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Poke bowl: the basics

Poke bowl

In recent years, poke has been recognised as a potentially healthy alternative to fast food because it can be bought pre-prepared and is therefore convenient – and it’s starting to become more widely available. Best of all, it’s easy to make at home! Trinity Hislop explains why you’ll be bowled over.

What is it and why is it healthy?

Before we start, it’s po-kay, OK? Certainly not poke-ee or poke (like you would with a finger). In its native Hawaiian, it goes without the accent (poké), although this is sometimes used in modern versions to help the rest of us pronounce it correctly.

Poke is Hawaiian for to ‘cut crossways in pieces’, which explains the diced and sliced effect used to create this dish. Traditionally, the dish consisted simply of fresh raw fish and complementary condiments.

Poke was originally made with pieces of raw fish, but when it became fashionable in the 1970s and again in 2012 in North America, it took on a new dimension. Any chopped nutritious ingredients could make their way into the bowl, arranged into food groups.

A poke bowl is all about texture, colour and fresh flavours. But why is it considered a healthy meal and what makes it so delicious? Let’s look at what goes into it:

Base component

You generally start your bowl with rice or noodles. Sushi rice is commonly used, but other options include soba noodles, glass noodles or brown rice.

Protein element

Usually this is raw fish, such as tuna or salmon (which provide vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids). Modern versions include lean red meat, chicken or plant-based options such as tofu.

If you’re thinking of making poke with raw fish, make sure it’s sushi quality. Take advice from your fishmonger or supermarket fish counter on what’s best to buy.

Dressing choices

Ponzu, shoyu, miso, gochujang or black bean paste are all popular. Be aware these can be high in salt, but since they’re strong in umami flavour you won’t need much – measure out a sensible serving rather than drizzling with abandon.

‘Make it your own’ extras

The choice is yours – just make sure any additions are nutritious. Good options to try: fresh fruit and veg such as mango, edamame and avocado; nuts and seeds such as sesame seeds and peanuts; pickled foods such as mushrooms, cucumber or ginger (these may be high in salt and have added sugars, so use small amounts); and natural flavour enhancers such as onion, garlic and chilli.

Make it yourself

If you want to try making a bowl of colourful poke at home yourself, we recommend our Salmon and vege poke bowl recipe, a delicious gourmet meal for one that only takes ten minutes to prepare!

For meat-free poke options, check out our Vegan poke bowls recipe collection.


Date modified: 28 February 2023
First published: February 2023


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