Poké is Hawaiian for “to slice” or “cut crosswise into pieces”. It is diced fish served as an appetizer or the main course and is a staple of Native Hawaiian cuisine. Traditionally skipjack tuna (aku) and octopus (he’e) are used. Poké began with fishermen seasoning the cut-offs from their catch to serve as a snack.
Food historian Rachel Laudan says that the present form of poke came about in the 1970s. It used skinned, deboned, and filleted raw fish served with Hawaiian salt, seaweed, and roasted, ground candlenut meat. This form of poké is still common in the Hawaiian islands. Traditional poké is a simple combination of cubed raw ahi with a bit of soy sauce, however, poké doesn’t necessarily have to be composed of raw tuna.
Other varieties of poké include octopus, tofu, shrimp, scallop, or salmon mixed with chili paste, limu (vitamin-packed algae), crushed kukui nuts, avocado, sesame oil, and green onions. While poké is delicious by itself, the ever-popular poké bowl includes white rice and is often accompanied by a generous amount of fresh veggies, sesame seeds, and seasonings.
Poké can be served raw, marinated or fried and can be found everywhere from food trucks and cafes to casual and fine dining restaurants. It was about 2012 when poké became popular in the United States.
The modern version is sometimes called a poké bowl and has the ingredients arranged in a grouped way rather than mixed. Variations may include avocado, ponzu sauce, teriyaki sauce, mushrooms, crispy onions, pickled jalapeño, sriracha sauce, cilantro, pineapple, or cucumber.
Unlike traditional Hawaiian poké, the mainland style is typically not pre-marinated but is instead prepared with sauces on demand. Most restaurants offer a build-it-yourself style of serving up poké.
The restaurant I go to is called Poké City, 2221A Peachtree Rd NE, Atlanta (404) 963-2338. I have included their poké bowl menu above. The shoyu sauces are great, I especially like the wasabi shoyu. I have also recently tried the poké bowls that are made daily in the Kroger sushi area. I was very pleased. There is a restaurant in Newnan, Georgia that I have already reviewed called Sushi Ken.
There are poké wraps, like the Ahi poké crunch wrap, and even poké nachos now. I saw a recipe that combines spicy sriracha mayo and raw albacore or ahi tuna for a fusion dish with a bit of a kick. Traditional toppings like cilantro, radishes, and avocados balance out the dish while jalapeños bring the heat.
- Shoyu is actually a 50/50 mix of soybeans and wheat. This mix brings a different flavor and level of color to a dish compared to regular soy sauce. It actually can be light, also known as usukuchi, or dark, known as Kikuchi. It all depends on the fermentation process.