Poke Bowls: What exactly is a poke bowl?

Poke bowls are popular all over the world but they are relatively new to New Zealand. So what exactly is it?

The Hawaiian Dictionary definition of poke is “to slice, cut crosswise into pieces, as wood or fish” and is pronounced POE-kay. The poke we know is a dish that the fishermen would prepare after returning to shore. They would chop (poke) the offcuts in to chunks and add salt and limu, a type of seaweed. Essentially, it is the Hawaiian version of Japanese sushi.

According to Sam Choy, an expert on Hawaiian cuisine, “By the early 90’s a number of creative Island chefs, both professional and amateur, were improvising with basic poke, taking it to new levels.” He and a friend, Gene Egar even started the Sam Choy Poke Festival, which is still held every year.

In his food trucks he serves both raw and cooked fish and even poke tacos and burritos! He says of the recipes in his book, Poke, “Some of them call for chopped tofu or vegetables instead of raw fish. And why not? Hawaiian culture is inclusive. Poke is also delicious over rice or noodles, tumbled into salads, folded in to burritos and lumpia, molded into patties and loaves, and even flash fried or lightly seared and served as a complete meal as poke bowls.”

Today the poke bowl has evolved to include many Japanese and Korean flavours. Soy, sesame oil, pickled ginger, gochugaru peppers and nori used with salads and sauce, served on a bowl of sushi rice. While a traditional poke bowl is raw ahi tuna you can adapt it to whatever fresh fish you have. You can even have Polynesian coconut ceviche or a delicious vegan bowl, like we have at Aloha Poke.

There are many recipes online if you want to try to make one at home. Here is a great one from Sam Choy himself. You could serve this on a bowl of sushi rice with some edamame, avocado and sriracha kewpie mayo. https://www.kcrw.com/culture/shows/good-food/recipe-sam-choys-hawaiian-style-poke