How A Top Chef Makes The Perfect Vegan Poke, Full Of Color & Texture

From Sheldon Simeon.

How A Top Chef Makes The Perfect Vegan Poke, Full Of Color & Texture

Sheldon Simeon is the chef and owner of two restaurants in Maui and a two-time Top Chef fan favorite. His debut cookbook, titled Cook Real Hawai’i, is a sort of culinary love letter to all the cultures and cuisines that are present in Hawai'i today, including his own Filipino background. This "Garden Poke" is a vegan and gluten-free twist on the traditional dish, which is made with raw tuna, inspired by his restaurants and local produce.

At Lineage, we had these cool rolling pupu carts that my dad welded together from scrap metal. The inspiration was that, like at our house, as soon as you sat down, you were already eating and drinking. I originally wanted to offer little bowls of poke off the carts, but apparently the health department frowns on raw fish circulating around an outdoor dining room in the tropics.

So, instead, we used all the wonderful produce we’d been getting from farmers on Maui and put it through the lens of traditional poke. The more we played around with the dish, the more we loved the idea of a poke that was completely vegan but also captured the spirit and soul of the original.

Any and all root vegetables work great for this dish. The key thing is to roast them long enough so they soften but don’t turn mushy; you’re roughly aiming for the texture of raw tuna, after all. Adding uncooked vegetables like shaved radish, onion, and cucumbers provides freshness and crunch. Snap peas would work well, too.

Here I like to use tamari instead of shoyu. It’s made only from roasted soybeans instead of a blend of soy and wheat, and it has a robust earthiness that goes well with roasted vegetables.

Reprinted with permission from Cook Real Hawai’i by Sheldon Simeon and Garrett Snyder, copyright © 2021. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography copyright: Kevin J. Miyazaki © 2021