Listed on several top ten trend lists for 2016, poke is an Hawaiian staple seen in fine restaurants, food trucks and local diners for generations. Usually made from yellowfin (ahi) tuna, poke is the latest global food poised to become a fast-casual craving. Poke’s bright, fresh flavors recall the familiarity of sushi, and appeals to health conscious consumers yearning for something light. When it is served with wonton crisps as it is in many restaurants, poke can be the next level, healthy version of chips and dip. And investors all over the country are banking on poke bowls to be the next taco of the fast casual market. Costco stores in Hawaii and L.A. have consumers lining up for their fresh poke bars – it’s only a matter of time before Costco’s in the East will be poke purveyors as well. With all of that in mind, here is some basic poke know-how:
Pronunciation: pok-eh or poh-kay
Origin: Depends on whom you ask. Some locals believe poke was born before Captain James Cook discovered the Hawaiian islands; others believe it to be after. Either way, it was a dish that home cooks depended on and slowly made its way into supermarkets, restaurants and eventually catapulted to cult-status by the “King of Poke”, chef Sam Choy’s rendition.
What is it: Literally meaning “to slice or cut,” poke is raw fish cubed and tossed with kukui nuts and seaweed along with a variety of acids, oils, cubed avocado and finely sliced vegetables. There are three traditional kinds of poke, each made with ahi:
- shoyu (soy, sesame, green onion)
- limu (algae and kukui nuts )
- spicy (tobiko which is flying fish roe)
TOP REASONS POKE IS NOTHING TO “POKE” AT
- No stove or oven required – Poke is a raw dish as are it’s accompaniments or garnishes making it perfect for space-deprived food trucks and speed-driven fast casuals.
- Healthy = Fresh – Consumers want healthy and light but they don’t want to sacrifice flavor. Many consumers equate healthy with fresh. Poke checks all of those boxes.
- Customizable – As much as they try to live healthy, consumers want control over what is in their food. Fast casual poke spots give consumers the flexibility to create an ahi poke bowl with their favorite toppings while satisfying their health and flavor yens.
- “Bowls are the New Plates”1 – Bowls signify casual, fast, layering and one course meals that are easy for consumers. Poke bowls are the new bowl-ing.
POKE: ON A PLATE OR BOWL NEAR YOU
- BIG DADDY’S POKE SHACK (L.A.)
- FIREFIN POKÉ SHOP (coming soon to Chicago, spring 2016) – poke on purple rice, gluten-free noodles, lettuce cups and more.
- AHIPOKE BOWL (Scottsdale)
- WISEFISH (NYC) – doubly trendy with the option of zucchini noodles as the bowl base
- HOJOKO (Boston)
- SUPERSIX (Seattle) – offers choice of salmon, tofu and shrimp poke.
We expect anything that can be cubed to be “pok-eed.” Think vegetable pokes or steak tartare pokes. In the meantime, try our Soy Lime Drizzle over your next ahi bowl; it is bursting with Komi and our soy sauce powders. Prepare to be bowled over.