Poke-Inspired Beet Bowl

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Poke seems to be everywhere these days, from fine restaurant menus, to fast-casual and even food trucks. Chefs are coming up with clever combos and creative reinterpretations – even fish-free versions for the veg set. I knew had to take a stab at it. Or at least a poke. Sorry.

For those of you hearing about poke for the first time, this fresh and tasty dish (pronounced POH-kay), hails from Hawaii. In its most unadulterated form, poke is raw fish, originally combined with sea salt, candlenut and seaweed. It evolved over the years as ingredient availability increased, and the salt was replaced with soy sauce, the seaweed with spring onion, the candlenut with sesame and so on. Once it hit mainland America a few years ago, poke mania ensued and the dish evolved to become more of a meal – not just a snack. Now it is often served atop rice and garnished with all manner of innovative ingredients. Fully-focused poke restaurants have established themselves in major cities across North America. Many of these eateries allow their patrons to customize their bowls with veggies, sea weed, pickles, beans, nuts, and alt-grains, tapping into the to the fact that fast, fresh, healthy meals are becoming mainstream. Which totally rocks.

I had most of the elements for my own poke-inspired version in my head…except for the fish (the most important part?). I racked my brain to come up with something that looked just like tuna or salmon, but didn’t want to use fruit, like watermelon or papaya, since I didn’t want the dish to be sweet. It wasn’t until I was trying to fall asleep one night, that it came to me…chiogga beets! Chiogga, or candy-striped beets are gorgeously two-toned when they are raw. Sliced thin horizontally, they reveal rings of deep pink pigment and creamy white, resembling something that your grandmother keeps on her coffee table in a crystal dish. But for anyone who has ever roasted these stunning creatures will know that the magic doesn’t last; the magenta bleeds into the white during cooking, resulting in an almost homogenous pale pink, with slight variegation. WHICH LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE TUNA. I almost couldn’t sleep. Too excited.

The next day I gathered up all the things I’d like in a poke bowl: short grain brown rice (not long grain – an important distinction), spring onion for bite, carrot for crunch, edamame for pop and protein, and avo for creaminess. I took this last one a step farther and blended it with lemon and wasabi for the most boss sauce ever. This alone would be delish on most things…please try it. And for the fishy component, I thought back to the raw vegan “tuna” I made for my first cookbook, and how effective adding a sprinkle of nori was to boost that fresh-from-the-sea flavour. This is not a deal breaker for the overall dish, but it definitely made it taste complete. If you can’t find nori flakes, just crunch up a couple sheets of the stuff that you’d use to make sushi. Easy fix!

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I like to use wasabi powder in the avo cream since the pre-made stuff in a tube is questionable. Have you ever read the ingredient list on one of those packages? It can be scary stuff. In a pinch, use it, but tracking down the powder is worth it from a nutrition standpoint, and also a flavour one. The real stuff tastes infinitely better! What a shocker.

Wasabi is Japanese horseradish, and like its western counterpart, it belongs to the Brassica family, like cabbage, broccoli and mustard. The root is dried and then pulverized, which gives us the powder that we can blend with water to create wasabi paste. It is a difficult crop to grow, which explains the high price for the genuine product. Most wasabi powders don’t contain any wasabi at all, but are instead a mix of mustard powder and regular horseradish mixed with green food dye. A high-quality wasabi powder should be organic and contain only horseradish and wasabi. The colour should be pale green – not disco neon. Most health food stores carry wasabi powder. This is a good brand.

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Everything unfolded just as I’d hoped it would. The beets came out perfectly pink with those thin white stripes that look just like fat striation. The marinade that I tossed them around in was acidic and ginger-y and just plain yum. Building the meal up with the rice, the beans, the veggies, a dollop of cream, a sprinkle of nori and roasted sesame, was ever so satisfying and fun. This healthy, fresh meal is calling you. No need to poke about, just make it. Again, sorry.

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I’m on my last few days of I just ended the North American cookbook tour. Honestly, it’s been just magical and I am so grateful to all of you who came out to show some love and connect with the healthy community around them!

All love and smiles,
Sarah B

Show me your bowls on Instagram! #mnrpokebowl

34 comments

  1. tanveer

    I cooked this dish yesterday and I am in love with it. I can’t wait to cook this for my family now. Much thanks for sharing this recipe.

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  3. Grace

    Made it for this week’s meals! Yummy and looks beautiful! The best thing I’ve eaten for a long time! Thank you Sarah! You’re amazing!

  4. NTI School

    I love Beets!! My husband and his dad think I’m strange. I’ve also never heard of poke before. This looks so good I can’t wait to try it. I now have poke on my radar.

  5. Alex

    So cool! Love that you MacGyvered vegetarian tuna – it looks absolutely delicious.
    Thanks for sharing that nori sheet trick 🙂

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  7. Samantha of You Look Attractive

    I also tried poke with a little variation in the ingredients. I ordered it in a local restau here in California and I requested mine to be Vegan (no fish, yes!; sorry devoted vegan here). It has kales, avocados, some cashews, and seaweeds. It was fab! The chewy taste of seaweed with cashew nuts are amazing! I tried to offer my friend a spoonful of it but she refused since it has seaweed on it. For me, it was really good but well, not everybody can appreciate it.
    Thanks for sharing your recipe by the way, I might try making this one for some family gathering.

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  10. Omigy

    I first thought that this was about tuna when I looked at the picture. I had to look at it twice before I confirmed to my own self that it was beetroot. Well done. I must try this.

  11. Lynna

    GENIUS! I’ve seen the watermelon poke and always thought it was an interesting and good substitute, but I love that your recipe is using a vegetable. It looks perfect!

  12. Dorota

    Wonderful. Thank you.
    Sarah, how about some yuzu? I feel like a strong citrus flavour would work well here. Sure, the beets beets are tossed with lemon juice. It. could be interesting to experiment with other citrus options.

  13. Kathleen Gasperini

    I can’t believe this looks like poke from Hawaii! I’m going to try it this weekend. Wasabi…yum. Great to meet you finally Sarah! It’s Kathleen from LA!

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  17. Gabrielle

    Ha! Where I come from, “poke” is short for pokeweed, which has beautiful deep purple berries that are extremely toxic, as every child learns at a young age. So my first thought was “How strange to make a bowl inspired by those toxic berries–but okay!”

  18. Marieke

    I can’t get over how much those beets look like fresh tuna! And that sauce, yum! Trying this as soon as possible, thanks Sarah! I hope you’re having the best time on your book tour!

  19. Hannah

    Sarah, you are so brilliant! After coming back from Hawaii last year I’ve been obsessed with Poke, however the environmentalist in me shuddered. Now I have the best substitute! Can’t wait to try 🙂

  20. Amanda

    This looks delicious…and beautiful! I’m thinking about making it this weekend for my weekday lunches. Have you tried storing the avocado cream? Did it turn brown? (seems like it would.) Perhaps I’ll make one avocado’s worth at a time.

  21. Kankana

    This is just so so creative. Striped beetroots does look exactly like tuna! How could you not get excited 😀 Now am excited to give this a try.

  22. nettelie

    Oh. my. god. You are a GENIUS! It’s a shame I already did all of my grocery shopping for the coming week – I need to make this ASAP!

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