Recipe: Do-It-Yourself Poke Bowls | Kids VT | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Recipe: Do-It-Yourself Poke Bowls


Published June 1, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.

  • Andy Brumbaugh
  • Tuna Poke Bowl

I have never traveled to Hawaii, but I have been transported there by eating a poke bowl. Poke — pronounced poh-KEH — originated in the Aloha State and means "to slice or cut." In its purest form, it refers to marinated bite-size chunks of sushi-grade raw fish — like tuna or salmon. As a cultural melting pot, Hawaiian food incorporates flavors from Japan, China, Korea and other Asian cuisines. When you add a base of rice to the marinated fish, as well as other sweet and savory ingredients, you get a poke bowl. It's the perfect meal for a hot day!

What I love most is how customizable poke bowls are. You can add (or even substitute) zucchini spirals to the rice as a base, add fresh or pickled vegetables, bring in sweetness with the addition of mango, use a spicy sauce if you like that kick, or even substitute chicken, beef or tofu for the fish. Premade tempura shrimp adds crunch, and smoked salmon can replace raw. Everything can be made ahead of time — just make sure you use sushi- or sashimi-grade raw fish and that it stays nice and fresh! If that's hard to find, you can order sashimi from a trusted sushi restaurant, which often comes with the added bonus ingredients of pickled ginger and wasabi.

I make sushi rice in my Instant Pot, but you can also make it on the stovetop. The key to sushi rice is to use short-grain rice. The rice must be rinsed well to get rid of excess starch. Some recipes call for soaking the rice prior to cooking it, but I skip that step. Cooked rice can be made into sticky rice by tossing it in a lightly sweetened vinegar mixture. I like using a combination of rice wine vinegar, mirin (sweetened rice wine) and sugar. Or, just use vinegar. To make sure the rice grains don't break, use a wooden spoon or rice paddle to mix them.

It's fun to experiment with different sauces to drizzle on top. I like a creamy, zingy mayonnaise or a ponzu-based sauce. You can buy ponzu, which is made from the Japanese citrus fruit yuzu, at an Asian market or in the grocery store's international section. As an easy alternative, use lime juice.

For this recipe, I marinated my fish in a simple Asian-inspired sauce. If you like things spicier, add a little chili oil or chili flakes.

Finish the bowl with an array of vegetables, fruits and other toppings, such as shredded carrot, sliced avocado, edamame, bean sprouts or hard-boiled egg. I have even added a premade mango jicama slaw, and it was delicious. Making it pretty is half the fun. Play with this recipe, and create your own delicious version!

Tuna Poke Bowls

(serves 4-6)


Poke Bowl ingredients - ANDY BRUMBAUGH
  • Andy Brumbaugh
  • Poke Bowl ingredients

For the rice:

  • 2 cups sushi rice
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup rice wine vinegar
  • ⅛ cup mirin
  • ¼ cup sugar

For the tuna and marinade:

  • 1 cup sashimi grade ahi tuna (or about 3 orders of ahi sashimi from your favorite sushi restaurant)
  • 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 Tablespoons ponzu sauce or lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 green onion, chopped fine
  • Quick pickled cucumber (can sub sliced or shredded carrot or thinly sliced radish):
  • 2 cucumbers
  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons mirin
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce

For the ponzu poke sauce:

  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons ponzu sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Other toppings and ingredients (customize according to your taste):

  • Raw spiralized zucchini
  • Shredded carrot
  • Sliced avocado
  • Furikake seasoning or shredded, dried seaweed (nori)


  1. Make the rice: Put the rice in a fine-meshed sieve and rinse several times until the water runs clear. If cooking in an Instant Pot, put rice and 2 cups of cold water in the pot and cook on high pressure for 12 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the rice wine vinegar, mirin and sugar in a small saucepan and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the rice with a wooden spoon and place in a large glass bowl. Allow to cool for a few minutes before gently stirring in the vinegar mixture with a wooden spoon or rice paddle. Cover the rice gently with a kitchen towel and allow to cool. Toss again after about 10 minutes, then replace the towel until ready to use.
  2. Marinate the fish: Cut the tuna into small, even chunks, about 1/2 inch. Stir together the remaining ingredients and toss the fish in to coat it. Cover and leave in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  3. Make the quick pickles: Slice the cucumbers into thin, even slices. Heat the other ingredients gently in the microwave or on the stove top until the sugar is dissolved, then put in a jar with the cucumbers. Put on a tight lid, shake to combine, and allow cucumbers to pickle for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Make the ponzu sauce: Whisk together all sauce ingredients until well combined. Put in the fridge until ready to use.
  5. Assemble: Put rice in the bottom of a bowl. Arrange vegetables and other toppings on the rice. Add marinated tuna. Drizzle with sauce. Enjoy! Poke Bowl

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

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