If you’ve attended a lu’au, you’re familiar with traditional Hawaiian staples such as poi, lau-lau and imu pua’a, or its restaurant counterpart Kalua Pig.
As a tourist, Hawaiian cuisine might mean Lava Flows and Mai-Tais. Modern Hawaiians at home are better known for enjoying fried chicken, plate-lunches featuring gluey Mac’n’Cheese and Spam and, of course, the heart-clogging bowl called Loko Moko (Google that if you dare). And then there is the Poke Bowl.
|A bowl chock full of fresh vegetables and ahi tuna is among the many meal combinations you can assemble at Poke Fresh. Photo by Allan Reid
The word poke translates to slice or chop, and refers to the cutting up of fresh fish into bite-sized morsels. Poke can be almost any kind of seafood – often marinated in Shoyu with sesame oil, sesame seeds and green onion – but any marinade will do. The important point is that the fish be raw. Raw fish has a delicate flavour and a soft, almost melting texture. Eaten as is, it is like candy for sophisticated palates. But I’ve described only the basics: Poke can also be art.
The art of poke is in the bowl. Aviv, owner of Poke Fresh in Cook Street Village, creates fresh art in every bowl he serves. Consider the Hawaiian Bowl with tuna, white rice, green onion, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, purple cabbage, pineapple, wakame (seaweed salad), avocado, Ponzu sauce, sriracha aioli, sesame seeds and fried onion ($14.95/ $16.95). That is a lot of flavour in one bowl. Of course there is a Victoria Bowl too, and one with tofu instead of fish, for our vegetarian friends.
But I opted to flex my own artistic muscles. Rice or mixed greens? I chose brown rice. Medium bowl or large ($12.95/ $14.95)? I chose medium. I selected fresh ahi (yellowfin tuna: $1.50 extra) and Ponzu sauce. Eight choices from the fresh bar are included in the price, so I took imitation crab, edamame, pineapple, masago (fish roe), cilantro, wakame, chickpeas and pickled ginger, and added a half avocado ($1.50 extra) for good measure.
Each ingredient is placed atop the rice in its own neat colourful pile and the ahi is scattered on top. Now I had sriracha aioli and creamy wasabi sauces drizzled over everything. A spoonful of hemp hearts provided the finishing touch.
Have I mentioned that poke bowls are fast food? My masterpiece came together before my eyes in just a few minutes. Healthy fast food. Who knew? Hawaiians, of course. The nice part is, poke here can be ordered for eat-in or take-out.
My bowl was packed with flavour. Without all the grease of cooking, it was light and refreshing, yet ample to power me through my afternoon. Large bowls offer a double scoop of poke. If you’ve always wanted to fly to Hawai’i for a good poke bowl, save your money. Healthy, refreshing, flavourful Hawaiian poke has come to you. And if the thought of raw fish makes you squeamish, check out that loko moko.
102-240 Cook St. Victoria
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