What's the deal with poke? Poke (pok-eh), or fresh cubed chops of raw fish, has long been a Hawaiian favorite and is now trending over the US mainland. Poke restaurants are already dining and take-out staples in Los Angeles. Now, major US food capitals like New York are seeing a noticeable spike in poke establishments. Like popular mobile video game, Pokemon Go, poke has become a sensory addiction. But, what makes poke such the rage?
It's favorably "Hawaiian"
Having origins in Hawaii is an inherited positive for poke. Most things Hawaiian – from blue water beaches to bright flora – conjures up pleasure. As paradise-seeking travelers constantly flock to Hawaii, eaters craving great flavor head to poke joints everywhere.
Poke is a kind of paradise for the palette – as well as for the eyes. Poke flavor derives from the combination of soy-marinated fish and ingredients like avocado, pickled ginger and various sauces, like aioli and hot pepper sauce. Visually, poke creations are simply beautiful with endless hue combinations. Hues of pink come from poke base – the flesh of fish, often ahi tuna or salmon. Greens come from seaweed, avocado or leafy garnishes and other hues vary according to ingredient.
Poke has familiarity to sushi
The thought of eating raw fish as a meal was off-putting in America, pre-1990s. How times have changed! Nowadays, sushi is considered delectable and is commonly ordered from restaurants.
The prevalence of sushi is clear with about 4,000 restaurants and quick-service food joints in the U.S. Poke, which is essentially deconstructed sushi, is well on the competitive path of that number.
Not only is poke being served in newly opened small poke shops but in full scale restaurants, at gourmet food trucks and at supermarkets. On the poke menu are not just traditional poke bowls but fusion offerings like poke tacos and poke burritos.
It is affordable
Poke bowls average around $5-$8, about half the cost of typical 6-8 piece sushi rolls. Quite a savings for lunch or dinner for poke lovers! Restaurants, who buy fish in bulk, like poke because of fairly inexpensive cost to buy and maintain for freshness.
It is an item in demand for the modern fast casual food paradigm
Poke fits into the fast-casual restaurant paradigm, which stresses freshness, quality, simplicity and customizing. At poke restaurants, there is expectation to stock fresh fish and other ingredients, and demonstrate top-notch quality in food maintenance along with food service. When ordering poke, a bowl is provided. Bowls are identified by the fast-casual industry as the best option for ease of serving and containing food. Another industry standard, providing customizable options, is the norm at poke joints. The "build your own bowl" (BYOB) concept offers poke lovers to pile a variety of ingredients with the fish pieces, thus endless creations can be made.
It is an art
Poke bowl creations can resemble art gallery pieces. Gorgeous, vivid poke bowls transform into canvases of art, made by poke shop goers who bring out their inner Picasso. The food service bar provides colors and coloring tools needed for poke masterpieces.
Poke is getting downright addictive just like Pokemon Go. As of now, there are no signs of the craze subsiding and fast-casual food goers are not complaining.