I don’t remember poke (pronounced poh-kay, which is why some places are spelling it poké) from when I was a kid, visiting my grandma in Hawaii during summer vacation, but I do remember being introduced to it years ago by my brother who lives in Hawaii with his family. Lots of grocery stores and delis had big vats of the stuff behind glass counters and it’s delicious: pieces of raw fish, lightly cured in Asian dressing (for example, soy, sesame seed oil, some red pepper flakes, and chopped macadamia nuts!).
But then I heard that poké had become a trend. Our cousins in Vancouver opened up their very own store, The Poke Guy. Some restaurants in Sydney have started serving it and there’s even a Poke restaurant in Coogee that I have yet to try. I tried making it myself for an appetizer for a dinner party: it was delicious but I wasn’t willing to trust making it with a cheaper cut of fish, yet cutting up sashimi-grade tuna is… pricey.
In any case, I’ve been curious about this trend, and coming to New York City, it seems there are poke sellers everywhere! I tried out Poketeria in Midtown, mostly by chance, and because my days were running out in NYC and I wanted to try it before I left. I am always a bit fascinated with how fast food translates cultures into product, and impressed too, when it works. They’ve taken the spirit of poke (fresh, tasty, raw fish) and then give you a million options.
At Pokéteria, you can get poke burritos, just poke, a poke salad, or poke on rice, which is what I opted for. I chose the fish of the day, but there were about three different fish selections. And four different sauces. And dozens of different things you could put on it. It was a little overwhelming.
But what I ended up with, some mango, Japanese seaweed, edamame, corn and some crunchy bits… all mixed up in a creamy sauce, was delicious. They know how to put the right proportion of ingredients together, and for maybe $15 or $16, including a Japanese ice tea and taxes, it’s a nice meal, healthy enough and healthier still without the rice! I love sashimi but it is pricy, so this is taking the Hawaiian innovation and serving up sashimi, basically, in a more accessible form, and so that you can make a full meal of it. I understand the appeal.
I’m curious whether the trend will continue or peak or fall back into a kind of baseline of poke restaurants that become a permanent part of an eating experience in some cities.
In other news, I think with this post, I’m caught up with all my culinary experiences in the Big Apple. What a fun month it was, and I didn’t come back to Sydney as round as doughnut, as I thought I might. NYC = lots of walking. Also, I exercised some restraint. But NYC: I will be back to food blog my way again through your amazing streets!