Beat the heat with poke, a Hawaiian raw fish salad. By Tan Hsueh Yun
Tortilla chips, salmon poke (top) and tuna poke (below). Photo: Azmi Athni / The Straits Times
It seems crazy to let the weather dictate what I should eat, but this happens all the time.
My diet is not monotonous either, because as you well know, it can be stinking hot in Singapore one day and thundering and rainy the next.
So on wet days, I have collagen hot pot, a recent discovery (yes, late to the game) that I cannot get enough of and, on the hot ones, I steer clear of broths of any kind.
Recently, while shopping for dinner at the supermarket, I decided I was just not in the mood to cook. It had been a hot day and the idea of marinating in sweat as I prepared a meal did not appeal.
So I went to the sashimi counter, got some salmon and made myself poke, which requires zero cooking. I had it with tortilla chips in front of the television, the fan at full blast.
Poke (po-kay) is Hawaiian raw fish salad. The word means “to cut” and refers to how fishermen use offcuts of fish to make a snack. It is easy to put together and has familiar and easy-to-like flavours: soya sauce and sesame oil, among others.
There are endless variations on the dish and the creative cook can put his or her own stamp on it.
The basic marinade includes soya sauce, sesame oil and chilli. In my tuna poke recipe, I add some lime juice for pep, avocado for creaminess and sesame seeds for aroma and crunch. This dressing can also be used for salmon, but I really like mixing cubes of fatty salmon with Japanese mayonnaise and bottled sambal oelek.
The chilli, garlic and ginger in the sambal are perfect with salmon, and so is tobiko, or flying fish roe, which pops so delightfully when you bite into them.
Poke can also be made with cut-up octopus mixed with kimchi and sliced cucumbers. The crunchy and chewy result makes it an addictive snack.
There are many ways to serve it too.
Poke bowls have been all the rage here. Bowls of cooked Japanese rice are topped with raw fish and garnishes such as seaweed, radishes and grated carrot.
I love using low-salt tortilla chips to scoop the fish out of bowls and plantain chips are great, too, if you can get hold of them.
Whichever recipe you choose, the most important part of the dish is the fish. Look for sashimi-quality salmon and tuna or risk food poisoning. They are easy to find in supermarkets and from online grocers.
During the 20-minute marinating time, which allows the flavours to meld, the poke must be refrigerated. Do not store it too long before eating. In the case of the tuna poke, the citrus juice will turn the fish mushy if kept too long.
Throw out any leftovers because the raw fish would have been sitting in room temperature for some time. Never put poke back in the fridge.
On a hot weekend, set out bowls of poke and tortilla chips, mix up a batch of margaritas or a pitcher of sangria and chill.
I cannot think of a better way to beat the heat, unless there is a bathtub full of ice to dive into.
RECIPE: HAWAIIAN RAW FISH SALAD (POKE)
Serves four as a snack
2 Tbs shoyu (Japanese soya sauce)
2 Tbs lime juice
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp honey
300g sashimi-grade tuna
2-3 stalks scallions, green parts only
1 small avocado
1 tsp toasted white sesame seeds
1 tsp toasted black sesame seeds
Tortilla chips for serving
1. Mix the shoyu, lime juice, sesame oil and honey thoroughly in a small bowl.
2. Rinse the tuna and pat dry with paper towels. Dice into 1cm cubes and place in a medium mixing bowl.
3. Finely chop the scallions and add to the tuna. Add the shoyu dressing to the tuna and scallions, toss to mix well and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
4. Cut the avocado in half lengthwise, remove the pit and skin. Cut into 1cm cubes. Remove the tuna from the refrigerator, add the avocado and sesame seeds. Mix well, spoon into a bowl and serve immediately with tortilla chips.
50g Japanese mayonnaise
1 1/2 Tbs sambal oelek
400g sashimi- grade salmon
50g tobiko (flying fish roe)
10g kaiware or daikon sprouts (optional)
Tortilla chips for serving
1. Mix the mayonnaise and sambal oelek in a small bowl.
2. Dice the salmon into 1cm cubes, transfer into a medium mixing bowl. Add the tobiko, kaiware and the mayonnaise dressing. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
3. Remove the salmon from the refrigerator, spoon into a bowl and serve immediately with tortilla chips.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 05, 2016, with the headline ‘Chill with Hawaiian raw fish salad’.