Photography by Tracey Creed
Assisted by Amandine Paniagua
Recipe by Amandine Paniagua and Tracey Creed
Words by Tracey Creed
Published June 1 2019
Updated November 21 2019
Rinse and drain rice in a fine-mesh sieve several times until the water runs clear. Place the rice and 2 cups of filtered water in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until rice is tender and the water has absorbed, around 18 - 22 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, to prepare the tofu, combine the remaining tofu ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Drain tofu and pat dry between a clean cotton tea towel and cut into cubes. Place tofu to marinade for 15 minutes or so.
Heat a little sesame oil in a large saucepan, place the tofu in a single layer, pour over remaining marinade. Pan-fry the tofu until golden. Before turning; the underside of the tofu should be golden-brown. It’s okay if it gets a little stuck. Continue frying until all sides are browned and crispy, occasionally shake to evenly coat the tofu from all sides. Remove from heat and set aside.
To assemble divide rice among bowls or separate into containers and top with remaining ingredients. Since these bowls are eaten either at room temperature or chilled you can serve immediately or if for meal prep, these poke bowls will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
This is a poke bowl inspired by Ha Poke, Ponsonby, not Hawaii, delivered by Uber Eats on rare nights where I could not, and my partner could not be bothered throwing a meal of any sorts together. This is our version for when there is a bag of edamame in the freezer. Originating in Hawaii, a poke bowl is like a cross between sashimi and a healthy salad, including a raw fish protein and anything from rice, noodles, avocado and kale. Custom sushi, if you will. Except there is no fish here, opting instead for plants, from the land, from the sea. And although one food writer once referred to tofu as ‘blubber’, once you know how to properly cook tofu it’s not such a big departure. The flavours are just as bold, the food makes for the most delicious eating and it’s satisfying.
This is somewhat of a guide on how to build the perfect plant powered poke bowl. Start with a sushi rice base allowing the greens to be driven by the season. And so this is an always-in-season bowl, with equal pantry, fridge and freezer ingredient requirements. We’ve made ours with organic tofu, cubed and mixed with sesame oil and tamari, a little garlic and lot of fresh ginger. The rice is prepared with dried seaweed, a few vigorous shakes of brown rice vinegar, topped with bok choy, crispy pan-fried tofu, kimchi, edamame, avocado and a lot of spring onion and sesame seeds. You could do this, or some variation on this and add whichever else you’re feeling. These poke bowls make for a balanced nourishing lunch, dinner, or anywhere in-between, it makes about four meals worth. Batch cook it and live the high life all week long. It's perfect for meal preparation, a strategy I use often myself for throwing together quick, nourishing meals in no time. It is something that I really believe in. I think people want to eat real food, they are aware of the power of food. I feel that we are grasping for health, a higher state of wellness, and education.
Yet, culturally we have perpetuated this idea that we are too busy to prepare food, time is viewed as a negative status symbol, and that sort of language does nothing more than to reduce food preparation to a chore. Exploring the complex relationship between the marketing of fast and convenience food, competing marketing strategies are suggestive we require a fast food culture because of time poverty. And that is the intention. We are sold pre-prepared, highly processed packaged foods, convenience ready meals that are implemented to support marketing objectives or economic efficiencies at the expense of everything else. Microwavable rice for example. And if we were, to be honest with ourselves, we could do better than to compile meals from composite packaged parts. It is wasteful. And that narrative is embedded in every conversation about feeding people, conserving natural resources and ensuring a healthy nation, for keeping our food system within ecological limits.
And it is nothing new, much like veganism and avocado on toast, Frances Moore Lappés’ ‘Diet for a Small Planet’ first published in 1971 was the first major publication to note the environmental impact of meat production as wasteful, as a contributor to global food scarcity. On a personal level, I see the benefits of eating food that isn’t over processed, food that’s hardly processed at all. And I don’t think meat will go away but I do think the centre of the plate will be plants, needs to be plants. The United Nations’, ‘Towards a Great Food Transformation’ criticised unsustainable food systems and urged people to shift towards plant based diets, and that in a statement named meat “the world’s most urgent problem.”
Then there were responses like this piece published by Quartz, suggestive that if the entire US went vegan it would be a public health disaster. Currently, obesity in the United States represents a public health crisis more serious even than the opioid epidemic and while this represents a complex public health issue, if the United States were to go vegan, yes Americans would be forced to “more carefully consider their diets to ensure they did not become deficient in these important nutrients,” that is kind of the point. And so how we engage in these conversations with others must be based on our values; not our feelings and not our uninformed opinions. I think an understanding of food and its consumption, the role of nostalgia, rituals and gender in food in everyday life are required for there to be any significant shift in protein from animals to plants.
I think this shift starts with consuming with intent. And that was what we wanted to share here, to create the resources that would enable anyone to prepare nourishing food to share, to encourage others to think about plant-based food in new ways and to challenge current perceptions around sustainable living. So we connect through food. Late 2016 we created a weekly tradition of our own, sort of like the Sunday roast, instead, we focus on the life-giving nourishment - and it is on Tuesdays, our dinners. We love the ritual of a standing date. It is about everyday cooking with everyday foods, we cook for one another, recipes that are tested and shared between friends to eventually be shared here or standing favourites that can be prepared in under a half hour. Most weeks it is us five, myself, Ed my partner, our friend and housemate Loic with Amandine and her partner Benoit, and other nights anywhere between a plus one to a gathering of ten. When friends know that there’s an open door and a great meal awaiting, they’ll make their way over. Nothing brings people together like a great meal. We keep the timing around half seven, eight it is flexible. It doesn't actually matter what time dinner is served, just make it at regular intervals and let the tradition grow.
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