And no, it’s not pronounced “poke”, like what your little brother used to do to you when he wanted you to make chocolate chip cookies.
Alright, let’s set the scene. You are cruisin’ down the coast of Honolulu in a convertible with the top down, it’s 77 degrees and you’re spending the day with your toes in the sand riding the waves of Waikiki Beach. As you inhale the tropical air- you reach for your lunch that you picked up at the surf shop on your way to the beach. You open your little plastic container, kind of like how you would buy chicken salad from your grocery store back home. Inside, you find chunks of tuna marinated in sesame and soy, served over rice. Ah, what a refreshing lunch.
Poke (POKE-AY) in its most basic form is chunks of a type of local fish, marinated and served over rice.
Poke means “to cut” in Hawaiian, so it really can be used to describe many types of food with fish prepared in this way. In Hawaii, you can find about 25 different variations of this dish at any local grocery store or market. In the past year, poke has made it’s way to restaurants across the continental U.S. from San Diego to Brooklyn.
Hello Poke, Goodbye Sushi?
Over the past decade, more and more people have the ability to travel. Once an island out in the deep Pacific, Hawaii has become an easily accessible destination for Americans and foreigners alike. With an influx of tourists and in turn an influx of money, chefs in Hawaii have gotten more and more eccentric and creative. Their versions of this dish have made tourists want more and more, even when they come home from vacation. Just as sushi, a once strange dish, entered the American marketplace and is now a staple, many restaurateurs are thinking that poke will have the same path of mass adoption.
Why Should Your Restaurant Care?
Do you care about money? OK, silly question. But poke is so inexpensive to make, and is in very HIGH demand, no matter where you are located.
Think poke could be the next big crowd pleaser for your restaurant? First, check out this popular Santa Monica poke spot, Sweetfin Poke.
Before you add poke to your menu, ask yourself this:
- Who is your audience? Do they want healthy, fast, cheap options? Well, this is perfect.
- Where are you located? What is fresh? What is in season?
- What are you known for? Think about what you do well, and if you could infuse that with the primary concept of poke.