What better way to celebrate Hawaii Statehood Day than to eat a poke bowl.

No, it’s not food you poke with a stick. It is pronounced Poh-Kay meaning to cut crosswise into pieces. Waikiki, Hawaii, is known for its diverse cuisines influenced by the Japanese, Asian and Hawaiian cultures.

Seafood is everywhere to be found, why not? It’s an island in the middle of the largest ocean in the world. So, cutting raw fish into small pieces and mixing them with green onions, avocados, a little sesame oil and soy sauce just comes naturally.

I bet they never dreamed how popular this dish would become. But it didn’t take long for it to spread to mainland United States and become a national food trend.

When I first heard of poke bowls, I told my wife, “what’s the big deal, it’s sushi in a bowl.” I learned quickly it was more than raw fish in a bowl.

My dear wife, of course, wanted me to make it for her, but she had some rules. I said to myself, “here it comes.” She wanted me to make it without raw fish and be sure it has vegetarian protein. Also, make a scratch dressing that has an Asian taste to it. “Anything else, Darling?”

My wife loves sushi, so why no raw fish? I was up for the challenge, so I gathered bell red peppers, cucumbers, green onions, carrots and celery. I sliced everything julienne, which is about 2-3 inches long and ¼-inch thick. I cut a fresh avocado in larger slices and drizzled it with lemon juice so it wouldn’t turn brown. I placed all the ingredients in a deep round soup bowl, not mixing, but stacking each vegetable group individually around the bowl. I roasted a cup of edamame beans and placed them in a small cup in the center.

It was looking pretty good!

I took a mixing bowl and added 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup Mirin (Japanese sweet wine), a cup of fresh orange juice, salt and pepper to taste, and mixed well. You will have some left over for another time. I only drizzled enough to wet the vegetables and beans and served it to my wife.

Wow! That looks great!

Where is the raw fish? For a moment I was really surprised, then it hit me and she started laughing. She gets me all the time even though it’s been more than 42 years! I never know what to expect, which is a good thing.

This particular day she wasn’t in the mood for raw fish, and it opened the door to a great food trend in our house hold.

You can use anything to make a poke bowl because there are no hard and fast rules. Use whatever vegetables are in season, add anything you like, such as cashews, tofu, canned beans, tomatoes, Sashimi or cooked shrimp.

Now, when someone says to you, “have you ever eaten a poke bowl?”, don’t laugh, just act sophisticated and reply, “It’s pronounced Poh-Kay, and I prefer mine without Ahi Tuna.” Then recite the procedure I gave you on creating a poke bowl … you will become an instant celebrity of food among your group of friends. Also, remind them how healthy it is with all the fresh ingredients and no processed anything. I promise, I will keep your secret. Enjoy!

Costa Magoulas is dean of the Mori Hosseini College of Hospitality and Culinary Management at Daytona State College. Contact him at (386) 506-3578 or magoulc@daytonastate.edu.

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