If 2016 was the year we heard about poké (pronounced: po-kay) – a Hawaiian dish of cubed, raw fish marinated in soy sauce and sesame oil – 2017 is the year we’ll actually start eating it.
While the dish is a casual option for grab and go in Hawaii, it’s been popularised in LA, where it’s become a weekday lunch staple in the trend-setting city.
Now, the delicious dish is set to take over the UK. And we couldn’t be more excited.
Louis Sloley, co-founder of Tombo, a poké café in London’s Soho explained: “Poké is a Hawaiian style of sushi served in a bowl. It literally means to cut or slice. It’s essentially an evolution of the Japanese chirashi (sushi bowl) which is made using marinated cubes of sashimi fish served on a bed of rice or salad.”
He’s evangelical about the dish because: “It’s a great casual and contemporary way of having sushi. A refreshing, fun and healthy option for lunch or dinner.”
Tombo specialise in poké and matcha, are offering their classic choice of black or white rice or courgetti (courgette noodles) with toppings like nori, edamame beans and miso sauce – but they’re also doing a hot version with spicy mince for winter, which is all the better for the UK climate.
Guy Jackson and Celia Farrar, who run Eat Poké, a London-based street food joint which serves the dish on a base of black rice and top the fish with pickles, are releasing a cookbook in June.
Their popular stall at the KERB street food markets at Kings Cross and Camden serves take away bowls complete with kimchi and avocado, as well as variations with wasabi, coriander and shiitake mushrooms.
A dedicated restaurant – Black Roe Poké Bar And Grill – opened in Mayfair in March 2016 for a more upmarket take and a tuna version featured on Aussie mini chain Granger & Co’s menu last summer.
While it makes sense that LA inhabitants eat cold, raw dishes all year long, we’ve of course got a different climate here. The solution for this, Sloley says, is to pair your poké with a bowl of miso soup, for a warm element. Besides, as he notes, Brits don’t seem to have an issue with eating classic sushi for lunch 12 months of the year.
If you want to have a go at making your own, the quality of fish is key. “You want to get sashimi grade fish,” says Sloley. “I’d recommend going to your local fishmonger and explain to them that’s what you’re after and they will be able to guide you to the right quality of fish to use.” As to the type of fish: salmon and tuna are the most popular, but tofu is a good replacement for vegetarians and vegans.
The fish is chopped into little chunks, before marinating. To do this, cover the chunks in soy sauce and sesame oil and leave for a few minutes. Then, you can place on top of rice or salad and add toppings. “Avocado, spring onion, nori, sesame seeds or even edamame beans go well in poké,” Sloley says. “It’s about having a variety of textures in your bowl.”
It’s officially time to pick up a poké, people.