free to adjust the recipes more to your liking by, for example, adding additional garnishes, or by adjusting the amounts of seasoning.

B.C. Albacore Tuna Poke Bowl

This nicely garnished poke bowl sees melt-in-your-mouth bites of raw, marinated tuna tastily set atop seasoned sushi rice.

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus marinating time

Cooking time: 20 minutes (to cook the rice)

Makes: two servings

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp orange juice

2 tsp lime juice

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

1/2 tsp Sriracha or other smooth hot chili sauce

1 large green onion, cut in half lengthwise, then very thinly sliced

1 (225 gram) frozen B.C. albacore tuna loin, partially thawed, patted dry and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (see Note 1 and Eric’s options)

• two servings warm (not hot) or room- temperature seasoned rice for poke bowls (see recipe below)

1 small to medium ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into small cubes

2 to 3 Tbsp unsalted roasted cashews, coarsely chopped

• small cilantro sprigs, to taste

• pea shoots, to taste (see Note 2)

1 small to medium shallot, halved and thinly sliced

To make the tuna poke, combine soy sauce, juices, sugar, sesame oil, ginger, Sriracha and green onion in a medium bowl. Add the tuna and gently toss. Cover, refrigerate and marinate tuna four hours, turning occasionally.

To serve the poke, set a cup or more of seasoned rice in each of two servings bowls. Divide and top the centre of the rice in each bowl with tuna poke. Divide and set some avocado, cashews, cilantro sprigs, pea shoots and shallots alongside the tuna poke in each bowl, then serve.

Note 1: B.C. albacore tuna loin is sold frozen at seafood stores, such as Oak Bay Seafood (oakbayseafood.com) and Finest at Sea (finestatsea.com) in Victoria. It can also be found at Japanese food stores, such as Fujiya (fujiya.ca) and some supermarkets. It is easier to cut into clean cubes if you do so when the tuna is still a little bit frozen.

This type of tuna loin is considered sushi/sashimi grade fish, because it has been kept frozen long enough to destroy parasites that might be present in it.

Note 2: Pea shoots are sold in tubs in the produce section of most supermarkets. I just used the tops of the shoots in my poke bowls.

Eric’s options: Instead of albacore tuna, use an equal amount of ahi tuna loin for this recipe. You’ll find it for sale at Japanese food stores and somesupermarkets.

Tofu Edamame Poke Bowl

Cubes of richly flavoured, marinated tofu and bright-green edamame (green soy beans) anchor this fish-free poke bowl.

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus marinating time

Cooking time: two to three minutes, plus rice cooking time

Makes: two servings

3 Tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp rice vinegar

2 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

1/2 tsp Sriracha or other smooth hot chili sauce

1 large green onion, cut in half lengthwise and very thinly sliced

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 (250 gram) pack of savoury pressed tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (see Note 1)

1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame (see Note 2)

• warm (not hot) or room-temperature seasoned rice for poke bowls (see recipe below)

2 to 3 Tbsp unsalted macadamia nuts or roasted peanuts, finely chopped

4 to 6 radishes trimmed and thinly sliced

1/2 cup grated carrot

• pea shoots, to taste (see Note 2 under in albacore Tuna Poke Bowl recipe)

Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, ginger, Sriracha and green onion in a medium bowl. Place vegetable oil in large non-stick skillet set over medium-high heat. When hot, add the tofu and gently stir-fry three minutes.

Remove skillet from heat, lift tofu out with a slotted spoon and set in the bowl with the soy sauce mixture. Add the edamame and toss to combine. Cool tofu/edamame mixture to room temperature, then cover, refrigerate and marinate two to three hours, mixing occasionally.

To serve the poke, set a cup or more of the seasoned rice in each of two serving bowls.

Divide and top the centre of the rice in each bowl with tofu edamame poke. Divide and set some chopped macadamia nuts (or peanuts), radishes, grated carrot and pea shoots alongside the tofu edamame poke in each bowl, then serve.

Note 1: Savoury pressed tofu is marinated and cooked in soy sauce. It’s sold in the packaged tofu section of some supermarkets. I found it at Fairway Market, but you may want to call the store you shop at to ensure they have it in stock.

The savoury pressed tofu I used was made in B.C. by Superior Tofu (superiortofu.com).

Note 2: Shelled, frozen edamame is sold in bags at many supermarkets.

Seasoned Rice for Poke Bowls 

This sticky, sweet-and-sour-flavoured rice makes a nice base for a poke bowl.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: about 20 minutes

Makes: two generous servings

1 cup sushi rice (see Note)

1 1/3 cups cold water

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

2 tsp granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

Place the rice in a small pot (mine was 15 centimetres wide and 13 cm tall). Cover with 10 cm of cold water. Use your hands and rub the grains together to remove excess outer starch from the rice kernels. Drain the water from the rice.

Add the 1 1/3 cups of fresh cold water to the pot. Bring the rice to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat to its lowest setting. Cover and steam the rice until tender, about 15 minutes.

While the rice cooks, place the vinegar, sugar and salt in a second small pot. Set over medium-high heat, bring to a boil for a few seconds and stir to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.

When rice is cooked, spoon and spread the rice into a large, shallow-sided pan. Stir in the vinegar mixture. Use this seasoned rice for the poke bowls, serving it warm (not hot) or at room temperature.

Note: Sushi rice is sold at most supermarkets and at Asian food stores.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

Read Related Topics

© Copyright Times Colonist