When I first moved to San Francisco in the summer of 2013 as a recent college grad, I had just signed up to take a finance exam that winter – a decision that eviscerated my social life for a good four months or so. My daily routine was a shifting mix of work, studying, and conscience-gnawing procrastination. The exam itself was expensive and competitive, so I requested a few vacation days in advance to allow for last minute cramming. But as the dreaded day approached, I dreamed of feigning some crazy emergency that would prevent me from taking the test, booking round trip tickets to Hawaii, and spending the time off in a hightail to paradise.
I didn’t actually carry out this plot. I sat the exam and resolved to never voluntarily enter hermit-dom again. And, as it turns out, I still haven’t been to Hawaii! I definitely should’ve acted on my escape plan given that the credentials are languishing uselessly in a drawer somewhere. (There are three levels, and to actually benefit from your self-imposed torture you must pass all the exams over the course of a multi-year commitment. Unfortunately, 1/3rd of a distinguished three-letter suffix carries 0% of the actual value).
Now, my infatuation with the yet unseen Hawaii persists, and expresses itself through the food medium – which should be a surprise to nobody. Hawaiian food represents such a fascinating intersection of cultures, with indigenous Polynesian styles and ingredients fusing with Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Spanish, and Portugese influences. These days I will pick a good Hawaiian restaurant experience over almost any other.
But as is the case with most meals, even Hawaiian is best made at home! Poke bowls are my weakness: silky jewels of marinated raw fish over rice, plus creamy avocado slices and a variety of toppings of your choice – essentially the elevated cousin of the sashimi bowl. I added seaweed salad, cucumbers, nori, alfalfa sprouts, and egg yolk / egg white garnish in addition to the traditional base elements. Healthy, filling, nutritious, and absolutely irresistible; seconds strongly encouraged. Hawaii may still be on my to-do list, but for now regular helpings of poke will keep the island wanderlust at bay.
Ahi Poke Bowl Recipe (serves 2-3)
- 1 pound of raw, sashimi-grade tuna
- 1/4 cup of soy sauce
- 1 tbsp of rice wine
- 1 tbsp of rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp of sesame oil
- 2 scallions, chopped finely, white and light green parts only
- 1-inch piece of ginger, shredded or grated
- 1 red chili pepper, seeds removed, sliced (optional)
- 1.5 cups of cooked brown (or white) rice
- 2 eggs
- Pinch of salt
- 1 avocado
- 1/2 cucumber, sliced thinly
- 1/2 nori sheet, shredded
- Seaweed salad
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Sesame seeds
- Also would work well: mango, carrots, pickled ginger, spicy Sriracha mayo
Chop the tuna into 3/4-1 inch cubes and set aside in a bowl. Combine soy sauce, rice wine, rice vinegar, and sesame oil into a small bowl. Add half of the scallions / sliced chili pepper and all of the ginger to the bowl and mix. Pour over your tuna cubes, and stir to coat evenly. Refrigerate and let marinate for one hour.
In the meantime, prep your other ingredients (except the avocado, which should be sliced last to prevent oxidization/browning). Slice the cucumbers, shred the nori, and wash the sprouts. To make the egg garnish, separate the whites and yolks of two eggs and beat each separately with the salt. Dip a paper towel into vegetable oil and swipe it lightly over a non-stick pan so the pan is covered with a very thin sheen. Heat the pan over medium-low heat. Pour the egg white into the pan when oil is hot and let it spread across the surface (try to keep in a circle, but it doesn't matter). Let cook for 1-2 minutes on one side, then flip it with a thin metal spatula and cook the other side for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and slice into strips. Repeat with the egg yolk. The egg yolk is easier than the egg white because egg whites have more liquid and are less stable when flipping.
When tuna is done marinating, slice the avocado or chop into cubes. Divide rice into two or three bowls, then top with tuna, avocado, cucumbers, seaweed salad, nori, and egg garnish. Garnish additionally with sesame seeds, reserved chili slices, and reserved scallions.