Poke is traditional, delicious and has been around a long time. When I first started cooking professionally, poke was a common appetizer at restaurants. It became monotonous and was considered uninspired and cliche. Back then, it was usually just tuna with some ponzu or soy based sauce, serve with seaweed or some wonton chips. Poke is back and this time its a fast casual meal served in a bowl with tons of salad bar type toppings.
Originally from Hawaii its specific origins are debated among food historians. Probably, because at its simplest, its sliced fish, a bit of salt, and a bit of acid. Maybe served with rice. Its so simple that its hardly a dish or something you'd bestow a name onto. Yet, like anything done well and simply, its so much more than the sum of its parts.
What we're seeing now is the Chipotle effect on Poke. Shops have been popping up with hundreds of combinations set up along a salad bar line. You start with rice or salad, pick 2-3 types of fish then from a slew of toppings and sauce. Garnish with something crispy and dig in! I've had one. It was good, I won't lie, but I'm a bit a salad bar and take out skeptic. Who washed all of those little bowls and what quality is this fish you're serving to me? Where was it chopped and who made sure it stayed cold?
The deliciousness of poke is in the quality of the fish. You will never get a delicious poke bowl from average fish. Unless I'm out at a reputable restaurant or somewhere that a knowledgeable, talented staff have prepared my dish - I'll skip the raw fish. The best fish I know of comes from my local butcher shop/fish market so I can't stop making poke bowls at home. Move over pantry-minestrone-soup and fridge-fried-rice, poke bowls are The Ultimate 2017 Fridge Cleaner Meal!
Half of the fun of this dish is assembling all of the toppings to make your own meal, just how you love it! The "recipe" below may look long, but I promise there's very little work to make an amazing poke bowl spread...I just had a lot to say about the varieties and set up! Give it a read then make a quick list of what you have in your fridge already. Since you only cook the rice, the meal comes together in a snap.
There are 3 things we're going to buy specifically for this occasion and the rest will be chosen from your leftovers and pantry.
Lets talk dressing. You'll want sauce to season the fish and pull the dish together. Here are 3 quick favorites.
The fish is unarguably the star of poke, but the toppings are what makes it fun. They're also what makes it different every time to get poke for dinner. And, the toppings are also the genius use of leftover items in your fridge and pantry! We have a few categories: Fresh Produce / Nuts Seeds Spices / Heat /Onion / Pickles / Herbs
METHOD - its Go Time!
To prepare your fish: slice across the grain with a sharp knife and long smooth strokes. Let the knife do the work, don't hack away at the fish or you'll tear it. Keep the fish cold and work on a very clean surface.
To prepare your rice: follow the instructions on the package to cook on stovetop or in a rice cooker if that's your jam. When the rice is hot, tender and fluffy, remove to a large bowl and break it up a bit, then drizzle the seasoned rice vinegar over the top. Just sprinkle a little bit at a time, stir gently, taste and repeat. There's no quantities here, just a little bit will take your rice from expected to wow!
To prepare your toppings: make your dressing(s) while the rice cooks. Place toppings chopped, grated, peeled, drained, etc in little bowls or next to each other on one big platter and set out on your buffet counter.
POKE BOWL: At last! Invite diners in to the assembly line. Start with rice, pat it down a little into the bottom of your bowl to make a flat surface then assemble to taste!
I recommend making sure you hit each category of topping. You want sweet, salty, watery (produce), crunchy, spicy, herby, etc. All of it comes together to be the best dinner in memory!
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