When To Choose Tuna Vs Octopus For Your Poke Bowl

tuna poke bowl with avocado
tuna poke bowl with avocado - Olivia /Getty Images

Poke bowls have spent the past decade taking America by storm, where once you could only find them in Hawaii and the West Coast; today, every city worth its salt has at least a couple of poke places (it's traveled a long way from its Polynesian origins). And while poke has a lot of ingredients -- its customizability is one of its very best qualities -- any poke aficionado knows that probably the most critical component of the whole endeavor is the protein involved. You have a lot of choices here -- salmon, shrimp, maybe tofu -- but two of the most common (at least in Hawaii itself) are going to be ahi tuna (maguro) or octopus (tako).

But when should you use one versus the other? What does each bring to the table? Very different advantages, it turns out, not just from flavor but from a textural standpoint. Tuna will give you a much softer, more delicate flavor and texture, while octopus tends to be a bit stronger and meatier. Which you should use really depends on your personal preference and which flavors you want to prioritize.

Read more: 12 Underrated Types Of Fish You Should Try At Least Once

Tako Is Unlike Any Other Protein

bowl of tako poke
bowl of tako poke - Monica Harper/Getty Images

The first thing you'll notice about octopus is how visually striking it is. This isn't like rings of calamari, which hide the fact that they're tentacles; tako is clearly a tentacle and proud of it. This may put off a lot of diners who aren't used to their food looking so undisguised; this is why it's much more common to find tako poke in Hawaii than somewhere like Pittsburgh.

For those willing to try it, though, octopus is a rare treat enhanced by its texture rather than diminished by it. Tako tends to have some chew to it, but if it's cooked correctly, it isn't rubbery at all; its closest analog texture-wise is probably something like steamed clams. Its flavor, meanwhile, can best be described as primarily savory yet sweet, with a bit of umami thrown in for good measure. Because of this, it pairs exceptionally well with salty flavors and is often seasoned with soy sauce-based blends. In poke terms, this means it will go better with bolder flavors and softer textures that won't be overwhelmed by the punch tako brings to the table (avocado is an excellent choice here on both counts).

Tuna Is The More Common Poke Protein

poke bowl with tuna and octopus
poke bowl with tuna and octopus - Yuriy T/Getty Images

Though tako poke may be hard to find in many places (especially farther from the coasts), the same can't be said of ahi poke. Tuna is probably the classic poke protein, both because it's so visually striking with a bright red-pink color -- poke is a dish that tends to involve feasting with your eyes -- and because its mild yet distinct flavor and slightly meaty yet delicate texture plays well with pretty much everything. There's really no bad situation to use tuna in poke; unlike perhaps octopus, there's virtually no common poke flavor with which it won't mesh. You can use it in either a strongly flavored poke or a milder one, and it'll go great in both situations.

Here's the secret, though: Nothing is stopping you from using both tuna and octopus in your poke bowl simultaneously. Though the two proteins certainly have different strengths, they also don't interfere with each other, and a poke bowl with both of them isn't going to suffer clashing flavor issues. So feel free to experiment because that's the beautiful thing about poke: What you put in it is up to you.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.