Tuna Poke

After months of watching Poke become the new darling of Instagram foodies in the States, I am thrilled that the trend has finally hit Cape Town. No, I am not talking about the awkward feature on Facebook, but the Hawaiian fast food that has been all over your Instagram feed recently.

While native Hawaiians have been enjoying Poke (Say it with me- POH-keh) for centuries the versions reaching South Africa have more of a fusion influence, drawing from cuisines and influences the world over, including ingredients like pineapple, Korean bulgogi, jalapeños and crumbled nachos.

In my opinion Poke, is best eaten when mixed and rested for a short period. Leaving the cubed fish to marinade for anything longer than 30 minutes will saturate the delicate flesh with sauce, overpowering its delicious natural flavour. Traditionally served simply with a soy dressing, and aromatics, in road side cooler boxes and supermarket deli counters throughout Hawaii, you can understand why its come to be known as the epitome of Hawaiian “fast” food.

Should you wish to prep your ingredients in advance make up the sauce, cube the fish and prep your remaining toppings. Once nearly ready to serve mix the sauce and fish together and allow to marinade as per the recipe instructions.

The essence of a great poke bowl lies in its simplicity- the freshest fish you can find, a well balanced sauce (not too sweet or salty), crunchy elements and rice. So use my recipe as a guide before adding your own unique flair to the dish. Take a peek at the chefs note at the end for alternative topping suggestions!


Serves 2


300g Sushi Grade tuna ( I get mine from Willoughby & Co)
1 1/2 cups seasoned sushi rice (buy from your local sushi counter or see the recipe below), or a mix of wild and brown rice ( I use Tastic and follow the packet instructions)
4 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 small red chilli
1 small clove of garlic
Lime, zest 1/2 teaspoon and a squeeze of the juice (optional)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
80g steamed and podded edamame beans
3 radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 an avocado
micro greens for garnish (optional)
Pickled ginger (optional)


Cut your tuna into roughly 1,5 cm or bite sized cubes. Mix together the soy, sesame, honey, chilli (add this to your preference), spring onions and sesame seeds. Using a microplane add a small amount of garlic until the sauce has a mild garlic twang- the amount added will depend on your personal preference and the size of your garlic clove. At this stage you can include the optional lime zest and juice. Add your fish cubes to the sauce and mix the ingredients together. Taste your fish and add more soy, chilli or sesame oil as you see fit. Set the fish aside for 5 minutes while you slice your radishes into thin 1mm rounds.

Place 3/4 of a cup of ready made sushi rice into each bowl and flatten it slightly. Arrange the tuna on top and scatter over the radishes and edamame. Arrange thinly sliced avocado alongside the fish with your pickled ginger. Pour over the remaining marinade, toss the fish together with the rice and enjoy!

While not traditional I like to drizzle my poke with Japanese sushi mayo, with a bit of added lime zest or Sriracha sauce mixed in. Japanese mayo (Ask for Kewpie Mayo) can be bought in most asian supermarkets, Pick and Pay or ask your local sushi counter for a small portion.


To make an optional pickled ginger rose:
Lay similar sized rounds of ginger in a line, each new piece over lapping the last slightly. Starting at one end of the line start to roll the ginger petals over until they form a rose.

Poke Bowl Variations using the tuna and sauce recipe above
Sub the edamame for lightly pickled red onion or cucumber, shaved radish and avocado
To the sauce recipe above add a squeeze of lime and orange juice (to replicate the taste of the japanese citrus yuzu) before tossing the tuna through. Serve it with crispy fried jalapeño slices and cubes of fresh pineapple. Drizzle over sushi mayo mixed with spicy Sriracha sauce



2 cups sushi rice

2 cups water

4 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons mirin


Rinse the rice 3 or 4 times.

Place rice in a strainer to drain for one hour.

While rice is draining, combine vinegar,sugar, salt and mirin together in a bowl and mix well until the sugar dissolves.

Add rice to the pot and cover it in just enough water to submerge the rice before bringing it quickly to a boil. Once boiling reduce the rice to a simmer. This means the water should be just boiling, with small slow bubbles.

Once the rice is on to simmer cover the pot with a well fitting lid and set a timer for 13 minutes- correct timing is crucial here. It is really important here not to remove the lid while the rice is cooking. After 13 minutes remove the rice from the heat and allow to stand with the lid on for a further 10 minutes.

Remove the rice from the pot and place into a large mixing bowl.

Sprinkle the seasoning mixture onto a spatula over the rice, while waving the spatula back and forth. Using a slicing motion with the spatula, gently separate the rice grains while mixing in the seasoning. Fan the rice while mixing it to help it dry.

Sushi rice is best used at body temperature.

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