If you’re not familiar with poke (pronounced PO-kay), it’s about time you learned what this Hawaiian staple is. Not only because it’s becoming increasingly popular on the mainland, but because it’s delicious, versatile, healthy, and just might become one of your new favorite foods.
Poke is essentially a salad made with cubes of raw fish (poke actually translates to “chunks”). At its most basic, it’s small cubes of raw tuna tossed with some soy sauce and wasabi, but the possibilities don’t stop there. Any raw fish can be used, as well as cooked octopus, crab, or even avocado, and popular variations include shoyu (ahi tuna, sesame oil, soy sauce, onions, and chile pepper), Hawaiian-style (ahi tuna, salt, onions, seaweed, and roasted chopped kukui nuts), and spicy ahi (ahi tuna and a spicy mayo sauce with tobiko). It’s also increasingly being served alongside or atop rice as opposed to on its own.
While poke was difficult to find outside of Hawaii up until just a few years ago, nowadays the poke market is booming, and new restaurants specializing in the treat are opening regularly from coast to coast. You can find great poke at 167 Raw in Charleston, at Suzume and Noreetuh in New York, Big Daddy’s Poke Shack in Venice, California, Big & Little in Chicago, Laid Back Poke Shack in Salt Lake City, and Motomaki in Boulder.
The poke craze is only beginning, and shows no signs of slowing down. If a restaurant that serves poke isn’t open yet in your neck of the woods, just wait, because odds are one will open soon, or a restaurant will add the item to its menu. The fact that more and more people are becoming comfortable with eating raw fish combined with the dish’s versatility, simplicity, and healthiness all converge to make for one of those foods that are going to be popular for a long, long time.