The Poke dish has hit Americas’ hearts and tongues with a lot of interest, leaving many with questions surrounding this exquisite cuisine. What exactly is Poke? Why now? As we explore Poke’s allure we delve into its influence on America’s growing demand for fresh and healthy foods and the economic impact it has on the globe.
Food & Wine magazine refer to poke as “raw tuna salad”, but what truly is it?Looking past this you’ll get to understand that it’s so much more than that. It may seem frivolous, but food is a way of life in Hawaiian culture. The Hawaiian islands in the middle of Pacific Ocean with soils influenced by active volcanoes has shaped the culture resulting in the state’s ethnic diversity in the food landscape from fish to algae and even crops. This has resulted into the indigenous native Hawaiian culinary heritage with over hundreds of mouthwatering menus; topping the list our favorite Poke dish. “Poke” from Hawaiian tongue means to cut crosswise into pieces’ is actually pronounced as POH-KAY. In her book The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii’s Culinary Heritage, Rachel Laudan, a food historian, describes Poke as “a local creation , melding existing Hawaiian taste for raw fish with the existing Asian, particularly Japanese taste for the same, but coming up with a new synthesis”. The Poke trend has certainly put Hawaiian cuisine in the lime light!
Hawaiian Poke is simply a perfection of culinary art consisting of cubed raw ahi(tuna) with a dash of shoyu (soya sauce). The tuna could however be complimented or replaced with octopus, tofu, shrimp, scallop or salmon mixed with chili paste, limu which is a vitamin packed algae, rice crushed kukui nuts avocado, sesame oil and green onions. Pokes can be served raw, fried or marinated depending on your taste and can be found nearly everywhere from cafes to casual and fine dining restaurants. Served as a single course meal or better yet with wine, you are set into an experience of exploring Hawaiian culinary heritage first hand.
With advice from expert chefs Al Cobb Adams and Andreas Bravo from Hawaii, it turns out that it’s both surprisingly easy and yet challenging to prepare. Before preparation, you’ll need the following ingredients;
(1) RICE: rice is the first layer of the Poke Bowl, it counterbalances the fishy taste of the Poke that is raw. White rice(which may be swapped with brown rice) is recommended, seasoned with rice vinegar and sea weed or chopped kombu. According to Bravo, for a high quality Poke bowl, use short grain Japanese sushi rice.
(2) FISH: fresh fish is the most essential ingredient of a Poke Bowl. The fresher the fish the better the Bowl. The most common fish used in the islands is ahi tuna or yellow-fin tuna but the best option according to Cobb-Adams is Blue-fin tuna. One should consider the following while choosing fish: – smell; fresh fish should have a light smell
– Color; fresh tuna should have a bright crimson red color
– Texture; fresh fish should be firm to the touch
Cobb-Adams recommends fatty fish and strongly advises against use of frozen or farm-raised fish.
(3) THE CUT: first cut the fish into fillets and then cubes and then salt the fish using sea salt or Hawaiian salt. The cube size depends on your personal preference.
(4) POKE SAUCE AND GARNISHES: Bravo recommends the use of fresh soy sauce and a few other ingredients to keep it as simple as possible. Cobb-Adams on the other hand is daring and recommends that you can make endless customization’s to suite your taste buds. For a spicy Poke blend chili peppers with Hawaiian sea salt and a little olive oil until it turns into a paste. Mix the paste with mayonnaise and unagi sauce to taste.
Put the cut cubes of ahi into a bowl and sprinkle sea salt to taste. Add soy sauce or ant desired sauce and toss it enough to coat the freshly cut cubes. Put a scoop of rice into a single serve bowl and then pour the season Poke over the rice thus creating a mound. Garnish and do the final touches. Sprinkle furikake seasoning to the bowl. Enjoy immediately when the Poke is cold and the rice is hot.
The popularity of the poke dish has crossed over the seas all the way to the mainland of America’s continent. America’s palate for Asian cuisines has evolved over the last few decades starting with Chinese and then Japanese. Now it has reached as far as Thailand, Korea, and the Philippines. It’s therefore quite obvious that the Hawaiian cuisine which is influenced by most of the aforementioned Asian cultures will slowly grow in popularity. The cuisine is not only gaining popularity but Hawaii has become a culinary destination with American chefs with Hawaiian descent working in major restaurants such as MW Restaurant and Vintage Cave. With this popularity, the financial sector in global food choices has seen results in American shifting into this new cuisine. Poke is already hitting it big in Los Angeles and many Poke spots are emerging in the New York City dining scenes. In Los Angeles these spots include
(a) Mainland Poke
(b) Sweetfin Poke
(c) Ohana Poke Co.
(d) Poke Bar
(e) Poke Stuf
Eater LA recently reported that many restaurants have been converted into Poke specialty eateries. Pokeworks and Sons of Thunder are also available in Midtown East.
While sushi costing $15-$20 and nothing less, most Poke Bowls range between$10-$20. The bowl trend is is hitting the eatery scenes and isn’t slowing down any time soon. The wall street journal recently documented bowls’ as the new plates.
For those concerned about health, its raw fish that’s packed with many proteins, healthy fatty acids and important sea minerals that essential for normal body functioning. Wisefish that recently opened in Chelsea gives you the nutritional option to choose:
– A base that includes rice or zucchini nodules for the carbohydrate conscious
– A protein
– A variety of toppings such as sea-weed salad, crab or fresh cucumber.
If you have unrelenting love for seafood, then the Poke Bowl is definitely the cuisine to try out!