A Pile of Poké
I had never had poké until I moved to Los Angeles. I'm embarrassed to admit that I had never even heard of it until one day, after stepping in the elevator in my apartment building carrying a Shophouse takeout bag, one of my neighbors who jumped in with me said, "If you like Shophouse, you should check out the new poké place on Broadway. It's called Sweetfin. Their spicy tuna is really good! I've eaten there twice this week already!"
I never saw that neighbor again, but the encounter was enough to get me interested in this new food. I was intrigued. What was this "POH-keh" that sounded so good? And the spicy tuna. Was it like sushi? And if it's like Shophouse, does that mean the spicy tuna is in a rice bowl? I like sushi, and I like rice bowls, so I could only imagine that the two would be an incredible pairing.
One evening after work I decided to head over to Broadway to check out Sweetfin. I lived only a few blocks away, which was very convenient! Sweetfin is a small space, with only a few tables and community seating inside and some patio tables outside. You order at the counter, move to the left to pay at the register, and they call your name when your food is ready -- and will either bring it to you if you're dining in or hand you a to-go bag at the register if you're going the takeout route. During my first visit, the tables were all packed; and because I only lived a few blocks down, I decided I'd take my order to go.
To my excitement, the poké bowl was exactly what I imagined... Cubed fresh sashimi-grade raw fish, seasoned and marinated with bright sauces, and built on a base of your choice -- bamboo rice, a kelp noodle and cucumber salad, or a citrus kale salad -- and topped with a variety of ingredients that add extra spice, kick, and texture to the poké bowl.
Poké is a Hawaiian dish that's been around for hundreds of years. I was obviously very late to discovering it, but lucky for me, poké is becoming very popular on the mainland -- so I am finding more poké shops and more prepared poké in grocery stores around me.
My Favorite Poké Bowl
My first poké bowl was the Sweetfin spicy tuna signature, and it has been my go-to order ever since. The spicy tuna is tossed in a creamy togarashi sauce. Togarashi is a spicy Japanese seasoning made of red chili peppers, orange peel, seaweed, ginger, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds. (The first time I had togarashi was on crispy French fries at Humble Potato, and I've been in love with it ever since.) The spicy tuna is also sprinkled with hijiki seaweed and served with creamy chunks of avocado.
I like to get the spicy tuna poké piled on top of bamboo rice, which is a short-grain rice (like sushi rice) but green in color because it is infused with bamboo juice. (Health note: I read that this method of milling the rice with bamboo juice means that the rice retains the chlorophyll from the bamboo, therefore giving it some extra nutrients and B vitamins.)
But the toppings are where I get to give the signature bowl some personal flair. On top of the steaming bamboo rice and chunks of spicy tuna and avocado, I like to add bean sprouts, crispy garlic, wasabi peas, edamame, and seaweed salad. It gives the bowl an extra crunch, and the wasabi peas raise the heat level just a little bit more.
I get this combination every time I go to Sweetfin now. When I used to live only a few minutes away, I would eat a spicy tuna poké bowl every week. Now that I'm a bit farther away, I grab a poké bowl once every few weeks -- despite the fact that I crave poké nearly all the time.
I should probably try to learn how to make my own poké, but it's hard to justify all the effort when I know that Sweetfin is only a mile away.
Find the food!
Want more details on the food in my blog post? Check out the map and link below.
Sweetfin Santa Monica
*My neighborhood Sweetfin!*
829 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401
11 am - 10 pm
Visit www.sweetfinpoke.com for the menu and additional locations.