It’s official – poke bowls have taken Canada by storm.
This beloved Hawaiian dish has been around sine the 70s, but only became popular in Canada in the last decade. Now, you can’t walk more than a few blocks in downtown Vancouver without seeing a restaurant advertising the best poke bowl in the city.
But what is a poke bowl anyway, and how on earth do you order it?
What is a poke bowl?
A poke bowl is a dish featuring marinated raw fish. The term poke (pronounced poh-KAY) means “to cut” or “cut into pieces” and refers to the method of preparing the fish.
Poke bowls come in many different shapes and sizes. Some feature a long list of ingredients, while others include only marinated raw fish and rice. There’s no wrong or right way to make a poke bowl, with each being as unique as the person who makes it.
What are the ingredients of a poke bowl?
While every restaurant is going to do poke a little differently, there are a few common components to every poke bowl. These components are:
- A base
When combined, these unassuming components make for a surprisingly complex and satisfying dish.
What makes a good poke bowl?
Because poke bowls are so simple, the dish really comes down to the quality of ingredients. The best poke bowls use fresh ingredients that are high quality and flavourful.
That means freshly caught fish, local vegetables, and house made sauces. When choosing a poke restaurant, find one that sources the highest quality of ingredients for their poke bowls.
How do you order a poke bowl?
Poke bars or restaurants are usually set up one of two ways:
- This is where the menu consists of poke bowls that have already been created for you. An example is the Mayo Spice Me Up from Steve’s Poke Bar featuring tobiko, imitation crab, wakame seaweed salad, and spicy mayo.
- This is where you can create your own poke bowl from a variety of ingredients, much the same as you would at Subway or Chipotle. The choice is up to you!
Some restaurants will include both, a selection of pre-made dishes as well as the option to build your own bowl.
Build-your-own poke bowls
No need to be intimidated by the overwhelming number of ingredients. Ordering a poke bowl is a simple task once you get the hang of it.
Here’s how you do it:
1. Start with a base
Every poke bowl begins with a base. This base can be as simple as rice to as wild as zucchini noodles.
I’ve even seen cauliflower rice poke bowls on the menu at some places, including the Fresh Prep website, which makes for a great Keto friendly meal.
The most common base for a poke bowl is white rice, brown rice, greens, or some combination of rice and greens.
2. Choose your protein
Traditional poke bowls are made with some kind of raw fish, usually yellowfin or ahi tuna. However, you can also find poke bowls topped with:
No matter what protein you choose to have on top of your poke bowl, it will almost always be prepared the same way – cut into cubes and seasoned with Hawaiian-inspired sauces.
3. Pick a sauce
In traditional poke dishes, the fish is marinated for several hours before serving. However, most poke bars skip this step and opt for some kind of sauce in the bowl instead. Often, this sauce really ties the whole bowl together.
The most popular poke bowl sauces include:
- Ponzu: a tangy, citrus-inspired, soy-based sauce that pairs well with raw fish
- Shoyu: a Japanese-style soy sauce made of soybeans, wheat, and salt
- Sriracha: a spicy chili sauce made from chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, and salt
- Vinaigrette: some restaurants include a house-made oil-based vinaigrette on their menu
4. Add your toppings
Toppings are where you can really get creative with your poke bowl. Most poke bars will include a large assortment of toppings, featuring everything from scallions to pickled ginger.
Poke bowls typically include some combination of fresh and pickled vegetables. Popular pickled veggies include radishes, onions, and cucumbers, while carrots are great fresh.
Edamame, toasted sesame seeds, and seaweed all make for great poke bowl toppings as well.
5. Choose any additional seasonings or sauces
Once you have your main components, you can add any additional seasonings or toppings such as furikake or aioli. Aioli, which is a garlic mayonnaise, is a very popular poke bowl topping in North America because it adds a delightfully creamy texture to your poke bowl.
So, there you have it – the ultimate poke bowl creation!
Where to get the best poke bowl in Vancouver?
If you’re ready to try out your poke bowl making skills, then now is your chance! On Moola, we offer tons of deals on digital eGift cards for groceries, food delivery, and restaurants including poke.
Our top choice for poke bowls in Vancouver?
Steve’s Poke Bar, a local favorite started by Steve Huynh and his wife. It has over 10 locations across the lower mainland, and offers the option to build-your-own bowl or choose from one of their signature selections (we recommend the California Dreamin’).
Steve’s Poke Bar
Buy $25, get 10% off