Poke bowls haave been getting a lot of attention in South Africa these days – two years after gaining popularity in the States and elsewhere during 2015. If you have not seen it yet, it’s an age-old traditional Hawaiian seafood dish made up of hot rice (sometimes mixed with sliced seaweed) in a round bowl topped with cubed or sliced raw fish (sometimes marinated), vegetables like avocado or spring onion and a dressing of soy sauce. Poke (pronounced POH-keh) means “cut up” and the end-result is only as good as the freshness and quality of the ingredients.
This simple concept wins my vote hands down. You might know that I’m not a salad person, but I absolutely adore the fresh flavours that usually come with Japanese and Vietnamese recipes. Although this dish is traditionally Hawaiian, the ingredients are astonishingly similar to Japanese sushi and Vietnamese rice paper spring rolls. Popular toppings are tuna, salmon and octopus, but vegetarian options also include tofu and kimchi. New world twists include substitutions like quinoa or freekeh for the base, and tomato, beans, sriracha and mayo on top.
This was my first attempt at a poke bowl. I call it “rainbow”, because the colours are just too beautiful: coralicious salmon, pale green avo, pink pickled ginger, purple cabbage, bright orange carrot, green and purple spring onion, grassy green coriander, ivory sprouts and a fabulous tropical summer ingredient: yellow mango. My base is basmati, although sushi rice will work even better. I mixed finely sliced blackish nori sheets and some rice vinegar into my cooked rice for some added zing and lots of umami.
This dish is stunning in every sense: visually beautiful, delightfully textural and a taste explosion. It is a fantastic choice as a pack-in lunch or outdoor picnic. I look forward to exploring many more combinations this year.
Ingredients: (serves 4)
- 1,5 cups rice (sushi, jasmine or basmati)
- 15 ml rice vinegar
- 1-2 cups finely sliced dried seaweed/nori sheets
- about 320-400 g fresh salmon, skinless and boneless, sliced/cubed
- 1 large avo, sliced/cubed
- 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
- 1 cup shredded carrot
- 1 cup mango, peeled & diced
- 1 bunch spring onion, finely sliced
- 4 tablespoons pickled ginger, sliced
- a handful sprouts
- a handful fresh coriander, chopped (optional)
- a sprinkle of sesame seeds
- soy sauce, for dressing
- Cook your rice according to the manufacturer’s ingredients using salted water. When cooked and drained, add the vinegar and sliced nori and stir well.
- Fill your bowls half-full with the hot rice mixture. Top with salmon, avo, cabbage, carrot, mango, spring onion, sprouts and coriander in neat sections. Sprinkle the salmon with sesame seeds, then add soy sauce to taste. Serve immediately.