The poke bowl obsession hit me pretty early into my LA trip. While usually all I can think about are tacos and SugarFish when I’m on the West Coast, a little shop in Santa Monica won my heart and stomach, and would not let me go until I had tried every single one of their condiments.
Alright, so that last part was self-imposed and was by no means a result of the pushy staff at Sweetfin Poke, though they were all fabulous people who showed no judgment when I ordered my salmon poke bowl with three out of five sauces on the side.
For those of you whom I lost at tacos, here’s the deal. Poke is a Hawaiian specialty that’s a combination of diced raw fish and various Japanese-influenced seasonings. Really, it’s not all that different from a tartare. In bowl form, the fish is served over rice. And at Sweetfin Poke, because it’s Santa Monica, you have the option to add all sorts of glorious healthy hedonist toppings like kale, crushed taro chips, and fried garlic.
Usually mix-in joints prey on my FOMO, and Sweetfin was no different. Before I knew it, I had added the toppings listed above, along with the requisite avocado and a half dozen other Farmer’s Market vegetables. I worried that my bowl would arrive weighing as much as my Westbound suitcase (not light), and/or that it would cost me as much as checking said luggage. But instead, Sweetfin portioned out each ingredient to give me the variety, without the heft, and the bowl that was placed before me looked like it belonged to an average-sized human. Have I mentioned this place is MAGIC?
After this first experience was memorialized (kind of) via snapchat, I knew I would have to go back to try all the other types of fish-sauce-veg combinations. But when I returned, all I wanted was the salmon with spicy ponzu sauce again, and again. And again.
Needless to say, the rest is history. I came home, went into poke bowl withdrawal, took charge of the situation, and here we are.
When I got back to my kitchen, I was psyched to finally get my hands on some Spring produce. I left in the sad Farmer’s Market climate of cabbage and potatoes, and somehow seeing all the colorful stalls in California didn’t feel like as much of a novelty. Those people are spoiled.
To add even more color to this salmon poke bowl recipe, I decided to quick pickle some radishes and multi-colored baby carrots. This process is incredibly simple. (I think I learned it years ago from the Momofuku cookbook.) Just toss your veggies with salt, rice vinegar and sugar (if you so choose), and stir every few minutes until they’ve begun to release some liquid but still have a nice crunch.
My ponzu sauce is a very simplified version of the Japanese condiment: just lemon juice, gluten-free tamari (I like this brand), and sliced serrano chiles for heat. You can add a dash or two of sriracha if you’re feeling wild. And if you have mirin on hand, a tablespoon will get you into more authentic territory. Very sadly, my bottle did not make it through the #SpringPantryPurge!! Sigh.
I used sushi rice, which somehow never comes out perfectly for me on the stovetop. If anyone has tips, let me know! If not, a rice cooker may finally make the Hanukkah list. Had I been in the hoarding mood, I would have picked up some Lotus Foods bamboo rice, which is what they use at Sweetfin. It has a green tinge to it and makes for an even more beautiful presentation.
One quick note: don’t dress the fish until you’re ready to eat, otherwise the citrus in the ponzu will turn it into a ceviche. This isn’t a terrible thing, especially if your raw salmon is of questionable quality (not something I recommend, guys). It will change the texture though, so be warned.
Another note to my carboholic Jewish friends: though it might not be as intuitive a choice as a sandwich or slice of pizza, this poke bowl is hitting you just in time before the week of matzoh commences. I highly recommend spending all your leavened brownie points on it (and a few brownies) while you still can.
In other poke bowl news, I’m a total addict now, so expect lots more raw fish, rice, and condiment combinations coming your way soon!
From one healthy, So-Cal-loving hedonist, to another,
Salmon Poke Bowls with Pickled Radishes, Avocado and Spicy Ponzu
- 1 cup sushi rice
- 1 bunch baby carrots about 3 medium, diced
- 1 bunch radishes about 5 medium, diced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ¾ pound salmon cut into ½-inch cubes
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 1 avocado thinly sliced
- Black sesame gomasio optional, for garnish
for the sauce
- 1-2 serrano chili peppers depending on how much heat you can handle, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup gluten-free tamari or soy sauce
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons water
- In a fine mesh sieve, rinse the sushi rice under warm water until it runs clear. Place in a small saucepan with 1 ½ cups water. Allow to sit in the water for 15 minutes. Then bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and rest for 10 minutes. Then fluff with a fork and divide between 4 bowls.
- Meanwhile, combine the carrots, radishes, garlic, vinegar, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Let sit, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 15 minutes.
- Mix the ingredients for the spicy ponzu sauce together in another small mixing bowl. Add the salmon and cilantro; toss to combine.
- Divide the salmon, pickled vegetables, and avocado between the bowls, arranging each in its own quadrant. Spoon the remaining ponzu sauce over the poke bowls (or serve on the side), and garnish with black sesame Gomasio, if using.
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