Healthy, fresh and great on-the-run. Is poke the next must-have dish on your menu?
Seen by chefs as a relatively simple dish to prepare, and by diners as a healthy, flavoursome and affordable meal, poke is earning its place on a growing number of menus around the country.
A Hawaiian raw fish salad, poke (pronounced po-kay) traditionally comprises diced fish, rice and a range of garnishes including soy sauce, chilli, green onions and seaweed.
Originally identified as a healthy option for the summer menu at Sydney’s Salmon and Bear, poke’s popularity has been growing so significantly that co-founder Mark Jensen has no plans to take it off.
“The first week we put it on, we sold about 20 and I think we were up to about 140 five or six weeks later,” he said.
“It’s definitely earned its place on the menu now. We’re looking at doing other things with it … I think the fact that we’re using the corn and coriander salsa is kind of different, so we’re going to be exploring different fish that we could use and maybe we’ll change it up with some fried kale. Maybe we wont even use rice? We could use buckwheat noodles or something like that.”
Chef Mark Jensen
There are currently two poke variations on the Salmon and Bear menu: raw cubed salmon in a soy and sesame dressing with corn salsa and avocado and coconut rice ($21); and raw cubed tuna in a chilli and lemongrass dressing served with kimchi and seaweed salad, also on coconut rice ($24).
According to Jensen, the salmon dish outsells its tuna counterpart two to one, but that doesn’t mean chefs shouldn’t consider using other fish.
“You just need something that’s going to hold up to being diced. You need a larger pelagic fish that you can dice into cubes; that’s why salmon and tuna work really well. Kingfish would work well too.”
Tokyo Tina in Victoria’s Windsor has three different pokes on the menu, and like at Salmon and Bear, the salmon is the standout.
Tokyo Tina's poke range
“We were looking for something a bit lighter for the lunch market. We didn’t want to go down the sushi line but we like those elements: the raw fish and the rice. The lunch market can be a really good one if you can capture it, and we just feel that poke is a really good, one bowl meal. And when you eat it, you don’t feel too full; you can go back to work. It’s healthy, as opposed to things like ramen which are also on the menu but are more of a commitment,” Tokyo Tina’s director Simon Blacher said.
Not only does the dish resonate with health conscious diners that are on-the-go (both Salmon and Bear and Tokyo Tina offer poke as a takeaway item), it’s also a relatively easy dish for the kitchen team to pump out.
Samon & Bear's poke
“It’s a bit of work to prepare because there is a bit of cutting and you’ve got to break down whole fish and make sure you’re using the right cuts, but in terms of plating up, it’s relatively quick. You just grab a bowl and chuck in the rice and the rest of the elements. There isn’t too much cooking involved,” he said.
Poke has been on the menu at Tokyo Tina for about five months now, and the restaurant’s now selling up to 40 serves a day. Blacher is confident this number will continue to rise.
“It’s definitely popping up a lot in the US now, and we get some of our trends from the states. I know it’s exploded in LA and I’ve seen a couple of places pop up in Sydney … I guarantee that this time next year poke will be huge.”
Tokyo Tina’s Avocado Salmon Poke
Serves 5 bowls:
Salmon and garnishing
- 500g Tasmanian Salmon fillets (no skin), diced into 3 cm cubes.
- White part of 4 spring onions, sliced thinly
- Half a red onion, sliced thinly
- White or brown rice to serve
- 2 ripe avocado
- 20g EVO extra virgin olive oil
- 20g glucose
- 5g salt
- 1/4 bunch coriander
Blend all ingredients until have a mouse like texture
- 1 ripe mango
- Pinch of salt
- Squeeze half lemon
Blend all ingredients until mouse like texture
- 20ml soy
- Juice of half a lemon
- 5ml sesame oil
- 5g brown sugar
Whisk all ingredients together and dress salmon
Coconut jalepeno balls
- 100g desiccated coconut
- 1/2 lime
- 10ml EVOO
- Pinch salt
- 1 jalepeno
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/4 bunch coriander
Combine ingredients and roll into thumb sized balls
Serve the salmon on top of the rice, drizzle with the dressing and garnish with the onions, the avocado and mango mousses and the jalapeno coconut balls.