Poké (pronounced “po–kay”) landed in Auckland last September in the tired underground IMAX food court on Queen Street. My fork buddy and I hit up Poke Time on opening day: bright and little tacky, as Hawaiian-themed things can be, the experience has a Subway vibe and is essentially a build-your-own raw fish salad bowl. You pick whatever you want, although it can be too many decisions for the uninitiated.
If you’ve never tried poké before, it can be overwhelming but if you know what you are doing, Poke Time is great value. With heaps of options including salmon, two types of tuna, and trevally, they also have token vegetarian options, but that’s probably not what most will come here for. Tip: go for the seasoned fish, the non-marinated options are essentially sashimi bowls, rather than poké bowls.
Poké means “chop” and is a Hawaiian dish influenced by Japanese cuisine. Poké is raw fish (such as tuna, salmon or octopus) is cubed and seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, seaweed. Poké is often served served with fresh vegetables and rice to form a poké bowl. Poké is so common in Hawaii it is found in their supermarket deli like our basic potato salad and coleslaw.
Six months ago, I had never tried poké. We have various raw fish dishes here: ceviche, tartare, carpaccio, ika mata, kokoda…and sushi or sashimi bowls have been around a long time. However, I’ve been hankering for poké for years after watching Action Bronson’s poké episode on Fuck, That’s Delicious. View for yourself here. After that episode, I was sure I’d love poké. I just had to find the opportunity to try it.
Auckland’s poké offerings
Today, I can name four places in the cenytal city that serve poké. Four is a good number. Four is a to do list. An easy one.
Poké Time inside the Sky City Metro was first, followed by Shaka Bowl on High Street just 2 months later, both selling nothing but poké. More recently, Oaken in Britomart and The Culpeper on Princes Wharf added poké to their menus bringing it up to four.
In the spirit of research, I made it my mission to sample them all.
Eat all the things!!!
- The Culpeper Tuna poke with cucumber, avocado and sesame $18
- Shaka Bowl Choice of tuna, salmon or mix. Tofu also available. Served on your choice of rice, lettuce or both. Your choice of sauce. Regular $12.90 / Large $15.90
- Poke Time Choice of tuna, salmon, trevally. Tofu also available. Served on your choice of white, brown or black (purple) rice and your choice of salad, sauce, and topping. Small $8.90 (pictured) / Medium $11.90 / Large $14.90
- Oaken Yellow fin tuna poke, puffed brown rice, avocado, macadamia, cold smoked tomato, seaweed laver $20
If you’re new to poké I recommend trying The Culpepper’s poké followed by Shaka Bowl. Shaka Bowl allows substitutions but their product is pretty much all there so if you don’t know what you’re doing, they’ll take over with their standard version. Poke Time is great value but due to there being so many decisions to make, I would recommend Poke Time after you’ve tried some of the other combinations first. Oaken’s version is an artistic interpretation of poké which is probably best saved for connoisseurs rather than the first timer.
The best value for money would be the exclusive poké shops, particularly Poke Time. I always get the small bowl at Poke Time, which is enough food and for $8.90 is a bargain. I haven’t tried the large which at $14.90 is still one of the cheapest around. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder if I could make my very own poké at home.
Sashimi grade fish
On Friday afternoon, I visited Auckland Fish Markets and asked for sashimi grade fish. I was pleased to find they had sold out of sashimi grade salmon (though regular salmon was available) and that I should return in the morning as raw fish should be eaten day of purchase. Someone with less scruples may have tried to sell the other fish they had.
If you’re making poké at home, buy your fish in the morning of eating from a reputable fish monger and specifically ask for sashimi grade fish.
This recipe makes enough for two but can easily be multiplied for more mouths. Eat all raw fish on the day of purchase. Leftover poké is super uncool.
Salmon Poké Bowl
- 350 grams sashimi grade salmon
- 2 tablespoons minced red onion
- 1 spring onion, sliced on an angle
- 1 tablespoon fried shallots
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (I use a mixture of black and white)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon chilli sauce (optional)
- Salt and black pepper as required (to taste)
- 2 cups steamed rice
- 1 mango, cubed
- 1 avocado, sliced or cubed
- 1/2 cup edamame beans
- 1/2 cup seaweed salad
- Nori seaweed, julienned
- Pickled ginger
- Remove the salmon skin with a sharp knife and pin bones with tweezers. Cut salmon into 2cm cubes. Place in a bowl.
- Combine all the other poké ingredients together. Cover and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes at room temperature for maximum flavour and freshness. Or as long as it takes to get ready the serving ingredients. Taste and season with salt and/pepper as required. Note: If preparing ahead of time or for an event, pack onions, shallots and sesame seeds together in one container, the sauces in another and the cubed salmon in a bowl. Refrigerate. Mix together in the bowl 5-10 minutes before eating.
- Serve on your choice of white, brown or black rice, avocado, mango, edamame beans, ginger and seaweed.
This post is part of Our Growing Edge, a monthly blogging event to encourage bloggers to try new food related things.
This month’s host is Terri from Food Meanderings and the theme this month is HEALTHY STARTS.
If you have a blog and you are eating or cooking something new this month, click below to join. More information here.