Wednesday, 12 June 2019

DIY OR TO TAKEAWAY – MY ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKÉ BOWLS






Poké bowls may be considered somewhat of a “trend” food at the moment in the same way froyo shops flooded London’s streets a few years back and people went all cray cray over bubble tea (never got that hype FYI) and yes, they are rather photogenic for the old Instagram, BUT they are also actually damn tasty and a healthy yet satisfying dinner option, for me fusing the best elements of sushi, the raw and deliciously marinated fish, with the most amazing of array of vegetables, fruits, pickles and all sorts of other fresh and healthy things.

Poké bowls originally stem from Hawaii (poke meaning “to slice” or “cue crosswise” in Hawaiian) and are traditionally served as starter or main there, made from raw tuna or octopus. Of course, what we consider a poke bowl in Europe isn’t strictly speaking the traditional Hawaiian dish anymore, rather a hybrid culinary creation, much like the California roll when it comes to sushi, which in recent years has emerged from the States and has slowly made its way over here.

In this process poke bowls have been “pimped up” for 21st century tastes, anything from avocados to Siracha mayo to pineapple, added as toppings to the raw fish with Japanese twist, and the traditional rice base, which can make this quite a heavy dish, ditched in favour of alternatives such as hipster and diet friendly kale, udon noodles or fancy black rice.

I tried my first Poké bowl a few years back and instantly loved the freshness of the flavours involved, seldom enjoying a dish so much with not a carb in site (I tend to go for a leaf base). I had some amazing bowls whilst on holiday in Bali, which is no surprise with their access to amazing fish, but London really has not done bad in recent years with their Poké bowl offering.

I’m not going to lie I’ve had some horrendously overpriced Poké bowls in London (mainly via Deliveroo) that left me rather dissatisfied. These were stingy on the fish, stingy on the toppings and lacked any real wow factor while still costing me well over a tenner. Now, I don’t mind paying for quality, but here I felt completely ripped off and it took some time to find a decent spot for a Poké bowl to take away when feeling lazy yet still wanting healthy, wholesome food.

Good thing then that I wondered past Ahi Poké on one of my Sunday walks, located just by Spitafields market (though they have a few London locations), and instantly got drawn in by people eating amazing looking and generously filled bowls on one of their outside tables. Inside it’s kind of like a Subway for Poke bowls and though you can get a suggested bowl I would always say definitely build your own! Even if you go all out and get a big bowl with double fish, you won’t spend a fortune and the servers here are super generous with every topping.

Oh, and Ahi Poké's toppings are quite something, not a plain cucumber in sight but more along the lines of burnt corn, coconut sweet potato, smashed yuzu avocado and all the fancy sauces your heart could desire, from sweet ponzu (one of my favourites) to Korean BBQ to Sirachi mayo. I also love that you are able to pick your base which is great depending on how hungry you feel – I usual go for Kale but on a few hungover occasions had some yummy udon noodles for some much-needed carb goodness. The staff are super friendly and helpful with suggestions of what goes best into your bowl in terms of fish / sauce combos and though not the cheapest takeaway option, it’s no Subway footlong after all, for me Ahi Poké is as good as fast food can be-, guilt free, yummy, imaginative AND not stingy when it comes to portions!

Of course as the amateur chef that I am, I was also intrigued to see if I could recreate a Poke bowl at home, I mean I knew I was not going to be able to dish up as big of an array of fancy toppings as Ahi Poké, not going to be fermenting my own kimchi cucumbers quite yet, but with a Saturday afternoon spare to go to a Korean supermarket near me (FYI there is a great one close to Angel tube called OSEYO) I thought it was worth a try, especially after I found a super easy recipe online.

Full transparency here, it probably ended up costing me more making this bowl than buying two big ones at Ahi, I had to get random ingredients like rice wine vinegar and tuna isn’t exactly cheap even from Sainsbury’s, but I did get a huge sense of satisfaction from the beautiful bowl I managed to cobble together in the end and I have to say it was super delicious! Now that I have the pantry staples, I will for sure make this again and try it with different toppings, the world really is your oyster here, especially as this is the perfect summer dish. Whether bought or homemade I am pretty glad this little dish has made the culinary journey all the way over here from Hawaii and I hope you will give them a go too.

Below my poke bowl recipe – let me know if you end up making it!

AHI TUNA POKE BOWL RECIPE WITH PONZU SAUCE

WHAT YOU NEED
This isn’t about exact quantities, freestyle your bowl though I would say one fillet of fish per person works perfectly.

FOR THE BOWL
  • Tuna fillet, diced
  • Mixed leafs (you can have udon noodles or rice if you want something a little more substantial
  • Green onions, sliced
  • Avocado, diced
  • Cucumber, diced
  • Pineapple, diced
  • Ready to eat edamame pot like this one from Sainsburys
  • Jalapeno chillis, sliced – be careful with this, I added too much at the end, sprinkled on top, and ended up with a burning mouth
  • Coriander leaves
  • Toasted sesame seeds

FOR THE CITRUS PONZU SAUCE (IT’S AMAZING TRUST ME!)
This will make enough for 2-3 portions so adjust accordingly, the sauce is amazing so I used the rests up for other dishes!

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed
  • 2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine) or rice vinegar

INSTRUCTIONS

FOR THE CITRUS PONZU
In a bowl add the soy sauce, orange juice, lime juice and mirin. Whisk well to combine.

FOR THE TUNA
  • Place the tuna in a medium mixing bowl with the green onions (reserve a little bit of the green onions to sprinkle on top of the bowls at the end).
  • Add some of the ponzu (to your taste, you can reserve some to pour over the rest of the ingredients). Add sesame seeds. 
  • Mix gently to combine. 
  • Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.If you let the fish sit for longer time, the citrus in the ponzu will slowly cook the fish.

FOR THE BOWL
Pile it up! Put the mixed leafs in a bowl and top with your desired toppings, edamame, avocado, the lot! My favourite is the sweetness from the pineapple to round it all off then add the chilled tuna. Sprinkle with the sliced chlli and some chopped coriander and enjoy!!

* I was invited by Ahi Poké on one occasion but have bought them independently on many occasions

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