What is Poke?


Madeline Whitney, A&E Editor

Scrolling through the explore page on Instagram or clicking through Snapchat stories, you see it for the first time. “That looks like a fish acai bowl,” you think to yourself, but in reality the flavorful dish known as  poke (pronounced poh-kee) is so much more.

Poke is a dish from Hawaii that in the past few years has made its way across the continental United States, from gourmet restaurants in New York to quick Chipotle-style bowls in the Bay Area.

In Hawaii, poke is traditionally just chunks of fish marinated in a soy dressing served by itself or sometimes with chips to scoop up the fresh seafood. Ahi tuna and salmon are most popular, but octopus is also a staple at the majority of poke stops.

However, when it made its way to places like California, many restaurants and shops turned this original idea into the concept of a bowl with rice, greens, or chips on the bottom and fish and other toppings on the top.

One location here in San Jose that specializes in this bowl style poke is the accurately named, PokiBowl. They have two different sized bowls, regular with three scoops of fish ($10.95) and large with four scoops ($11.95). Customers get to choose between brown rice, sushi rice, mixed greens, or tortilla chips for their base. For fish, the shop has spicy tuna, yellowtail, ahi tuna, salmon, shrimp, and octopus, with all except the spicy tuna available to be marinated in spicy, mild, or non-spicy dressing. There is also the option to add cucumbers, onion, spicy mayo, and sriracha into the fish marinade.

Once the fish is dressed and placed on top of the base, PokiBowl loads on the toppings to the customer’s choosing. Large scoops of avocado, imitation crab meat, green onions, masago eggs, and ginger come free of charge, and edamame and seaweed salad can be added on top for $1.50 extra each. There is also the option to top it off with wasabi, toasted sesame seeds, dried seaweed, spicy mayo, and miso dressing.

My personal favorite is half brown rice and half white rice base, to gain extra texture but also benefit from the sweetness of the sushi rice, topped with two scoops of salmon and one scoop of ahi tuna with cucumbers, onions, and spicy mayo in mild marinade with avocado, imitation crab meat, green onions, ginger, spicy mayo, and miso dressing on the top.

This may seem like a crazy concoction that would confuse one’s palate, but the balance between the fresh fish, the mildly spicy sauce, and subtle sweetness of the rice and toppings create wonderful intermixing of flavor in your mouth.

Poke is not for everyone, especially those that even squirm at the mention of raw fish, but if you are a sushi connoisseur who wants to try something new, you should definitely think about giving poke a try.