A cross between sushi and a house salad, this Hawaiian dish has traversed the Pacific in a big way.
If you haven't dug into a bowl of raw fish, seaweed and veggies in a fragrant dressing, let us introduce you to the magic of poké. It's popularity is on the rise, a natural progression of our collective taste for sushi and sashimi. It originated in Hawaii and was borne out of ease and proximity to the freshest seafood possible. Fisherman would cut the fish into cubes (in Hawaiian, poké means “cut piece”), season and eat, similar to sashimi. It’s not a surprise that poké is gaining in popularity; the bigger surprise is that it’s taken this long.
The health benefits are obvious. Fresh fish is a great source of protein and omega-3s. It's paired with fresh vegetables and antioxidant-filled seaweed, then tossed in a light, umami-forward sauce. Restaurants are putting their own spin on the dish. In Hawaii, locals often end up at Da Poke Shack on the Big Island where it is prepared traditionally with Hawaiian salt, limu kohu (seaweed) and inamona (roasted kukui nut). At Saltaire Oyster Bar in Port Chester, New York, it’s tinged with the Mediterranean, paired as it is with zucchini, chives and Kalamata olives. A rising lunchtime favorite in New York is Pokéworks for leafy salads, while vegans head to the East Village where tiki joint Mother of Pearl is making a green mango poke with jicama and macadamia.
Thinking back on the origin, poke can be fancy, but it can also be fairly simple. We asked our friends at Sweetfin Poké in Santa Monica for a make-at-home version. (Though the ingredients list is long, it's actually a quick recipe to make, since it involves practically zero cooking.) This is the kind of recipe that invites experimentation, so take it away. A few tips from Chef Dakota Weiss on buying fish: Make sure the yellowtail is sushi-grade, clean and smells subtly of the ocean, rather than overly fishy or funky. Some fish may have a slight rainbow hue on the surface, which is fine. Use within two days of purchasing, or freeze wrapped in a waterproof bag or special paper your fishmonger can give you.