Ever heard of Pokē? No, me neither until just last week. This is the latest trend on London’s street food scene, having recently been brought across the pond from California thanks to Pokē – a new foodstand trading with Kerb streetfood and definitely one of my new absolute favorites. Pokē, pronounced Poh-Keh meaning “to slice or cut” is the Hawaiian answer to sushi; given that I am a self-confessed raw-fish fanatic, this is all I’ve been able to think about since I first heard of it.
Pokē is a mix of raw marinated fish using both salmon, ahi tuna or a market special fish, along with a mix of fresh pickles, black rice and wakame seaweed salad. Given that the name itself means to slice or cut; you can imagine that the way everything is prepared is very important to the success of the dish. The fish of your choice – when I visited I chose the ahi tuna – is cut into small cubes; the way it is cut allows the texture and freshness of the fish to really come through. This is placed on a bed of perfectly cooked black rice which added a really nice texture, but to my surprise had been cooked together with a little garlic which added a good punch of flavour.
Then came the wakame seaweed, carrot and edamame salad. Whilst I love the texture of seaweed, which is often soft and delicate, others often are less keen on it; however, for those who don’t like the idea of seaweed, fear not, each of the elements in the salad is perfectly dressed and provides a really strong crunch and balance to the overall dish. A multitude of different pickles is placed on top, not only adding the most incredible array of colour to the dish, but an acidic kick and freshness. You can tell each of the pickles is freshly made; none of them have the overly strong acidic taste which pickles often develop when they sit around. Each of the vegetables is cut slightly differently and is pickled in a different way from one another, so with every mouthful you get different combinations of flavours, which really does make the dish an absolute pleasure to eat and leaves you wanting more.
Along with your own choice of fish and basic pickles, you are also given a choice of extras – pickles and mayos to really pimp your Pokē. I chose Kimkchi because it’s another of those flavours that is highly addictive, to the point that whenever I see it as an option on a menu it’s very hard to say no to. Importantly, however, like the other pickles, it was not overly strong because whilst it does have an addictive flavour it can be overpowering. Finally, I chose the wasabi mayo as the final element to my perfect Pokē which was the milder option of the two. The other mayo on offer was a sriracha mayo and whilst I do love a hit of chili in most of the dishes I eat I wanted to try the pokē in as natural a state as possible this first time.
Another reason I absolutely loved this food stall was the people behind it. Thankfully when I went, it was a little quieter and I was able to talk to Guy who is the man responsible for bringing this dish into the lives of Londoners. Given that I was trying to make my own pokē for the blog, one of the main issues I asked him about was where he found the wakame seaweed (I couldn’t find it when I made the recipe so I used spring greens which worked really well). However, Guy told me they just use the dry version and reconstitute it, but he is currently in contact with some seaweed farmers down in Cornwall to try and get fresh seaweed, which I can imagine will only bring more flavour to the dish. Similarly, he told me that whilst he loves all the ingredients they use, because they are so fresh, he particularly loves the salmon because, not only is it incredibly fresh but it is also incredibly local. This is what I love about food markets as a whole; not only do they do the most fantastic things with the ingredients they have, but they work hard to make sure their produce is as locally sourced as possible and combining international inspiration and fresh British produce can only be a good thing as far as I’m concerned. I love that Pokē want to show people that it is possible to do something different with fresh British ingredients and that made me enjoy their food and their ethos all the more.
As with any dish involving raw ingredients the quality has to be the best, but I especially loved the balance Pokē has managed to achieve. None of the flavour of any singular ingredient is lost and all you get is fresh ingredients working perfectly together in harmony to give you a spectacular finished dish. I implore you to go and see them to try it for yourself. You will not be disappointed.
How to find Pokē: Kings Cross/ West India Quay, check the Kerb Website for full details : http://www.kerbfood.com
300g sushi-grade salmon
100g black/ white sticky rice
200g spring greens
100g sesame seeds
mirren rice wine
First make your pickles, slice the radishes as thin as you can or you could use the slicer attachment on a food processor if you have one. Then, in a small bowl, mix equal parts of the sugar and rice vinegar and leave the radishes to sit in it for around 10 minutes. I found that this still means the radishes will be crunchy but will have taken on some of the acidity from the vinegar.
While this is happening, take the skin off your salmon with a filleting knife, or you can ask your fishmonger to do it for you. As mentioned earlier it is very important that the salmon is of the highest quality; in my experience, while it might be ok to ask at a supermarket fish counter, they often don’t recommend using their fish for this kind of thing for safety reasons. It is better to go to a local fishmonger because they will know more about their product and you will get a better dish overall. I got mine from The Chelsea Fishmonger http://www.thechelseafishmonger.co.uk
Then slice the salmon with a very sharp knife into strips or cubes. Make the marinade: in a small bowl mix 4tbs of soy sauce with 2 tbs of mirren, this balances the saltiness of the soy sauce with sweetness from the mirren. Leave the fish to marinate for as long as possible before serving.
Put the rice on to boil for about 10 minutes, or according to the packet instructions. While the rice is boiling put the sesame seeds in a dry pan to toast, you will get a much more intense nutty flavour, but make sure you watch them closely as they burn really easily. Toss or stir them occasionally to ensure an even colour.
Once everything is marinating and the rice is cooking, take the spring greens off the stalks, rolling the leaves up to look like cigars, then slice them across into tiny ribbons, peel and slice the avocado and finely chop the chili and coriander.
When all the elements are ready, season to taste with a dressing made up of more soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and lime. Then all that is left to do is to put it all together in a big bowl garnish with finely chopped chili, coriander and sesame seeds and get stuck in!
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