Hanoi? Yes. Of all places, right? My daughter, Sam, and I spent a week there and because she doesn’t eat mammals, she searched for places where we could have food that both fit her diet and enjoyable for me as well. We went to an amazing vegetarian restaurant, she also discovered a place that served meatless wraps and there was this poke place on one side of Hoan Kiem Lake.
Poke is a dish that consists of marinated raw fish served with condiments. The term originated in Hawaii but the flavors of the dish are heavily influenced by Japanese cuisine.
When poke became popular in mainland U.S. and, eventually, outside America, the humble snack of fishermen evolved into a filling dish with rice at the base, the marinated fish on top surrounded by vegetables (which may be pickled or fresh), fruit (like mango or avocado) and egg. Once assembled, sauce is drizzled over everything.
What’s the secret to a good poke bowl? Think of it this way: just because all the ingredients are thrown into a bowl and you’re really supposed to toss everything together before you dig in, it doesn’t follow that the dish relies solely on the sauce drizzled over everything after assembly.
Almost every component of the dish has to be seasoned separately including the cooked rice. And rice isn’t the only ingredient that needs cooking. The eggs, mushrooms and eggplants have to be cooked too before they go into the poke bowl.
For the marinated fish
- ½ kilo tuna fillets
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
For the sushi rice
- ¾ cup Japanese rice
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
For the cooked toppings
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 3 tablespoons sesame seed oil divided
- 2 whole eggs lightly beaten
- 4 shiitake mushrooms (caps only), thinly sliced
- 1 large Asian eggplant split vertically then cut into half-inch slices
For the raw toppings
- 1 ripe mango
- 1 cup shredded lettuce
- 1 medium cucumber
For the sauce
- 4 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon grated ginger
Marinate the fish
- Place the cubed fish in a bowl. Add the soy sauce, lemon juice, ginger and sesame seed oil. Toss well. Cover the bowl and keep in the fridge.
Cook the rice
- Rinse the rice several times until the water runs clear.
- Place the rice in the rice cooker. Pour in a cup and a half of water and cook.
- Spread the rice in a shallow bowl. Drizzle in the rice vinegar and toss well. Leave to cool.
Toast the sesame seeds; cook the eggs, eggplants and mushrooms
- While the rice cools, place a frying pan over medium heat. Spread the sesame seeds and cook, tossing often, until browned and glistening. Scoop out and set aside to cool.
- Heat a tablespoon of sesame seed oil in the same frying pan. Pour in the beaten eggs, sprinkle with a little salt and cook just until set. Roll up and cool. Cut into half-inch slices.
- Heat another tablespoon of sesame seed oil in the frying pan. Spread the sliced shiitake in the hot oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Cook for a minute, flip the slices over and cook for another minute. Scoop out and set aside.
- Heat the remaining tablespoon of sesame seed oil. Spread the eggplant slices in the hot oil. Cook for a minute and a half, flip over and cook for another minute. Scoop out and set aside.
Prepare the mango and cucumber
- Cut both sides of the mango to get the flesh; discard the stone. Cut the mango flesh into half-inch cubes.
- Cut the cucumber into bite-size pieces.
Make the sauce
- Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce until the sugar is dissolved.
Assemble the poke bowls
- Prepare four bowls. Place rice at the bottom of each bowl.
- Divide the marinated fish into four portions and place a portion on top of the rice in each bowl.
- Surround the fish with egg, shiitake, eggplant, mango, lettuce and cucumber.
- Drizzle a tablespoon of sauce over the contents of the bowl and sprinkle with sesame seeds (and, optionally, with cilantro).
- Serve the tuna poke bowls at once with the remaining sauce on the side.