As poke (pronounced poh-kay) shops continue to pop up around the country, and up-and-coming chefs redefine the food from their homeland, Hawaiian cuisine continues its culinary conquest of today's dining scene.
Rise of the Poke Shop
In Hawaii, it’s not uncommon to see poke shops, but they have become a more recent trend in the U.S. mainland.
FireFin Poke Shop, Chicago: This recently opened fast casual serves a lineup of eight Hawaiian-inspired poke bowls as well as a make-your-own poke bowl option with a choice of purple rice, greens or gluten-free noodles and ahi tuna, salmon, snow crab, chicken and tofu with various sauces, vegetables, and garnishes like pickled ginger, seaweed and toasted coconut flakes. The Classic Hawaiian bowl includes purple rice topped with ahi tuna, ono sauce, sweet onions and cucumber.
Sweetfin Poké, Santa Monica: One of the first of the latest crop of poke shops in Los Angeles by founders Seth Cohen, Alan Nathan and Brett Nestadt, it features a menu of signature and make-your-own poke bowls with sashimi-grade tuna and other fish atop rice or greens with accompaniments like avocado, edamame, scallions and various sauces and marinades.
Pokirrito, San Diego: Junya Watanabe serves up poke and sushi burritos in San Diego. The classic Pokirrito comes with sustainably caught tuna, crab, tamago, broccoli slaw, butter lettuce, lotus chips, masago, cilantro, shiso tempura flakes and a tangy sauce.
Pokéworks: This restaurant with locations in California, New York, Boston and Seattle showcases signature poke bowls using sustainably sourced seafood and other fresh ingredients. The Umami Classic mixes up diced, raw ahi tuna with green and sweet onion, cucumber, hijiki seaweed, umami shoyu and roasted sesame oil.
Classic Hawaiian Dishes
- Kalua pork: whole pig cooked for hours in an underground "oven," or imu, made with dirt and rocks
- Lomi-lomi salmon: diced raw and salted salmon "massaged" together with tomatoes, crushed ice and green onions for a fresh salad or side dish
- Lau-lau: spiced pork shoulder and salted butterfish wrapped in taro leaves and steamed
- Manapua: barbecue pork, sweet potato, sausage or other fillings steamed in sweet Hawaiian bread rolls
- Poi: taro root mashed or pounded with water into a pudding-like consistency
- Poke: from the Hawaiian word "poke," meaning to slice or cut crosswise into pieces, this refreshing fish salad was first eaten by native Hawaiians as a simple blend of raw fish, Hawaiian salt, seaweed and chopped kukui nuts. More modern variations take shape in a mixture of cubed raw tuna, salty seaweed, crunchy sweet onions and sometimes additional flavors like fresh ginger, chili pepper, toasted sesame seeds and macadamia nuts. Poke can also be made with other raw seafood such as yellowfin tuna (ahi), octopus (tako), salmon, crab and clams, non-seafood add-ins like tofu, seared rib-eye steak, and dried and smoked beef (pipikaula). Many locals enjoy poke at beachside shacks or even store-bought from the supermarket.
Hawaiian Regional Cuisine
This style of cuisine, formalized in the '90s by a group of 12 acclaimed chefs, including Roy Yamaguchi, Alan Wong, Beverly Gannon and others, is now looking to educate the rest of the world about local foods and fish from the region. Once a mash-up of pan-Asian and Hawaiian flavors referred to as "fusion" in its heyday, another group of acclaimed chefs from the state, including Ed Kennedy and Lee Anne Wong as well as a handful of up-and-coming chefs, are redefining the cuisine with more indigenous and authentic Hawaiian dishes and ingredients from years past.