When I lived in California, one of my favorite things to do was pack a picnic (and a bottle of wine) and settle in on the beach to watch the sunset. Though I rarely felt like battling L.A. traffic to get to the beach, I was always glad I did once my toes hit the sand and I could smell the ocean.
While I far preferred the rustic beauty of the beaches in Malibu, I often settled for Venice Beach for a few reasons. A.) The people watching is really entertaining, B.) It was the most direct drive from where I lived on the east side, and C.) Poké Poké. The latter is a tiny walkup window on the boardwalk that serves – you guessed it – poké. If you’re unfamiliar, poké (pronounced poh-kay) is a raw fish salad, kind of like sushi in a bowl, that’s served as an appetizer or main course in Hawaiian cuisine.
Poké Poké has this incredible veggie poké bowl that, to me, was the perfect beach food. It’s super fresh and flavorful with familiar, yet exotic-tasting ingredients. Think kale, brown rice, carrots, avocado, green onion, sesame dressing, and even jalapeño. I’ve missed my poké beach days since moving back to Chicago, so I was really excited when I saw a recipe from Bon Appétit that used marinated watermelon to create a colorful, vegan version.
Of course, I had to make my own to see if held up to the real thing. This vegan watermelon poké bowl is delicious – and maybe even better than what I used to order at the beach. Once marinated, the cubed watermelon really does look like raw tuna, but don’t worry. It’s sweet and savory and not a tad bit fishy. It just adds a nice pop of color to your bowl, and it’s super refreshing on a hot August day.
If you want to keep this recipe gluten-free, swap tamari for the soy sauce and double check your wasabi is gluten-free.
For the watermelon poke
- 2 cups watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp. sesame oil
- 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
- 4 scallions, finely chopped (pale green part only)
- ¼ tsp. agave nectar
- ½ tsp. rice vinegar
For the bowl
- 1 cup cooked brown rice
- 1 Persian cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1 medium carrot, shredded
- 1 avocado, thinly sliced
- Pickled ginger
- Sliced fresh jalapeño
- Crushed red pepper
- Macadamia nuts
- Sliced green onion
- Wasabi mayo (2 Tbsp. vegan mayo + ¼ tsp. wasabi)
- Place the watermelon cubes in a gallon sized zip top bag. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, scallions, agave, and rice vinegar. Adjust flavors to taste, and pour the marinade into the bag. Squish the bag around to coat the watermelon and set in the fridge to chill for at least four hours, preferably overnight.
- When ready to serve, add a half-cup of brown rice to the bottom of two bowls. Remove the watermelon pieces from the marinade with a slotted spoon and divide between the bowls. Garnish with sliced cucumber, shredded carrot, avocado, and your desired toppings. Drizzle with Sriracha or wasabi mayo. You can also pour some of the marinating liquid atop the bowls for extra flavor. Enjoy immediately.