First of all, what the hell is a poke bowl?
It’s not a kind of Pokèmon, in case you were wondering.
Poke bowl is a Hawaiian thing. Poke is just raw fish (think sashimi), usually seasoned with soy sauce, and poke bowl is just a bowl of warm rice topped with poke. That’s it.
Then in the last couple of years, poke bowl hit the mainland and blew up. Ahi tuna imports quadrupled. New ‘mix-ins’ like ginger, seaweed, kale, and Butterfinger chunks became common. Third-tier celebrities Tweetered and Intergrammed ‘shelfies’ with the hot new dish. Poke Stops started colonizing all the corners that Starbucks hadn’t claimed yet. 1
That was all in Los Angeles. Here in Kansas City, we still thought ‘poke’ was that awkward Facebook come-on.
But then the internet found out about the poke bowl, and it’s open season!
In true American fashion, I completely disregarded talk about what a ‘real’ poke bowl should be and just totally made up my own version altogether.First of all, tuna and salmon and all that fancy sea fish is expensive. For a real dude’s poke bowl, I needed something freshwater and widely available. Tilapia fit the mark. Also, it was on sale at Aldi.
Freshwater fish can be a lot more dangerous than saltwater when served raw, so I decided to make ceviche. In ceviche, the fish is ‘cooked’ by acid rather than heat, which kills off bacteria but lets you avoid turning on the stovetop.BAM. Ceviche poke bowl. American style. Except that Hawaii is American… MIDWEST style.
WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY
The tilapia had some tough, chewy bits. Shrimp takes well to a ceviche preparation; would crawfish? If I could find raw out-of-shell crawfish, I would totally try it. I would also try out some other sustainable local freshwater fish, like catfish, bass, crappie, or trout.
The apple added some nice sweetness, but I wonder if it distracted too much from the other elements. Next time I might try something mild like cucumber instead, and add a bit of honey to the marinade to get the bit of sweetness.
FOR THE NERDS
I don’t think ceviche poke bowl is necessarily going to become a staple of sustainable midwest cuisine, but I do think experiments like this are necessary to show the versatility of what we have locally.
Since rice is only viable for regularly flooded lowlands, bulgur is a great alternative in wheat country. Soy is also totally doable in the midwest, so a locally produced style of soy sauce could be a thing.
I should examine more what fish is most sustainable in local ponds, rivers, and aquaculture arrangements; I suspect catfish is one of the best options, just because it’s everywhere, but that’s a gut reaction not based on actual research. I’ll get back to you on that.
ENOUGH NERD TIME! GET SOME CEVICHE POKE BOWL!
It’s so fresh and salty and tangy it’s gonna slap you right in the tastebuds. To get it and all the rest of my new sustainable recipes delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for my mailing list; you’ll receive the manliest scone recipe in existence just for joining up.
- 1/2 cup bulgur
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2” ginger, grated
- juice and zest of 2 limes
- 2 previously frozen 4-oz tilapia filets, diced
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 1 apple, diced
- 1 Tbsp cilantro
- roasted sunflower seeds
- Mix bulgur, water, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Let rest for 20 minutes.
- Mix all ingredients but the cilantro and sunflower seeds; in a bowl, let rest for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain, and add the cilantro.
- Serve the ceviche over the warm bulgur. Top with sunflower seeds.
- Feral Cuisine is not responsible for its writers making pop culture-related claims that turn out to be exaggerated or completely fabricated. ↩