A Ja­pa­nese-in­flu­enced Hawai­ian fast-food sen­sa­tion is bowl­ing into towns and cities around New Zealand.

The Ja­pa­nese-in­flu­enced Hawai­ian fast-food sen­sa­tion is bowl­ing into towns and cities around New Zealand.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - by Lau­raine Ja­cobs

Healthy fast foods be­come fash­ion­able when you find out­lets around towns and cities serv­ing them for busy work­ers. Over the years, we have seen the rise of healthy made-to-or­der sand­wich bars, sushi bars, com­posey­our-own-salad bars, and meal-in-a glass smoothie bars. The lat­est of these trends is the poke (pro­nounced po-key) bowl. Out­lets have opened on sev­eral sites in Auck­land’s city cen­tre and else­where, of­fer­ing as­sem­ble-to-or­der take­aways.

Poke orig­i­nated in Hawaii, and was orig­i­nally a mix­ture of freshly caught raw fish, usu­ally tuna, chopped into cubes and mar­i­nated in soy sauce and se­same oil. It was served with gar­nishes such as fresh sea­weed or Maui onions.

An en­ter­pris­ing Hawai­ian chef, Sam Choy, started a poke com­pe­ti­tion there in 1992 and both pro­fes­sional chefs and am­a­teur cooks en­tered. It con­tin­ues ev­ery year and the com­pe­ti­tion has since ex­panded to Seat­tle. All over Hawaii, wher­ever fresh fish is sold, there will be a large dish of poke made in the orig­i­nal style, mar­i­nated ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal owner’s favourite recipe and ready to be la­dled into take­away jars.

Due to the large Ja­pa­nese in­flu­ence in Hawaii, poke de­vel­oped from this sim­ple con­cept to be­come an imag­i­na­tive fresh meal with a base of sushi rice, or some­times Ja­pa­nese soba noo­dles, in a bowl. The rice is topped with mar­i­nated raw fish and in­gre­di­ents such as pick­led gin­ger, av­o­cado, raw sliced veg­eta­bles, se­same seeds and edamame beans all chopped into bite-sized pieces. The re­sult is a bright fresh-look­ing meal that is easy to eat with chop­sticks, Ja­pa­nese-style. I have spot­ted poke restau­rants in Madrid, Mi­lan and now in Auck­land, so there’s no doubt they’ll be ev­ery­where soon.

For those who are not fond of fish, of­ten there’s an op­tion to have sliced, poached chicken breast, or cubes of tofu for vege­tar­i­ans.

One of my friends finds poke a great way to feed her chil­dren, who, like most fam­i­lies, range in ages and have their own likes and dis­likes. Kate sets out all the poke in­gre­di­ents on a plat­ter, gives each child a bowl of rice and lets them help them­selves. There’s no fuss­ing or fight­ing, just peace­ful fam­ily meals.

This week’s recipes are a very Kiwi take on poke.


300g yel­lowfin tuna (or trevally or ka­hawai) 6cm piece of gin­ger

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp se­same oil

1 cup sushi rice

2 tbsp mirin

1 small cu­cum­ber

½ papaya, peeled 6 crisp let­tuce leaves

2 ripe but firm to­ma­toes

4 tbsp edamame beans

2 tbsp pick­led pink gin­ger, shred­ded 1 spring onion, finely chopped

2 tsp re­hy­drated sea­weed

1 tsp black se­same seeds

Cut the fish into 2cm cubes and place in a non-re­ac­tive bowl. Grate or finely chop the gin­ger and add to the fish with the soy sauce and se­same oil. Cover and place in the re­frig­er­a­tor to mar­i­nate for an hour or more.

To cook the sushi rice, wash well in cold run­ning water, then drain. Add to a saucepan with enough cold water to cover the rice by 4cm. Add a tea­spoon of salt and bring the rice to the boil. Turn down the heat, cover with a lid and cook for 12-14 min­utes un­til all the water is ab­sorbed and the rice swells and is soft rather than hard in the cen­tre. Turn it into a bowl and stir through the mirin.

To pre­pare the other veg­eta­bles and gar­nishes, par­tially peel the cu­cum­ber then cut rib­bons from the flesh with a po­tato peeler. Cut the papaya into 2cm cubes, slice the let­tuce leaves and roughly chop the to­ma­toes.

To serve, di­vide the rice be­tween four bowls. Add the mar­i­nated fish so that it cov­ers a quar­ter of the rice, then ar­range the papaya, let­tuce, tomato and edamame beans around the fish. Fin­ish with the pick­led gin­ger, spring onion and sea­weed and scat­ter over the se­same seeds.

Serves 4.

Wine match: pinot gris or al­bar­iño.


300g fresh salmon

2 tbsp lime juice

3 tbsp cit­rus pressed olive oil pinch of sea salt

2 bun­dles soba noo­dles

Salmon, av­o­cado and sea­weed poke bowl; left, tuna and papaya poke bowl.

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