Side Orders: Rhyme 'OK' and 'poke' for bouquet of flavors

The poke bowl at Stir is among the most-popular entrees on the lunch and dinner menu. (Photo by Anne Braly)
The poke bowl at Stir is among the most-popular entrees on the lunch and dinner menu. (Photo by Anne Braly)

Poke bowls have become a huge food fad since jumping the Pacific from their home in Hawaii a few years ago. They are now appearing on menus from Peoria to Palm Beach, and their popularity does not seem to be waning.

I had my first poke (pronounced PO-kay ) bowl in Daytona Beach, Florida, last year and since then have ordered one every time I see it on a menu. It seems that every one is different from another, except for one thing: They're all delicious.

photo Anne Braly

My most recent poke bowl was at Stir, and since that time, I've been twice and ordered it both times. It's just that good. At Stir, located at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, poke bowls come with ahi tuna served over rice with a variety of foods surrounding the mound of rice - sesame kale, slices of avocado, thin strips of cucumber and carrots, thinly sliced radishes and crispy ramen noodles. Ask for the miso dressing on the side, and you might even want to double that order.

Two Ten Jack at Warehouse Row makes poke bowls with tuna over rice, sesame chicharrom (strips of fried pork belly), apple slices and radishes. And Bonefish Grill at Hamilton Place serves its poke bowls with sesame-seared sushi-grade tuna over jasmine rice with avocado and mango salsa. It's wonderful drizzled with sweet chile sauce.

These are just a few examples of the variety of toppings that can be put into a poke bowl. For the most part, they are a light, healthy dish that's colorful and sure to catch the eye of nearby diners. But they're easy to make at home, too. Just use your imagination and be flexible, making them to suit your own taste.

Poke bowls are great for entertaining, too. Just like taco bars and potato bars, poke bowl bars provide fun for your guests. Set the ingredients - slices of avocado, shredded carrots, thinly sliced cucumbers, radishes, toasted sesame seeds, almonds, edamame and toasted almonds, for starters - on a table in bowls of their own, with one large bowl for each guest to fill with their favorite ingredients. Also, it's important to get the best fish you can find - salmon, tuna or steelhead trout are favorites. I would suggest visiting Whole Foods, Earth Fare or Fresh Market.

Pondering exactly how to poke? Try this recipe.

Poke Bowls

For the bowls:

3-4 cups sticky white rice, cooked

1 pound sushi-grade ahi tuna or salmon, diced

3 green onions, sliced


2 ripe avocados, diced

1 cup thinly sliced cucumber

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup shelled edamame, steamed

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced

4 tablespoons sesame seeds or toasted, chopped almonds

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Citrus Ponzu:

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Sriracha mayo:

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1-2 tablespoons sriracha sauce, or to taste

Splash of lime juice

Place the fish in a medium mixing bowl with the green onions, reserving a little bit of the green onions for garnish, if desired. Add some of the ponzu, reserving enough to pour over the rest of the ingredients when assembling the bowl. Add sesame seeds, mixing gently to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

If you let the fish sit for a longer time, the citrus in the ponzu will slowly "cook" the fish, which you don't want.

Sriracha mayo: Combine ingredients, mixing well. Season with salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

For the ponzu: Whisk ingredients well to combine.

To assemble: Put rice into serving bowls and top with desired toppings. Add extra ponzu and drizzle a bit of toasted sesame oil, if desired. Add the chilled tuna on top and drizzle with sriracha mayo. Makes 3-4 servings.

Celebrity chefs dinner

Chef Erik Niel (Easy Bistro, Main Street Meats) will join seven other award-winning chefs from around the South for an evening of good taste as part of the James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour to be held at the Jewelry TV event space in Knoxville on Thursday, Nov. 1, at 6:30 p.m.

The tour visits 20 cities across the country and begins with a cocktail hour followed by a multicourse meal with wine pairings. Following dinner, the chefs will appear for a Q&A session.

In addition to Niel, a two-time James Beard Award semifinalist, chefs participating in this leg of the tour are:

» Mark Davis, Connor Concepts Restaurants in Knoxville.

» Nasera Munshi, M Street Entertainment Group, Nashville.

» JBF Award winner Kevin Nashan, Sidney Street Cafe and Peacemaker, St. Louis.

» Christian Perez, City Pharmacy, Covington, Georgia.

» Michael Sullivan, Inland Seafood, Birmingham, Alabama.

» Levon Wallace, Strategic Hospitality, Nashville.

» Jeremy Waybright, Union Street Public House, Alexandria, Virginia.

Tickets start at $115 per person and can be purchased at Click on the Events tab and follow the links.

Pies for Peace

The Center for Mindful Living's Paths to Peace event, scheduled for Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre, will include a tasty element: Pies for Peace. It's a chance for folks to come together for a pie tasting with pies donated by area faith organizations: Bethlehem Wiley United Methodist Church, First Presbyterian Church, Church of the Good Shepherd, Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, Mizpah Congregation, Northminster Presbyterian Church, Olivet Baptist Church, The Quaker Society, Second Missionary Baptist Church, St. Luke's Methodist Church and St. Peter's Episcopal Church.

So come out and enjoy a piece of pie, bring the kids - there will be lots to do - and celebrate humanity and what we all, regardless of religion and political belief, have in common.

Contact Anne Braly at

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