Ahi Poke Explained, Plus How to Make a Delicious Poke Bowl

Imagine sushi meets the burrito bowl. Here's everything you need to know about this trendy raw tuna dish.

Wisefish Poke Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl
Photo: wisefishpoke.com

A long-time popular favorite in Hawaii, restaurants and food trucks dedicated to ahi poke have recently been popping up all across the mainland. If you're curious to know what the buzz is all about (but don't have a poke restaurant in your neighborhood yet), there's good news: It's quite easy to make poke at home—no sushi mat required. Here's what it is and how to make it.

What Is Ahi Poke?

A classic Hawaiian preparation, poke (pronounced poh-kay) is a salad of cubed raw fish—traditionally ahi (yellowfin tuna) but also made with salmon, tofu, or even watermelon—marinated in sesame oil and soy sauce.

Poke can be eaten on its own or as a bowl atop white rice, noodles, or even spiraled vegetables and then topped with just about anything. In other words, customization is the name of the game.

But why has this dish become so popular? "Sushi made people comfortable with eating high-quality raw fish," explains Drew Crane, who owned Wisefish Poké, a New York City-based seafood shop. "And healthy bowls are so big right now. It just made sense for the trend to catch."

What You Need to Make Poke Bowls at Home

  • Fresh fish (yellowfin tuna, salmon) or a vegetarian option (tofu, beets, or portobellos)
  • Paring knife
  • Sharp chef's knife
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Covered container or zippered plastic bag
  • Medium bowls (for serving)
  • Cooked short grain sushi rice (or other base)
  • Toppings (various options)
  • Chopsticks (or utensils of choice)


Choose the fish

"Sushi-grade” is an unregulated term, so make sure to ask your fishmonger (or whoever is at your grocer's fish counter) for the freshest fish they have. If you don’t have access to fresh fish, consider buying individually quick-frozen fillets.

Center-cut yellowfin is most commonly used for poke, but other large fish (like salmon) also work wonderfully. Just make sure your fillet is wide and thick enough to trim into 1-inch cubes. Alternatively, small shellfish like scallops and shrimp are delicious options.

Don't do meat? For a delicious vegetarian poke, you can marinate tofu, beets, or portobello mushrooms the same way you would fish.

Prepare the fish

Use a paring knife to remove any white parts or stringy bits from the fillets. (They can make the fish chewy and hard to eat.) Next, use a sharp chef’s knife to trim the fish into even, clean, 1-inch cubes.

Marinate the fish

For every pound of fish you're serving, create a marinade of ½ cup soy sauce and 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Set the fish in a covered container or zippered plastic bag with the mixture and marinade for up to 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Make the base

Poke is traditionally served over a bowl of cold, short-grain sushi rice, which is characterized by small grains and a sticky texture (and is easier to pick up with chopsticks).

If you don’t have sushi rice, it’s OK to use other types of rice, including cauliflower rice. Poke also pairs wonderfully with cold vermicelli noodles, quinoa, spiralized veggies, lettuce, and more. Be creative!

Top the bowl

When it comes to toppings, keeping it simple is key. Common toppings include:

  • Sesame seeds
  • Sliced onion
  • Diced scallions
  • Avocado
  • Fish roe

To stay true to this dish's Pacific roots, search your favorite Asian market for more tasty options:

  • Furikake (a Japanese seasoning)
  • Pickled ginger
  • Wonton crisps
  • Seaweed
  • Wasabi.

To add color and crunch, consider cucumber, edamame, pickled jalapeños, macadamia nuts, radishes, shredded carrots, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes. For a fabulous finishing touch, drizzle with spicy mayo, ponzu, shoyu, or hot sauce.

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