I wanted to write a post about poke bowls because of their current popularity and also because poke (pronounced POH-keh) will always remind me of Hawaii, a special place and the home to my uncle, who passed away unexpectedly last week. I must confess, it’s been a sad week for me. Loss is always difficult, and getting older has not seemed to help. But making poke has comforted me and made me smile again.
Poke itself is actually a Hawaiian version of Japanese sashimi. To me, it is a great meal, packed with protein and low in saturated fat. The most common Hawaiian poke is made with ahi (tuna), but you will see lots of variations. Restaurants dedicated entirely to poke have popped up from New York to California. Some of the more traditional Hawaiian poke is “limu poke,” “spicy mayo poke,” or “shoyu poke.” But all are made the same: cubes of fresh, chilled, deep red ahi tuna tossed in a sweet, yet slightly salty, marinade. A more recent modern invention is the “poke bowl,” which seems to be on menus everywhere. A poke bowl is simply poke and some variety of seasonal fresh raw vegetables (and at times, fruit), artistically arranged on top of a bed of rice, featuring beautiful poke in the center. I always order poke when I’m in Hawaii and I look forward to having it, as it perfectly symbolizes the raw natural beauty of the islands.
My uncle, although originally from the Midwest, loved Hawaii, its food, its culture and its people. He moved there many years ago to raise his family, assimilating to the islands’ customs and laid back style. They say everyone has different coping mechanisms when it comes to death; we all process things differently, and in our own time. I am typically quite private. I would not have thought making or blogging about poke would comfort me, but it has. I am incredibly thankful for the time my family and I had with my uncle, for the fishing and hunting stories he told us, and how warmly he embraced us after many years of distance. I guess poke will now have some deeper meaning for me, reminding me of happy times with Uncle Ben.
Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl
- Tuna + Marinade:
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger grated
- 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon salt
- dash of cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 pounds sashimi grade wild ahi tuna, small cubes
- For the Bowls:
- 3 cups steamed cooked brown rice
- 1 cup fresh pineapple, small dice
- 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
- 1 cup sliced cucumber
- 1 cup grated carrot
- 1 cup daikon radish, cut into matchsticks
- 1-2 avocados, sliced
- extra sesame seeds and for garnish
- 1/4 cup Sriracha mayonnaise
- salt for sprinkling
- light soy sauce to serve on the side
- Step 1 For the sauce: In a medium size mixing bowl, add the sesame oil, lemon juice, rice vinegar, ginger, sesame seeds, salt and cayenne pepper and whisk well to incorporate.
- Step 2 Add the tuna and mix well. Set aside.
- Step 3 For the bowls: Evenly divide the brown rice among six serving bowels. Top each bowl with the desired amount of vegetable toppings.
- Step 4 Place a generous scoop of the seasoned tuna in the middle with a small dollop of Sriracha mayonnaise on top.
- Step 5 Garnish with extra sesame seeds and sprinkle lightly with salt. Serve with small bowls of soy sauce.