Years ago, before a Cardinal’s baseball game, I went to a cool restaurant here in St. Louis called “Pieces.” They have hundreds of board games and tons of great vegan food options. After perusing through their superb vegan menu, I settled on their Midwest Poke Bowl. The taste was so delicious and complex, but not complicated! I was blown away by how well the simple combination of flavors came together. Anyway, a few days ago, the Post Dispatch had a Poke bowl on the cover of their “Let’s Eat” section, and it brought back the memory of the delicious bowl I had eaten at Pieces. It seemed like the perfect time to make my own.
If you don’t know, Poke, pronounced “POH-keh,” is a two-syllable word that means “cut into chunks” in Hawaiian. The compressed watermelon replaces the traditional raw chunks of ahi tuna or octopus and is marinated and compressed in a delicious ginger sesame soy sauce. I used my vacuum sealer to compress the marinade into the watermelon. Why compress it? Because flavor, flavor, flavor is the key to this recipe! Compressing any porous food concentrates its flavor and adds a depth and dimension you wouldn’t get otherwise. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer or sous vide machine, you can use this method for compressing.
While some recipes use regular rice, I decided to use seasoned sushi rice with wakame or seaweed. I also topped the edamame with a Togarashi spice mix comprised of seaweed, orange zest, ginger, sesame seeds, and chili powder. The recipe is finished with sriracha aioli and black sesame seeds. It’s soooo yummy and healthy! One last thing! Be sure to make your watermelon and aioli ahead of time, as they needs time to sit and get happy!
This bowl is so delicious and satisfying. It’s sure to become a staple in your culinary repertoire!!!
***You will want to make the watermelon ahead of time, either the day before or at least 4-6 hours before use.
****To save time, aioli can and should be made ahead of time.
Compressed Watermelon Poke:
- 2 lbs of seedless watermelon, cut into 1” chunks
- 1 Tbsp Coconut nectar, (or other vegan sweetener such as agave syrup)
- 1” cube of fresh ginger, minced
- 1 whole lemon zested, and 1/2 juiced (should be about 1 Tbsp of juice)
- 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup liquid aminos (or other soy sauce)
- 2 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp black sesame seeds
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups sushi rice
- 1 tbsp wakame, or kombu (this is optional, but definitely builds the flavor profile)
- 1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp vegan sugar
- 1 tsp fine grain sea salt
- 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
- 1–2 Tbsp sriracha (depending on heat preference)
- 1 Tbsp lime juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- salt to taste
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/8” slices
- 1 red onion, minced
- 1 cucumber, thinly sliced lengthwise, (I used a mandolin set a 1/8″)
- 1 carrot, julienned (or, you can buy carrots pre-shredded)
- 1 cup red cabbage, shredded
- 10 oz bag edamame, cooked according to package directions
- 2 Tbsp Togarashi spice mix for edamame, (or, 2 tsp red chili flakes)
- French fried onions (optional)
- Black sesame seeds
- Lime, sliced into 6 wedges
- d all ingredients except the oils to a blender and blend on high speed until mixed well. Turn blender down to low speed and slowly add the oils until combined.
- Add watermelon to a vacuum bag and compress using a vacuum sealer, sous vide machine or the ziplock method. Compress watermelon and seal the bag. Refrigerate overnight or for a minimum of 4-6 hours.
- Rinse rice very well under cold water, until water runs clear, about 2 minutes. This step is essential. Shake until almost dry.
- Cook rice according to package directions. I used my Instant Pot to cook the rice, and it works well.
- Add wakame to rice and water before cooking. Again, this is optional but highly recommended.
- While rice is cooking, add rice vinegar, sugar, and sea salt to a small saucepan and cook on medium-high heat until the mix reaches a soft boil and sugar and salt have fully dissolved. (You can also microwave).
- When rice is done cooking, spread evenly onto a baking sheet and let cool—drizzle rice with sushi vinegar.
Combine all ingredients in a measuring cup and refrigerate until ready to use.
- When ready to assemble, remove watermelon from the bag and reserve liquid.
- Add rice to a bowl and divide watermelon accordingly.
- Add spice mix to cooked edamame.
- Divide avocado, onion, edamame, cabbage, carrots, and cucumber between bowls and drizzle with reserved liquid and aioli.
- Top with black sesame seeds, french fried onions, lime wedge, and scallions.
Keywords: Vegan Poke, Watermelon Poke