From the Hawaiian sea to our metropolis: we love pokè bowls

One of the advantages of the interculturality of our large cities is that of being able to have international culinary experiences while staying in the streets of our cities, perhaps during lunch breaks with friends or office colleagues. So between an English brunch, a burrito and a sashimi, here is the food trend of the moment with the pokè bowls: tasty rice bowls from the magnificent Hawaiian sea and its tropical vegetation. The pokè (pronounced pokay) is a symbolic dish of the Polynesian islands, where the first local populations lived mainly on the catch of the day. Pokè literally means "cut into pieces" and this was in fact the way the fishermen of the island used to consume the marinated fresh fish: inside bowls together with boiled rice, vegetables and fresh fruit, seasoned with sesame or soy sauce. In the early 2000s, this poor, but very nutrient-rich dish of the Hawaiian tradition spreads to the USA, California and goes all the way to Europe and Italy. With the landing in America and Europe, the pokè bowls are enriched with ingredients unrelated to Hawaiian cuisine such as avocado, mushrooms, cucumbers, caramelized onions, sauces and yogurt dressing (and often also calories!).

From a nutritional point of view, pokè bowls can be considered a complete dish (unique) and balanced in terms of macronutrients and rich in micronutrients. Let's see why! 


The basis of this dish is rice boiled in lightly salted water, a source of complex carbohydrates, fiber and vitamins. To enrich the bowl with nutrients, we can think of replacing polished white rice with Venus, Hermes or Basmati rice. Alternatively, we can use brown rice or other whole grains; need longer cooking, but add insoluble fiber and vitamins such as magnesium and zinc. The choice of these cereals is preferable because they have a lower glycemic index than white rice. Furthermore, being easily digestible, they make the dish not too heavy. 

To help us correctly dose the quantity of rice, let's fill just over a quarter of the bowl (140 g cooked rice).


Poké are often made up of fish such as tuna, salmon or blue fish, marinated or raw. This provides the dish with a protein source of essential amino acids, B vitamins, important for bone development, and minerals (calcium, iron, iodine and phosphorus). Fish is a source of omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids such as EPA (ecopentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic), important both for the control of the inflammatory state and for the maintenance of our nervous system. For vegetarians and vegans, an alternative could be to replace fish with legumes (soy, chickpeas or beans) or with spiced tofu cubes! We fill a quarter of our bowl with these dishes. Attention: be sure, even when you prepare your pokè at home, that the fish is fresh and has undergone proper killing. 


The fun and colorful part of this dish lies in being able to indulge in the combination of the vegetables we like most, preferably raw: they give a greater sense of satiety and preserve their nutritional characteristics. Peppers, courgettes, carrots and cucumbers color our pokè together with the fruit (cubes of mango, papaya or avocado). We can try adding dried fruit, such as nuts or sesame, which is also an adequate source of essential fatty acids (be careful not to overdo it, however, it also has a lot of calories!). In addition, we can enrich our bowl with algae such as wakame or nori, which need to be soaked before use. The latter, called super food, add minerals and useful substances such as glutamic acid to our dish.

As for the doses, we can fill more than half of the bowl with vegetables. 


The original pokè is not a highly caloric food, precisely because the condiments inside it are very few: sesame and lemon oil for marinating. With cultural contamination, especially the Japanese one, we started adding soy sauce or tamari to the dish (pay attention to the high sodium content of these seasonings, which do not make it an ally of our health!). In the "pokeries" of our cities there are instead condiments such as mayonnaise, dressing or caramelized topping, which however add calories to the dish and remove it from its original recipe. So it is better to use lemon juice, sesame oil or, why not, a good extra virgin olive oil! To give an extra flavor we can try adding spices like pepper, chilli pepper or ginger. 

These colorful bowls, from exotic countries, can therefore be included in a healthy and balanced diet. It is a complete dish, to be eaten for lunch or dinner, and source of all the macro and micronutrients necessary for a balanced meal. The average portion of a pokè is about 300 grams. 

Below an idea of ​​how to compose a tasty pokè:


(for two people) 

  • 140g venus rice 200g salmon 
  • 1 avocado 
  • raw vegetables to taste (peppers, cucumber, carrots, spring onion) 
  • Sesame seeds (or thain cream) 
  • pepper
  • lemon 
  • virgin olive oil 

Once the rice is cooked, you can choose to marinate the salmon with lemon and oil separately or add it to the rice and season. Cut the vegetables, avocado and add them to your home made pokè bowl and sprinkle with pepper and sesame seeds.

By Sara Paola Mambrini

    Translated by Arianna Giannino

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    Sections Health & Wellness Nutrition


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