My husband and I went to our local Safeway to buy some frozen tempura shrimp to make sushi at home. Right next to the shrimp, I caught 2 Annasea poke bowl kits and that sparked my interest right away. I was also hesitant about buying a poke bowl from the frozen aisle of a Safeway…as you probably are too…and that’s why you’ll find this Annasea poke review very helpful =)
When I think of authentic pre-made Asian food, Safeway is quite possibly the last place I would expect to have good quality….anything. Most of what they call “sushi” is nothing but wet, mashed rice with fake surimi (fake crab) and a smidge of avocado half-rotted.
But now what about these Annasea poke bowls? Are they legit and tasty or nasty like the store’s sushi? Hmmm….do I dare invest $20 and play guinea pig for everyone…hm…raw fish from a grocery store makes me nervous. But instant “authentic Hawaiian style” poke anytime without any prep work sounds pretty nice.
*Buys 2 flavors to try out*
We live in Seattle in the Pacific Northwest so it’s nice being near so much great seafood. When my family makes our poke bowl or DIY our own sushi we go to a reputable local fishmonger to source our sashimi-grade fish. But if we didn’t have a fish market nearby…these Annasea poke kits would be awfully, awfully tempting.
I’m giving these a rating out of 10 (10 being perfect.) My expectations coming into this were LOW so take that into consideration too. I also purchased 2 different flavors in both tuna and salmon and they tasted drastically different in every way so I rated them each accordingly.
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Table of Contents
Annasea Poke Bowl Kit: Value
I mean the price isn’t bad. They were $10 per box at my store, your store (Safeway, Target, Walmart, etc.) might vary. The box says 12 oz per box – but that’s not all fish. It includes the packaging and sauce too.
OK, we make sushi at home frequently enough I can tell you the per pound of tuna and salmon (in our region) off the top of my head.
Sashimi-grade Tuna (Maguro) Pricing:
- Cheap-end tuna (usually sourced from Indonesia pre-cubed or mashed and vacuumed sealed) are $9 per pound.
- Tuna (fresh maguro) on average is $23 dollars per pound.
- If you want the good stuff (like toro or belly) – it goes up to $50-$60 per pound
I just had to weigh out how much of the 12 oz in Annasea’s poke kit was actually fish…7.75 oz. That’s almost half a pound of raw fish…which was actually better than my lowly expectations of food poisoning whilst being robbed.
The salmon poke kit I got looked about the same too so I think Annasea portions these out equally across the board.
Sashimi-grade Salmon Pricing:
- The lower end is $10 per pound for the usual H-mart/Asian grocery kind.
- Fishmonger will have theirs from $14 to $16 depending on the breed.
- Premium grade salmon (like the King Ora breeds) is $23+ per pound.
So is Annasea a value buy? Nope. But I didn’t think it was going to be so really I give it a flat-out average rating. I ate one box with some salad and rice, it was a good, filling enough meal. I didn’t feel robbed. It was about the same price as if I had gone out to get myself a poke bowl from a nearby shop or cafe.
Annasea’s Ahi Tuna: (7.5/10)
Annasea’s Spicy Salmon: (7/10)
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Annasea’s Poke Bowl Kit: Fish Quality + Taste
I’ve been a broke college student craving cheap, cheaaaaaaap sushi buffet fish before. I’m talking $11.95 all-you-can-eat sushi & sashimi in a dingy crappy Stockton restaurant…which doesn’t taste very fresh but I knew nothing back then. Broke college girls’ gotta eat.
These days we always go for the good stuff: fat tuna belly and king Ora salmon, mmmm! We’ve also been to a few fancy-schmancy, reservation-only Japanese sushi restaurants…so I can say I’ve tasted both highs and lows.
Annasea’s closer to the lower end.
You know the pale off-red color the tuna has? It means the water content is higher to increase the weight (which means you’re paying for less fish.)
I think the Annasea ahi tuna is half a grade better than the cheapest quality tuna I’ve had in my life. But the Annasea salmon is the same quality as the cheapest, worst quality sashimi salmon I’ve had.
If you have a local Asian grocery store, you can probably find the same pre-cubed, vacuum-packed fish that was in Annasea’s poke kit. I think H-mart had it for about $10/lb in both mashed and frozen cubed varieties. But if you don’t, Annasea’s wasabi ahi tuna is pretty decent fish considering it came from a kit.
The ahi tuna is not as tasty as Costco’s wasabi and it’s about the same price (Costco $19.99/lb poke) but we also live much closer to Safeway than Costco.
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Fish Taste + Quality Rating:
Generally, I like salmon more than tuna so my standards for salmon will naturally be more strict than tuna. I take texture, taste, color, and freshness into consideration. 10/10 fish grade would be what I consider a well-done Japansese sushi restaurant instead of a poke restaurant (where toppings and sauces change the taste of fish too much.)
Annasea’s Ahi Tuna: (6.5/10)
I was surprised at my first, unmarinated bite of ahi tuna. Not much of a fishy taste and fairly neutral all around. There wasn’t that much “water” in the fish to dilute the flavor and the texture was nice. Maybe my expectations were low but it was pretty good for what it is.
Annasea’s Spicy Salmon: (3/10)
The salmon…uh…it was very fishy. (Sorry Annasea!) It tasted like salmon you buy from a grocery store that isn’t sashimi-grade and they didn’t bother to trim it properly. The texture was stiff – and there wasn’t a light sweetness in what you find in higher-grade salmon. There was no buttery texture or taste. I know it’s frozen Safeway poke…but…texture and quality-wise, it’s nowhere as good as the Annasea’s ahi tuna. I’m actually surprised the color is nice and bright…because it doesn’t taste it.
Annasea’s Poke Bowl: Sauce + Seasoning:
You know Annasea’s packaging got me…they said “AUTHENTIC” “HAWAIIAN” poke bowl? Oooo-realllyyyy marketing department?? Challenge accepted. Not many Americans know this but “traditional” Hawaiian poke doesn’t usually have any soy sauce; a type of salt is used instead.
Annasea’s Ahi Tuna: (8/10)
Ooooh yum! Not soy-based, LOADS of sesame oil and sesame seeds. Not overly salty or grainy, omg this is actually tasty and like the packaging says…Hawaiian style! :O
I’m a happy camper, oh Annasea you…
Annasea’s Spicy Salmon: (2/10)
What in the hell is this cat vomit? Annasea what did you do to this salmon poke recipe? WHY DOES THIS TASTE LIKE MAPO TOFU SAUCE?! With a tinge of bitter aftertaste….BITTER aftertaste!!!! Nooooo. It’s not sriracha, there is NO way in this universe they have sriracha in there. That’s a marketing lie. It’s chili oil…and not good chili oil. The only thing it delivered was the spice level, a pretty good spice. But everything else about it was bad. Maybe they know the salmon’s bad quality and trying to cover it with a strong sauce.
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Assembling Our Poke:
The preparation takes a little planning, we let it thaw overnight. But after it’s thaw, it’s as simple as dumping it into a bowl, dump the sauce packet over, stir, and boom! Done. You can add to it, of course, I think it’s natural to haha.
Hubby and I threw together a bowl with a few ingredients on our hands to pimp out our shared poke bowl.
A few “supporting ingredients” that you shouldn’t miss even if you have the avocado and cucumber: fried onions (flavor/texture), fried garlic (crunch texture), and red onions slivers (zing & flavor!)
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I did not expect these 2 to be so different in terms of rating and taste. Obviously, their tuna was much better than the Annasea salmon. I think Annasea’s wasabi tuna is a good buy, especially if you don’t live near a fishmonger or poke shop. The ahi tuna’s poke sauce is really tasty which was the big selling point because I do think it is authentically more Hawaiian. I sadly can’t say the same about the Annasea salmon, which is akin to cat vomit.
Annasea’s Ahi Tuna: (7/10)
Would rebuy if we’re in a pinch and if I had a craving for ahi tuna poke. I am really surprised that this was actually decently good!
Annasea’s Spicy Salmon: (2/10)
I would never repurchase this, for all the reasons above: cheap fish, and confusedly bitter.
P.S. you can find my beautiful poke bowls in this poke review on Amazon.