The Beer Lover’s Table: Salmon Poke and Hitachino Nest White Ale

What is it about January and uncooked fish? This time last year, I was making ceviche. And today, I’d like to introduce you to poke.

Poke (say “po-kay,” not “poke”) is of Hawaiian origin, traditionally a dish of marinated Ahi tuna, sweet onions and seaweed, sometimes served over rice. In recent years, it’s spread from Hawaii to California, from California to New York, and now overseas, its recipe evolving to include different varieties of fish, grains and vegetables along the way.

If ceviche delicately zings with citrus, then poke is brawnier, intense with umami, dripping in soy sauce and sesame oil. This version is a riff on the traditional, with additions like edamame (which adds textural variety and pretty pops of green), avocado (which contributes creaminess), and Sriracha mayo (which makes pretty much everything it touches more awesome). I opted for salmon in place of tuna, and I served my poke heaped on seasoned sushi rice. NB: If you’re the kind of sushi obsessive who balks at preparing it yourself, then simple-to- make poke is for you.

I don’t think there’s a better beer in the world to go with this poke than the fantastic, perennially underrated Hitachino Nest White Ale. Beautifully clean and delicate, floral on the nose, and flickering with orange and spice, this Japanese take on witbier is perfectly executed. Its subtlety, its mouthfeel — which is somehow both fizzing with carbonation and lightly creamy — and its brightness were made for the dinner table. Take that, Dryanuary.

Salmon Poke
Serves 2-3 as main courses or 4-5 as appetisers

For the rice:
250g sushi rice
3 tbs rice vinegar
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt

For the poke:
4 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp sesame seeds
300g sushi-grade, skinless salmon (approximately two fillets)
1/2 sweet white onion, diced
1 red chilli, finely sliced
250g shelled, cooked edamame (defrosted if frozen)
1/4 cucumber, very finely sliced
2 scallions (green parts only), finely sliced
1 avocado, cubed
Sriracha mayonnaise, to taste*

First, prepare the sushi rice: rinse the rice under running water for approximately one minute, or until the water runs clear. Add the rinsed rice to a lidded saucepan with 330ml water and bring to a boil. As soon as the rice has begun to boil, put the lid on and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the saucepan from the heat - keep the lid on - and let sit for 30 minutes.

While the rice is resting, mix together the soy sauce, sesame oil, lemon juice and sesame seeds in a medium-sized bowl.

Prep your salmon fillets by cutting them into large, approximately 4cm cubes. Add to the bowl containing the soy sauce mixture along with the white onion and chilli. Stir, until the salmon pieces are well coated in the mixture, and leave for 5-10 minutes.

Once the rice has rested for 30 minutes, remove the lid and season with the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt, mixing gently. Portion the rice out on the plates and divide the marinated salmon mix between them. Divide edamame, cucumber, scallions and avocado between each plate, arranging haphazardly. Finally, top with a few dollops of Sriracha mayonnaise. Serve immediately.

*Bottled Sriracha mayonnaise is sold at many Asian grocery stores. If you can’t find it, though, it’s easy enough to make your own mixture if you have some Sriracha sauce to hand.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen. And swing over to the shop or the online store for Hitachino Nest White Ale - and pick up some Huy Fong Sriracha Sauce while you're at it..