Have I told you that I’m taking ballroom dancing? I adore it. It’s my escape for a few hours a week. I was a former jazz dancer; but ballroom dance is like learning a new language. It’s challenging but exhilarating. I am learning at the Dance with Me Studios on West 37th St. When I’m finished with my lesson, I’m famished and on the corner of the 37th and 6th Avenue, I discovered a Poke take out called PokeWorks.
If you haven’t heard, poke (pronounced poh-kay) has been taking over the NYC food scene since the beginning of 2016, when Ligaya Mishan of The New York Times declared a little-known restaurant, Sons of Thunder, to be serving the best poke in Manhattan. Suddenly the business went from barely staying afloat to serving hundreds of poke fans a day. This happened around the same time word was coming to New York about the exploding poke scene in LA, and today we have over 500 restaurants serving poke in this city alone!
But, still – Poke?
Poke is a dish that hails from beautiful Hawaii – which is probably why it made its way to LA before getting here. Most poke is a raw fish-based dish that celebrates the protein. Today, most people think of the bright red Ahi Tuna, when they think of poke, but the Polynesian roots of the dish were humbler than that. Pre-colonial era poke was usually made from locally caught reef fish and seasoned with fresh sea salt and/or seaweed, topped with some crushed kukui nut (candlenut).
Eventually the Japanese and Korean workers on the island would add their own spins to the dish – like shoyu (soy sauce), sesame oil, and kimchi. It wasn’t until about the 60s or 70s that the dish became known as poke, which is a Hawaiian word meaning “to cut crosswise into pieces.”Around the same time that poke got its name, it became associated with the brightly colored ahi tuna that was suddenly available to the masses.
You can make your own poke bowl at home with lots of fixin’s. The base is usually a rice or quinoa or even a noodle or salad. And usually a raw fish is your protein. Although tuna is the most popular, I used salmon in my poke. I marinated it in soy, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and mirin. You could also use chicken or tofu as your main protein. The ideas are endless. I surrounded my salmon with edamame, avocado, bean sprouts, pickled onions, cucumber, watercress, seaweed and more.
But you don’t have to travel very far to get your very own poke – in fact, I encourage you to have your own Poke Party! Invite your friends over and everyone gets to make their own bowls – a healthier alternative to making your own pizzas!
Quick Pickled Red Onion
- 2 cups water
- ¾ cup rice wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon sugan
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 a few black peppercorns
- 1 red onion, halved and very thinly sliced
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or shoyu
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
Salmon Poke Bowl
- 1 pound fresh salmon
- 2 Asian Dressing
- 1 avocado
- 1 cucumber
- 2 chives
- 2 pickled red onion
- 2 cooked white or brown rice
- 2 shelled edamame
- 2 seaweed
- 2 bean sprouts
- 2 watercress
- 2 toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Quick Pickled Red Onion
- In a small saucepan, bring the water, vinegar, sugar, salt, and peppercorns to a boil. Turn off and let the liquid cool to about room temperature.
- Add the onions to the liquid and let them soften while you prepare the rest of the ingredients for your poke. Stir frequently.
- Whisk together ingredients and set aside
Salmon Poke Bowl
- Cube the salmon into about 1/2" pieces and place in a bowl or container to marinate in half of the Asian dressing. Set aside.
- Cut the avocado into similar sized cubes and place in a small bowl for serving. Do the same with the cucumber.
- Chop up the chives into small pieces and place into another small bowl for garnish.
- Using tongs, remove the red onion from its pickling liquid and put into a small serving bowl.
- Place the marinated salmon into a small serving bowl.
- Distribute the rice as the base for your main bowls, and serve the rest of the main ingredients in smaller bowls so that you can each top your own. Dressing, toasted sesame seeds and chives should be added last. If you like spice in your bowls, you may want to add wasabi or a spicy mayo.