Trendy Poke Is a New Food Favorite in the North State
By Christy Milan
Story by Christy Milan
TASTES FOR HEALTHY, convenient food options have catapulted a traditional Hawaiian dish into a trend. Southern California served as the epicenter for the poké (pronounced PO-kay) trend, and the Hawaiian-inspired bowls adapted with ease to fast-casual style formats.
Poké in Hawaiian means “to cut crosswise into pieces.” The catch of the day was sliced and tossed with sea salt and ogo (fresh seaweed). Poké evolved and has been transformed throughout various countries and regions.
In general, poké refers to raw tuna cut into cubes, marinated with soy sauce and sesame oil and onion. It does not have to have tuna or even seafood in it. Other variations serve cubed avocado with cooked meat. Poké is a staple in Hawaii so local stores have a broad variety of poké bowls. Some are made with octopus and garnished with kimchi or wasabi. The result is a strong influence from Japanese and Korean dishes. The raw salad known as poké is certainly not new, but new versions have popped up everywhere. Many cuisines from Mexican to Mediterranean have made their way into the mainstream fast-casual style restaurants. Poké bowls are the Hawaiian inspired version. You can even find poké in a burrito. At Poké Land on Dana Drive in Redding, Keisha Martinusen says, “The service is fast and the portions are really good for the price. They let you sample before you decide what to put in your bowl.” The ability to customize your bowl ensures each is different than the one before.
Poké comes with a variety of colorful sauces, mounds of crunchy toppings and a heap of bases such as rice, lettuce and kale noodles.
Ahi tuna is the predominant poké fish. In Hawaii, poké is a supermarket staple, and entire counters are filled with trays of already-marinated raw fish in flavors such as shoyu poké, limu or Hawaiian-style poké with chopped kukui nuts or spicy ahi. Today, salmon is popular, although the classic poké is still ahi tuna or cured octopus. Bowls are fusion flavored and aesthetically pretty. They also fit into the clean eating movement, as it’s easy to pick your protein, condiments and sauces and toss it with a base of noodles or rice, if desired.
Poké restaurants can be found in most cities, including Poké Land in Redding, Fresh Fire Grill in Redding and Palo Cedro and LemonShark Poké in Chico. •