What is poke?

Poke bowls have been having a moment in recent years.  They’re definitely a trendy food right now, and a delicious one at that.  Whether you’ve had one or not, you still might not know exactly what a poke bowl really is.  So what is poke? Here is a very quick and condensed rundown of all the basics you need to know about poke. 


Poke means…

The word poke literally means “to slice or cut” in Hawaiian. When speaking about the food dish though, poke refers to diced fish that is marinated, tossed over rice, and served with vegetables and sauce. It is traditionally raw and usually something like tuna or octopus, although this can vary quite a bit. It can be served either as an appetizer or a main course. 


Poke originated in Hawaii 

Poke is often confused with various Asian cuisines.  While it does contain many of the same ingredients and share some similarities with various dishes from Southeast Asia, poke is actually Hawaiian.  It originated in and is still one of the most popular dishes consumed in Hawaii.  


Poke has evolved over time 

Like most popular foods, poke bowls are quite different now than they used to be.  When you think of poke, you probably think of a brightly-colored, vibrant bowl full of various proteins, vegetables, sauces, and other tasty toppings.  Poke bowls today are one of the most Instagrammable foods.  The variety available is also wide-ranging: They can contain all kinds of different fish beyond the traditional tuna, and can even be made with alternatives like chicken or tofu.  Many of these trendy variations and extras have only gained popularity recently.  Poke bowls started out much simpler.  


Poke originated in the days when native fishermen in Hawaii would slice up the smaller reef fish they caught, season them with whatever they could find, and serve them raw. The most common condiments for poke bowls at the time were things like sea salt, candlenuts, and seaweed. Condiments, toppings, and sauces for poke have certainly changed over time! 


Poke vs. sushi: Not the same (although there are similarities) 

Last but not least, it is important to note that poke is NOT sushi.  This is a pretty common misconception, and can be an easy mistake to make because of the similarities between the dishes.  However, sushi is Japanese and poke is Hawaiian. While Hawaiian food does take quite a bit of influence from Japanese food, they are not the same.  


Additionally, poke and sushi tend to be served in different forms.  While sushi is most commonly eaten in rolls, poke is consumed as a bowl.  If you’re explaining poke to someone, it can be useful to describe it as sushi in a bowl: Raw fish, rice, toppings, and sauce all tossed together and served in a delicious and colorful bowl. Just make sure to note that poke is not actually sushi!  


We hope this little rundown helps you better understand the history behind the poke bowls you’ve been eating, or entices you to try a poke bowl for the very first time! For the original St. Louis poke, be sure to come visit us at PokeDoke in the Central West End, Delmar Loop, or Kirkwood!  

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