I remember trying a dish similar to poke at a Japanese restaurant while I lived in Mexico City. A bowl of sushi rice, topped with pieces of ahi tuna and marinated in sesame oil with a hint of soy sauce and chopped green onions. It was the simplicity of this meal and it's bold flavours that made me fall in love with poke. Fast forward to a week spent in Hawaii. While traveling in between Waikiki and the North shore, stopping at food trucks and enjoying local musts, such as garlicky shrimp and rice, I once again got to try poke. This time it was an experience I'll never forget. Sitting under the sun at sunset beach, poke bowl in hand, and fresh pineapple juice from a local stand.
If I thought that the flavours from the bowls I had tried in Mexico City were bold, I was in for a treat. Poke is as old as Hawaii. The dish existed before Captain Cook arrived to the island, and back then it consisted of reef fish, seaweed with Kukui nuts, and sea salt.
As other cultures came to the island, this quintessentially Hawaiian dish changed. Ahí tuna replaced reef fish and the Japanese added soy and sesame oil to their recipes.
I must have eaten poke everyday while in Hawaii. Not only will you find it at restaurants and food trucks, but also at taco joints (poke tacos are a thing!) and pretty much in every grocery store's deli, where there are variations in its marinade and level of spiciness.
Back in Toronto, I knew I had to make poke at home. It had won me over with its layers of flavours, the way the sushi rice was the perfect base for the ahi tuna, and how the sesame oil paired so well with the avocado. What on earth could make this dish even better? Chopped green onions and sesame seeds. Don't make it without these tasty final touches!
Once you make poke at home, and see how easy it is, it might become your fave. While the rice is cooking, prepping the other ingredients takes no time. So with spring finally here and summertime just a few months away, I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.
3/4 pound sushi grade tuna, cut into 1/2 pieces.
1 1/2 cups sushi rice
4 tbsp soy sauce
4tbsp sesame oil
4 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 medium avocado, sliced
1/2 cup green onions, chopped (green part only)
1/2 tsp chili fakes
2 tsp black sesame seeds
3 tbsp pickled ginger
1/2 cup cilantro *optional
Cook sushi rice as instructed in the package. While the rice cooks, chop the tuna steak in 1/2 inch pieces. Place in a bowl and add the soy sauce, sesame oil, 1 tsp sesame seeds, green onions (reserving 2 tbsp to add once you've plated the bowls) and chili flakes. Set aside in the fridge.
Place the sliced onion and cucumber in 2 separate bowls, add 2 tbsp of rice vinegar to each bowl plus 2 tbsp of water and set aside.
Once the rice is cooked, place in 3 bowls, top each bowl with marinated tuna, a few avocado slices, onions and cucumbers. Sprinkle the rest of the sesame seeds and green onions, add 1 tbsp of pickled ginger per bowl, and if desired, ad chopped fresh cilantro.