As poké bowl joints grow, learn how to make the Hawaiian specialty at home
By Debbie Moose
For something so cool, poké is really hot.
The combination of chopped raw fish, rice and vegetables – pronounced POH-keh – started in Hawaii, where you can pick it up like fast food. Now poké is spreading across the country to restaurant appetizer menus and dedicated poké bars, such as One Fish Two Fish in Carrboro and ZenFish in Durham, which opened earlier this year.
It’s even better to make poké bowls at home. Get the right ingredients, do a little chopping and you have a simple, satisfying meal. You can even throw a poké party and let guests fill their bowls with the base, fish, toppings and sauce they prefer.
Fish is a crucial part of a poké bowl. Tuna is traditional in Hawaii, but you can use other kinds of firm thick fish. Thin flaky fish, such as flounder, will not hold together in cubes as well. Cooked shrimp or crawfish also are good. Some poké bars offer cooked chicken or tofu for those who don’t like fish. The Food Network’s Aarti Sequeira has used roasted beet cubes to make vegetarian poké.
No matter the fish, it’s important that it’s absolutely fresh, as with sushi, because you’re using it raw. Remember that the term “sushi-grade” is not regulated, so it could mean anything. Use your eyes and nose. Ask where the fish came from and when it arrived at the store. Fresh fish shouldn’t smell “fishy,” but have a clean, ocean-like scent. Avoid fish that appears slimy or has a sheen that may indicate age or the use of preservatives.
Be sure that cutting surfaces and utensils are clean. Use a different cutting board and knife for vegetables to avoid cross-contamination from raw fish.
The key to poké is cutting the fish into small bite-sized cubes, about 1 inch. Everything about poké should be easy to eat with either chopsticks or a fork.
Because you’ll be combining it with other ingredients, 1 pound of fish should be plenty for a main dish for one person. Half a pound would do for an appetizer or as part of a meal.
Next, the question is: to marinate or not to marinate? Marinating the fish overnight in the refrigerator in a combination of soy sauce and sesame oil is traditional. However, marinating gives the fish a chewy texture. If you prefer a more sushi-like experience, don’t marinate.
Typically, cooked and cooled sushi rice is the base for the fish and toppings. Other kinds of rice or even shredded greens also are options.
Customize your poké bowl with a selection of toppings. Fresh ingredients and flavors usually work best. But whatever you use, cut it into small pieces, similar in size to the fish. The amount of toppings is up to you, but try not to overwhelm the fish, which is the star.
If you didn’t marinate the fish, add a sauce – and you can get creative here, too.
Just follow this chart and you’ll be making poké like a pro for yourself or a crowd.
Assemble your bowl
1. Select one base.
2. Pick a fish and arrange on top of the base.
3. Add toppings – as many as you want.
4. If you didn’t marinate the fish, sprinkle on a sauce or two. If you marinated it, you probably won’t need more sauce.
5. Devour your beautiful poké bowl.
Debbie Moose is a freelance food writer and cookbook author. She can be reached at debbiemoose.com, Facebook or Twitter.
Poké bowl ingredients
Here are common ingredients to assemble your bowl at home.
Cooked rice (sushi or brown)
Shredded salad greens
(use as many as you like)
Shredded daikon radish or other radishes
Toasted sesame seeds
Black sesame seeds
Cooked shelled endamame
Chopped scallions or green onions
Chopped jalapeno or other hot peppers
(use alone or combine)