Move Over, Sushi … and Meet Poke

It looks like you're using Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.
We are sorry but This Video does not work with Internet Explorer 8.

Why you should care

Fresh raw fish, plus sauces and veggies — what’s not to love? 

Video by Tom Gorman

The line snakes through the door at Sweetfin Poké, in Santa Monica, all of the customers here for one thing: a bite of the latest food trend, which hails from the big 5-0. Hawaii. 

It’s called poke (po-kay). For $7 to $14, you get a bowl with about 5 ounces of fresh, raw fish, diced into big blocks, mixed with sauces, topped with ingredients like avocado or furikake (a seaweed seasoning) and placed atop a base of rice, noodles or salad. Like choose-your-own frozen yogurt shops, poke shops subscribe to a democratic ideology. Options reign. “I see poke as having the potential to be the next Chipotle,” says Zach Brooks, a food blogger at Midtown Lunch. “It’s a faster, cheaper, more acceptable, more filling way to deliver raw fish.”

It’s convenient and quick; you can be in and out of a poke shop in 15 to 20 minutes.

Unlike the dead Facebook interaction the poke, poke is riding a wave and swimming onto more mainland menus. Technomic’s MenuMonitor database says poke is about 35 percent more prevalent over the past five years. In California, poke is easier to find than in other parts of the U.S., like Illinois or New York. In 2014, Stefanie Honda was spurred to open Jus’ Poke — whose menu lives up to its name — after she traveled 30 miles from LA’s South Bay to find poke, which she grew up making with her father and grandfather. Now there are dozens of shops in LA that sell the Hawaiian equivalent of a burrito bowl. One reason: You don’t need cooking appliances, Brooks says. 

So why are people gulping it down now? It’s convenient and quick; you can be in and out of a poke shop in 15 to 20 minutes depending on the rush. Plus, for fast food, it’s devoid of hamburger grease. According to market research firm IBISWorld, seafood’s profile is rising as diners latch onto fish’s nutritional value. At Poke-Poke in Venice Beach, where customers are learning to pronounce the word correctly, general manager Maiya Livas says customers are “leaning in” to the idea of eating sashimi-like fish, not just the measly scraps in sushi. And this Hawaiian food wave may not have crested yet. The next big thing could be Hawaiian chicken or Spam musubi, a finger food made of Spam, seaweed and rice. Honda thinks it might jibe with LA palates, even if it is unhealthy.

Brooks, however, isn’t so sure: Poke on the mainland is not the most authentic example of Hawaiian food you can get. Plus, while sushi is already extremely popular in LA, it may be hard to get less historically interested eaters in other parts of the world chomping down on raw fish. In these spots, it’s also typically harder to find inexpensive, high-quality fresh fish. So the question now: Will this big fish in a small pond find a chain that’ll get poke flipping its fins to other places?

Comment

OZYGood Sh*t

If you’d want to drink it, eat it, wear it, ride it, drive it; if it’d be cool to see, listen to or do, we’re writing about it.

  • 12 Books You Need To Read
    12 Books You Need To Read
    Good Sh*t

    12 Books You Need To Read

    Summer is coming to a close in the Northern Hemisphere. But as the evenings draw in and temperatures fall, there’s never been a better time to curl up with a book and enter a world not of your own making. The international literary world has never been as diverse — or downright interesting — as it is today. That’s why we’ve collated for you, dearest OZY reader, some of the best new reads from Argentina to Zimbabwe and many fascinating places in between. Read on because we guarantee you this: There’s no list as interesting as ours.

  • The Hidden Wonders of Latin America
    The Hidden Wonders of Latin America
    Good Sh*t

    The Hidden Wonders of Latin America

    When it comes to popular depictions of Latin America and its culture, shallow stereotypes of what is a profoundly diverse region abound. Which is why, to truly get Latino culture, you need to tune out of popular — and often sadly inaccurate — tropes and tune in to today’s Daily Dose.  Indigenous rappers, quinoa sushi and cannabis-infused teas are transforming Latin America’s cultural and gastronomic landscape even as brave activists work to preserve the region’s astonishing natural beauty. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by diving deeper than just salsa rhythms, Caribbean beaches and pisco sours for a sensory journey to a stunning part of the world that’s in flux. I should know: I’m from Argentina.

  • Ready to Be Hypnotized by Tasmania’s Rainforests?
    Ready to Be Hypnotized by Tasmania’s Rainforests?
    Good Sh*t

    Ready to Be Hypnotized by Tasmania’s Rainforests?

    From soft sand and wild rivers to long trekking trails, Tarkine in Tasmania has you covered.

  • If We Ever Go On Vacations Again
    If We Ever Go On Vacations Again
    Good Sh*t

    If We Ever Go On Vacations Again

    If this COVID crap ever ends, you'll want to get away. We mean REALLY get away. From Wi-Fi and all that entails.

  • Love Fiction? We've Got Some Podcasts for You
    Love Fiction? We've Got Some Podcasts for You
    Good Sh*t

    Love Fiction? We've Got Some Podcasts for You

    This week on Wherever You Get Your Podcasts, we showcase some of the best scripted fiction podcasts, many of which are heading to the small screen.