Matt Preston:

On how to per­fect a trendy new dish

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TASSLE LIVING -

COOL in­ner city cafes once boasted health bowls that were su­per­food, pa­leo, gluten-free, ve­gan-friendly. Now, it is the day of the poké.

Pro­nounced poh-keh (some­what dis­ap­point­ingly for the seven-year-old that lurks in­side me), it is of­fi­cially the hottest thing on Aus­tralian menus.

The Hawai­ian dish was tra­di­tion­ally made by fish­er­men, com­bin­ing trim­mings from their catch of “ahi” tuna (or some­times oc­to­pus) with sea­weed and sweet onions. Serv­ing it on a bowl of rice with soy sauce and sesame oil is a nod to the Ja­panese mi­grants who worked on the Hawai­ian pineap­ple and sugar cane plan­ta­tions from 1885 on­wards.

Far more re­cently, poké’s pop­u­lar­ity has been lifted by hip­sters and health­fad­dists. For the for­mer, it fits with their ob­ses­sion with sriracha, may­on­naise and pickly, fer­mented stuff and for the lat­ter with their carb-, gluten-,meat-free urges.As poké slips neatly into both camps’ food ar­se­nal, it has be­come a world­wide phe­nom­e­non.

Not to be out­done (or fright­ened off), here are my four favourite poké bowls, as well as my top tips for poké mak­ing.

POKÉ AHI BOWL

Toss cubes of yel­lowfin tuna in a mix of soy, saké and wa­ter with finely sliced spring onion whites.

Sweeten warm sushi rice with sushi sea­son­ing.This is avail­able at su­per­mar­kets but is easy to make. For 3 cups of un­cooked rice,warm ½ cup (125ml) rice wine vine­gar, 2 tbs caster sugar and 2 tsp salt un­til dis­solved.Add the liq­uid to warm, cooked rice un­til sea­soned to your lik­ing.

Top with the tuna, crushed wasabi peas, sesame seeds, thin strips of toasted nori sea­weed sheets, a few drops of sesame oil and pink pick­led gin­ger.Add a sprin­kle of good chilli flakes or you can top with Ja­panese fu­rikake spice mix if you like.

POKÉ FATTY SALMON

Not my jazz nick­name but all the plea­sure of a Cal­i­for­nia roll in a poké.

Cover one quar­ter of a bowl of warm, sea­soned sushi rice with half a sliced av­o­cado and the op­po­site quar­ter with sliced spring onions and co­rian­der leaves.

Top the other two quar­ters with barely grilled fatty salmon cut from the edges and the un­der­side of a whole salmon fil­let. (Re­mov­ing the thin­ner flaps from each edge of the fil­let leaves you with a neat bar­rel of salmon that can be sliced for sashimi or for a chi­rashi bowl – see be­low.)

Cook the fatty salmon on bak­ing pa­per in a fry­pan or on the flat grill of a bar­be­cue un­til barely done. Sprin­kle over crushed macadamia nuts and strips of crispy salmon skin (if you can be both­ered to make it). Fi­nally, stripe the bowl with thin lines of a Ja­panese may­on­naise.

CHI­RASHI BOWL

Us­ing a sharp knife, slice the bar­rel of a salmon fil­let on an an­gle. Lay on the rice with ice-cold slices of radish, edamame (pod­ded soy beans), a com­bi­na­tion of crushed roasted cashews and sesame seeds, and home­made pick­led gin­ger.

To make this, peel a knob of gin­ger with a tea­spoon. Slice as thinly as you can. Rub with a 1:3 mix of salt and sugar, then leave un­til the gin­ger starts to give up some of its juice. Cover with rice wine vine­gar and leave un­til needed.

Serve the poké bowl with a beaten dress­ing of wasabi, soy and lemon juice.

POKÉ QUEENSLAND BOWL

Top a bowl of brown rice with fin­gers of caramelised pineap­ple, grilled green prawn tails, a scant hand­ful of sliced mint or co­rian­der, thinly sliced jalapenos and lime wedges.

Top with a good driz­zle of chilli caramel, crushed, salted peanuts and

toasted lap cheong sausage.You can al­ways dump the prawns for swags of seared beef if you feel that way in­clined If you do, I feel the lap cheong should go too, which would be a shame. For more easy poké bowls made with ev­ery­thing from crunchy schnitzel to vir­tu­ous tofu, go to de­li­cious.com.au. There’s even one made with tinned tuna.

Poké bowl with pick­led gar­lic and sea­weed. Recipe at de­li­cious.com.au

MATT PRESTON

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