How to make easy & healthy Japanese-style poke bowl
As its name suggests, poke bowl originates from Hawaii. According to an article in People, “Poke means ‘to slice or cut’ in Hawaiian and refers to chunks of raw, marinated fish — usually tuna — which is then tossed over rice and topped with vegetables and umami-packed sauces.”
Ingredients-wise, it’s a lot like sushi. But a poke bowl can be sweet and condiments-rich, whereas traditional Japanese cuisine calls for minimum amount of additives so that you can enjoy natural flavors. It may not be healthy if you relish too much “umami-packed sauces” in your poke bowl, as it probably contains a lot of sodium, sugar, and/or MSG, manufactured umami source.
You can make a healthy, Japanese-style poke at home with minimum cooking at a relatively reasonable budget. The key: pick high quality sea food and fresh vegetables. If sashimi-quality seafood is too expensive, limit its quality and add other affordable ingredients to make your bowl fun and tasty. Resist the urge to put a lot of condiments, because they could overpower the subtle flavors of the raw ingredients.
First, pick the main ingredients, usually sashimi-grade raw seafood. Doesn’t have to be tuna – today I used hamachi, salmon in addition to tuna. If chopped ones are more expensive than the block, buy block and cut them at home. By the way, if you are an average cook like me, purchasing a good quality knife will help you tremendously. You may have to spend a couple of hundred dollars, but it’s worth. You can cook easier and faster, yet the results look and taste much more professional. It’s especially helpful when you want to cut raw meat and leave smooth surfaces.
Poke is about marinated seafood. But you don’t necessarily have to do so, when the ingredients are fresh, flavorful and devoid of unpleasant fishy smells. If you want try Japanese style, the combination of soy sauce, sake, mirin, grated ginger (fresh), sesame or sesame oil will work for tuna. You can also add shiso. Check the recipe for maguro zuke (marinated tuna).
Salmon has strong flavors and good amount of fat, so you won’t need to add anything.
For hamachi, I squeezed good amount of lemon.
Additional protein that’s more affordable: eggs, tofu and canned seafood. You can make kinshi tamago, or string-like eggs. Canned seafood can be mixed with mayonnaise. Ham also works. I am not a big fan of adding cheese to sushi family though.
Additional ingredients/condiments – logs of vegetables. Fresh, flavorful ones. You may want to use the ones from farmers’ market.
As the ingredients are not condiment-rich, accompany the meal with items such as pickles, kimchee, seaweed, sesame seed, sesame oil, chili pepper, wasabi etc. They will work as a nice accent, spice or kick.
Also, season rice with sushi vinegar. Don’t overdo it; sushi vinegar contains a lot of sugar.
I make a small bowl so that I can have a second and third with different ingredients. Add a good amount of lettuce, it gives refreshing, crunchy texture.