A poke bowl is a traditional Hawaiian dish that has gained popularity worldwide in recent years. It typically consists of diced raw fish (often tuna or salmon) that is marinated in a flavorful sauce, such as soy sauce and sesame oil and served over a bed of rice or salad greens. The dish is often garnished with various toppings like seaweed, avocado, cucumber, and sesame seeds.
Poke (pronounced poh-kay) is a Hawaiian word that means “to slice” or “cut crosswise into pieces.” The dish has its origins in Hawaiian cuisine and was traditionally made using fish that were caught daily by fishermen. The practice of seasoning the fish with sea salt, seaweed, and other local ingredients has been a part of Hawaiian culture for centuries. Over time, poke has evolved and adapted to incorporate different ingredients and flavors from various cultures, resulting in the contemporary poke bowl we know today.
You may wonder what a Hawaiian dish is doing on a Mediterranean website! Of course, you’re right — soy sauce, sesame oil, and sriracha aren’t typically found in Spain, Greece, or Morocco (to name but three of the 21 countries that line the Mediterranean Sea). However, in terms of their ingredinets and nutritional composition, these bowls are 100% aligned with the Mediterranean diet, which is characterized by:
- Whole, unprocessed (or minimally processed) foods
- Fresh fish, providing high-quality protein
- Healthy fats (notably omega-3s in the salmon, as well as other healthy fats in avocado and sesame oil)
- Vegetables and legumes providing fiber, essential vitamins & minerals, and antioxidant & antiinflammatory compounds
- Seeds (sesame)
- Herbs (green onion, ginger, garlic, cilantro)
- Whole grains (if suing rice)
- Variety (there are six different vegetables in this humble bowl)
- Deliciousness 🙂 (of course, this one’s subjective)
Just a few caveats:
- Sodium Content: The marinating sauce used in poke bowls is often soy sauce-based and can be high in sodium. Excessive sodium intake can contribute to high blood pressure and other health issues, which is why I use reduced-sodium soy sauce here.
- Food Safety: Since poke bowls feature raw fish, it’s important to ensure that the fish is sourced from reputable suppliers and handled properly to prevent foodborne illnesses. Ask your fishmonger for sushi-grade fish. If in doubt, marinate the fish, then cook it briefly and drizzle it with a little more marinade after cooking. Other alternatives could include shrimp, or, for veg(etari)ans, cubed tofu and tempeh (marinated in the same sauce, then cooked).
Composing the bowls is easy. if you have several eaters in your home — including adventurous kids and teens — let everyone build their own.
For the base, I usually use coarsely chopped arugula or mixed greens. Folks with a bigger appetite (or who need more carbs to fuel high activity levels) might want to use rice, instead. For four servings, cook 1 to 1.5 cups of brown or black (“Forbidden”) rice, tossing it in a little rice vinegar with a pinch of salt & sugar (sushi-rice-style) and letting it cool before building your bowl (I recommend roughly 1/2 to 3/4 cup cooked rice per serving).
As for toppings, use your imagination. I love garlicky-sauteed shiitake mushrooms, sliced or diced avocado, thinly sliced red cabbage, quick-pickled cucumbers, edamame beans frozen peas (just defrost, no need to cook these), furikake (a seaweed-sesame mix) and spicy mayo. Other yummy toppings: fresh mango or pineapple, radishes,, pickled (sushi) ginger, julienned carrots, peanuts, microgreens, and other pickled or roasted vegetables.
Marinate only as much as you plan to eat immediately. (Though if you accidentally marinate more fish than you need, it should keep for up to 2 days if refrigerated in a tightly sealed container.)
Salmon Poke Bowls
Sauce & Salmon
- ¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp sriracha sauce medium-hot Vietnamese chili sauce
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 large clove garlic or 2 small cloves; finely minced on a Microplane grater
- 2-3 tsp fresh ginger grated on a Microplane grater
- 2 medium green onions thinly sliced
- 1 pound freshest salmon you can find I love Skuna Bay salmon; previously frozen wild-caught or farmed salmon is fine, too
- 5 oz shiitake mushrooms cooked in 1 tbsp olive oil with 2 cloves minced garlic (optional but tasty)
- 1 cup edamame beans cooked; I buy shelled, frozen edamame beans. Throw into a small pot of boiling, salted water and cook for 4-5 minutes, until al dente. Drain, then transfer to a medium bowl with ice water to cool off quickly. Drain and pat fry with a kitchen towel before adding to the bowls.
- 4 tightly packed cups fresh arugula or other mixe,d tender greens coarsely chopped
- 1 large avocado just-ripe; quartered, peeled, and sliced or cubed
- 1 cup red cabbage raw; thinly shredded
- a dusting of furikake Japanese seasoning blend that typically includes seaweed flakes, sesame seeds, dried fish, and other flavorings. I use Trader Joe's furikake
- 4 tsp sriracha mayo I make my own by combining a little homemade mayonnaise with a squeeze of sriracha and a little plain kefir and using a simple chef's dispenser bottle to drizzle it over the bowls
- In a small mixing bowl, combine all the sauce ingredients and mix well with a wire whisk.
- Remove the salmon skin with a sharp knife and discard. remove any small fishbones with tweezers. Cut the fish into ½-inch cubes and place in a medium mixing bowl. Add the sliced green onions and pour over half the marinade. Stir gently to coat the fish on all sides. Set aside.
- Assemble the bowls: portion the greens or rice (whichever using) into four bowls. Add the toppings and then the fish. FInish with a drizzle of spicy mayo and a dusting of furikake. Serve immediately, offering the remainign sauce on the side.