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Don’t let fast-food fish get you down — try poke bowls!


Bitt24 | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 04/02/19

This native Hawaiian dish is perfect for meatless Fridays.

Meatless Fridays get more difficult as we move into late Lent. Maybe it’s because we can see the end of Lent coming or perhaps we’re just sick and tired of these fried fast-food fish fillets, but the outcome is the same: we can’t eat another bite!

Thankfully, there’s a new dish stirring up our Lenten Fridays — poke bowls. Poke — sometimes stylized poké — is the Hawaiian word for “to cut or to slice.” Poke bowls are a Hawaiian dish featuring diced raw fish served over rice with vegetables and a variety of sauces. Each bowl is a different mix of fish and veggies, making each meal a unique experience.

In Manila, Philippines, where Hawaiian food is very popular, Holiday Inn has been offering a poke bowl bar since 2017, when they wanted to come up with an unorthodox meal for those in observance of Lent. Lady Bess Howe, Holiday Inn Makati’s director of communication, told ABSCBN news:

“Guests loved it and asked if we can extend it. Last year, we tried a la carte bowls but we thought it was bitin [a special promotion]. We decided to bring it back to the buffet, and this time, for the whole weekend.”

Half the fun of poke bowls is that you make them yourself, as at a salad bar. Poke bars typically offer sashimi-grade tuna and/or salmon with a choice of white or brown rice, vegetables, and fruits. The flavor is mainly carried by the fresh fish, but more flavor is added with sauces, of which some of the most popular are soy, the pineapple-based Hawaiian sauce, ponzu vinaigrette (made with an Asian citrus), sriracha mayo, or even Korean sweet-and-spicy sauce.

US statesiders are going wild for poke bowls, too. Mark O’Meany, from California’s Long Beach Post, went on a tour of his local poke bars and was thrilled with all of them. The delight he found within the bowls inspired him to write this entertaining review:

“When the yellowtail touches your tongue it melts. An equivalent sensation to this disappearing act are Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnuts; but instead of sugar heaven you taste oceanic paradise. Poseidon himself would roll back his eyes in sheer pleasure at the taste of this yellowtail. “The marinades at Poke Pola are next level. Their sauces are described as ‘This monkey’s gone to heaven’ and ‘The floor is lava,’ and can only be described as a volcanic eruption of flavor in your mouth.”

Are poke bowls the latest and greatest culinary addition to Lent? Well, they’re certainly a lot healthier than a fried fish sandwich. Try a poke bowl on your next meatless Friday, or any day of the week. Give it a try and let us know what you think!

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