I've never been to Hawaii, not even back when the main ingredient in its national dish, poké, was part of my diet. So now that poké shops are everywhere, I have to confess that I don't have a point of taste comparison when trying to think up a vegetarian version.
Thankfully, Honolulu-based food writer Martha Cheng has done the research for me, and in The Poke Cookbook she features a chapter of plant-based takes on the snack that use such ingredients as fiddlehead fern, tofu, mango, carrot and pineapple. But it was the combination of beets and macadamia nuts that I knew I'd try. The beets, ruby red and glistening, are a ringer for tuna, brings the taste of the ocean. Vinegar, sesame oil, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes all do their thing, and the nuts add a dose of fat and protein to the mix.
3 medium stem-on beets, scrubbed
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (green parts only)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more as needed
1/4 to 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, toasted unsalted macadamia nuts
Trim the beet stems, leaving about 1cm intact.
Place the beets in a metal steamer basket set in a saucepan filled with an inch of water.
Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Steam until the beets are easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes.
Uncover and let cool.
Trim off the ends of the cooled beets. Working under cool running water, rub off the beets' skins and discard. (You might want to wear food-safe gloves to prevent staining your hands).
Cut the peeled beets into 2cm chunks, then place in a stain-proof mixing bowl.
Add most of the scallions (reserving some for garnish), and the vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes and salt.
Fold gently until thoroughly combined. Taste, and add more salt, as needed.
Serve right away, or cover tightly and refrigerate for up to a day. Just before serving, sprinkle the poke with the reserved scallions and the macadamias.
Recipe adapted from The Poke Cookbook, by Martha Cheng (Clarkson Potter, 2017). It's available from Loot.co.za for R231. Click here to purchase
The Washington Post