Friends Dont Let Friends Eat Fake Poke
Poke (pronounced POH-kay) has never been easier to get in Hawaii as well as on the mainland United States. You can find it as the cubes of raw fish that you eat at a beach picnic, part of a pu pu platter, at the grocery store, or even while sitting on the tailgate of a truck.
Poke, in all its forms, is indeed the unofficial food of Hawaii, consisting of marinated raw ahi tuna. The simple dish gained popularity within the last three years but has a rich history.
The word “poke” means “to slice” or “to cut crosswise into pieces” in Hawaiian. Native Hawaiians would slice up small reef fish and serve it raw. Sometimes limu (edible brown algae) and kukui nut paste, known as “inamona,” was mixed with the sliced fish to create the dish. Japanese influences during the 1800s contributed to the evolution of the dish, when the fish base shifted to ahi tuna and inamona was replaced with shoyu.
Sophomore Lyla Gonsalves prefers to prepare her own poke using traditional ingredients and shoyu, which is what it’s usually marinated in today.
“I make it with shoyu, limu, and kukui nuts, not with lettuce or just eating it plain,” she said.
Poke can not only be eaten alone but also found on top of rice, which is known as a poke bowl. Sometimes, furikake (Japanese seasoning) is sprinkled on the rice. Now, instead of being served on rice, poké can be found on greens, zoodles, and even quinoa.
The options that poke can be found on has been recently created by businesses who have jumped on the bandwagon. Poke has boomed on the mainland since it’s been labeled healthy because of how it’s made raw with vegetables.
Senior Makana Hoapili is shocked that poke has established itself on the mainland since it’s mostly known in the islands.
“I didn’t think it would become a thing on the mainland,” he said.
From a business perspective, poke is customizable and more economical compared to opening a restaurant. A restaurant has requirements such as industrial strength equipment and a vent system. To make the dish, an oven, let alone a full kitchen isn’t needed at all.
Due to the popularity around social media nowadays, almost anything can be transformed to be Instagrammable, which is why various toppings have been added to poke, ranging from watermelon radish to avocado or even Capelin roe. Anything that can make it look colorful will result in more likes.
Although the mainland is changing poke from its original form, the freshness of poke is vital. Many shops are serving poke made from fish that has been caught days or even weeks before and has been treated in order to preserve its color. Fishing is a habit that a lot of locals enjoy in Hawaii and when someone catches a lot of fish, they usually share it with their friends and family, which might be turned into poke.
Gonsalves not only likes to make her own food but believes that knowing where the ingredients come from creates a deeper meaning.
“The fact that I know the person who fished for the food creates more of a connection,” she said.
The mainland may be altering poke but it will always be a part of Hawaii, and for locals, real poke is the taste of home.
“It’s something I can appreciate on the daily,” Hoapili said.