How to make poke-style bowls

Poke-style bowls can be a delicious and healthy meal option. You can save some money by learning how to make poke-style bowls.

While not 100% authentic, poke-style bowls have become widely popular worldwide. They can be a healthy option depending on the ingredients, usually containing plenty of vegetables and fish. However, they can be quite expensive and are not always customisable.

What are poke bowls?

Hawaiian Airlines tells us that poke bowls are basically a serve of poke on rice to transform it “from a snack into a meal”. Poke originated as “freshly caught fish massaged with sea salt, seaweed and crushed inamona or kukui nuts”. Influences from other cuisines have widened the array of ingredients used in poke. Common seasonings now include soy sauce, sesame oil, kimchi and miso. Protein sources include ahi (tuna), shrimp, salmon, tako (octopus) and pipikaula (dried beef) (1).

How to make poke-style bowls

You can follow recipes but I don’t. You can also get inspiration from the menu of your favourite poke bowl restaurant.

I have a general structure and ingredients I gravitate toward, which I’ll explain below. However, it’s more important to use ingredients that you like and have at home (or can buy easily for a reasonable price).

1. The base

The traditional base is rice, but other grains (and/or vegetables) work well. The key is to use leftover rice/quinoa/etc. to make prep easy and to avoid food waste.

  • Rice: in my household this is normally Sunrice low GI white or brown rice but sushi rice is structurally (but perhaps not nutritionally) the best
  • Other grains or pseudo grains: cooked quinoa, buckwheat, wheat berries, etc.
  • Shredded cabbage: one of my personal favourites
  • Salad leaves: not very “Asian” but if you like them, more power to you
  • Other vegetables: such as julienned carrots, daikon and/or beetroot, chopped cucumbers, cooked broccoli or broccolini
  • A mix of the above: I tend to mix a small portion of rice and a large portion of shredded cabbage as my base

2. The protein

This is where the biggest deviation from restaurant poke bowls tend to happen. Chances are we don’t have easy access to the freshest sashimi-grade tuna or salmon to build our lunch, and that’s fine. This is why we are calling these “poke-style” bowls 😉

  • Canned tuna: get it in spring water or brine, not in oil as you’ll be seasoning your bowl anyway
  • Canned salmon: same idea, get it plain instead of pre-seasoned
  • Cooked fish: I tend to choose salmon or trout but whichever fish you like should work. I tend to cook my fish marinated in shio koji, ginger-miso or with teriyaki sauce.
  • Cooked prawns: bought either already cooked or raw (fresh or frozen)

3. The seasonings

This is a matter of personal preference but below is a list of my go-to seasonings (I use the first 2 together most of the time). I don’t measure, just go by taste.

  • Mirin, rice wine vinegar and soy sauce
  • Homemade mayonnaise mixed with wasabi powder
  • Sometimes I use a dash of sesame oil and/or smoked soy sauce

4. The toppings

Go with whatever you have available, and keep in mind that some ingredients are shelf-stable or can be kept for a while refrigerated or frozen.

  • Soft-boiled egg
  • Avocado
  • Edamame: I buy it shelled and frozen
  • Gari (pickled ginger): I buy it from Asian shops or make my own
  • Tsukemono (pickled vegetables): usually homemade
  • Kimchi: I buy it from healthy grocery shops or supermarkets
  • Furikake: I buy it online or in Asian shops
  • Shichimi togarashi: I buy it online or in Asian shops
  • Sesame seeds: good if you don’t have furikake nor shichimi
  • Fresh sliced chilli: if not using togarashi
  • Sliced green onions

Some inspiration

The most important thing about making poke-style bowls is to experiment and make it to your liking! Then congratulate yourself for making a beautiful, nourishing and hopefully budget-friendly meal for yourself and your loved ones.

Below are some of my homemade poke-style bowls.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Gaby Mora (@gabymorag)

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gaby Mora (@gabymorag)

 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gaby Mora (@gabymorag)

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gaby Mora (@gabymorag)

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gaby Mora (@gabymorag)

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gaby Mora (@gabymorag)

References

  1. Mari Taketa. What is poke and where did it come from? [Internet]. [cited 2022 Jun 3]. Available from: https://www.hawaiianairlines.com.au/hawaii-stories/food-and-entertainment/origins-of-poke

[Photo by Miu Sua on Unsplash]

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