What makes a good poke bowl? This is a loaded question with endless answers. The definition of poke has evolved from a simple dish consisting of carefully cubed pieces of marinated fish and rice to bowls consisting of all sorts of flavorful additions. Sometimes a base of greens or noodles serves as a base with proteins ranging from fresh ahi tuna to salmon and beyond. Next come toppings like avocado, edamame, mango, cucumber, pickled ginger, sesame seeds or a sprinkle of furikake, all before the sauces give the bowls the finishing touches. Despite this, you can drizzle with wasabi mayonnaise, eel sauce or citrus ponzu, the condiment that remains unmatched is soy sauce – just be sure to give it a taste before pouring.
Mostly salty, soy sauce can also be quite complex. Full of umami, it can have a slight sweetness accompanied by a bitter side, depending on the variety and even the brand. Given its potential for such varied nuances, it is wise to get into the habit of tasting soy sauce before using it. This is a good rule to follow whenever you’re using the condiment to season dishes, but it’s especially important with poke because raw fish can be quite delicate. By tasting the soy sauce beforehand, you will be able to better assess its salty taste and overall intensity to understand how the flavor of the fish (and its accompaniments) will be impacted. Of course, this can also prevent you from making the mistake of over-seasoning a poke bowl.
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Start with the right sauce and use it to properly season the poke
Since there are many different types of soy sauce, it can be difficult to determine which one is ideal for seasoning. Generally speaking, light soy sauces are a safe bet. Unlike darker versions which are thicker and sweeter due to longer fermentation periods, lighter sauces have a brighter, more acidic flavor, ideal for raw fish. Keep in mind that the variety of fish may play a role in choosing the right soy sauce, as oilier fish may stand up to a tangier condiment, while mild fish may require an equally mild white soy sauce. (shiro shoyu).
With the right, high-quality soy sauce, the next part of the puzzle is knowing how to use it. After tasting it, you might be tempted to start basting the dish, but don’t do that unless you are about to enjoy the dish. Since soy sauce can cure fish, it is wise to pour in small amounts and gently mix the ingredients for better dispersion. This will ensure a pleasant contrast of flavors and textures. Taste between mixtures, adjusting the amount of sauce to your liking. Designed as a flavor enhancer, remember that soy sauce is not the main ingredient, so avoid completely saturating the bowl.
The bottom line is this: let your palate be your guide when sipping poke bowls. Keeping an eye on the flavor progression is the only way to ensure that soy sauce elevates rather than detracts from your dish.