NBC: The Surfer’s Sashimi- How Hawaiian Poke Conquered the Mainland

NBC (by Sarah Bennett):

The lunchtime line at Pokéworks in Midtown Manhattan has been constant since it opened three months ago. Every weekday, New Yorkers wearing puffy coats and woolen hats spill out of the tiny storefront, waiting for the chance to order a customized bowl of chopped raw fish atop a mound of sticky rice.

Poke, the Hawaiian invention ubiquitous on the islands, where it serves as the unofficial state snack, might seem like an odd meal to pair with a frigid East Coast winter. But over the last few years, the traditional dish — which tops fresh, lightly marinated seafood with condiments like limu and roasted kukui nuts — has transformed from pre-batched versions available by the pound at Hawaii’s beach-side liquor and grocery stores into the United States’ next build-your-own, meal-in-a-bowl movement.

Enjoying something Hawaiian in New York helps transport the mind a bit, to a place more beachfront,” Pokéworks partner Kevin Hsu told NBC News. “The moment you sit in your office and you’re digging through a poke bowl, you feel like you’re on vacation.

Nostalgia for Hawaiian vacations may be one reason why the hunger for poke has grown so great in such a short amount of time, but poke has been quietly mounting a mainstream takeover ever since its invention.

To ancient Hawaiians, cutting up the catch of the day and tossing it with salt and seaweed harvested from the ocean was an exercise in sustenance. Subsequent waves of contact and immigration — from Captain Cook to the sugar plantation era — influenced poke by infusing it with sauces, toppings, and flavors of Europe, Japan, and other Asian countries.

The dish was first introduced to many Americans via fine-dining chefs, who — following the Hawaiian-food-obsessed lead of Hawaii native son Sam Choy in the ’90s — found poke an approachable Asian-fusion appetizer, an alternative to crudo and ceviche. Sushi had already been introduced to American palates by then and many diners felt comfortable (and classy) eating Asian-style raw fish. Poke was a logical next step.

But it wasn’t until a few years ago that fast-casual spots dedicated to serving authentic Hawaiian-style poke first opened on the mainland. In Southern California, where many of these early businesses opened, bringing flavors from the Pacific to the masses was less about launching a trend and more of a natural outgrowth of the region’s historic population of Hawaiians and native Islanders.

Aside from a few dissenters, Hawaiians seem excited that the “surfer’s sashimi” is spreading to new audiences across the country, even if it’s at the hands of a non-traditional delivery method. As a cuisine that has itself evolved over centuries of shifting cultural influence, Hawaiian food seems ever-ripe for re-interpretations, which is good because the poke revolution shows no signs of slowing down.

Recipe: Kimchi Bulgogi Nachos

Kimchi & Bulgogi Nachos


Two Red Bowls:

So here’s what happens when you live with someone who is usually indifferent to food. You’ll go for weeks racking your brain for what to make for dinner or what to post on your blog, procrastinating at work by making lists and going down Pinterest rabbit holes, feeling generally uninspired … and then one day, as you’re drifting off to sleep, he’ll pipe up casually with something like, “Hey … what about bulgogi nachos?” And then you won’t go to bed for another 20 minutes (while he falls asleep right after) and you’ll spend about 10 seconds of that thinking why didn’t I think of that! and the other 19 minutes and 50 seconds contemplating whether making nachos at 1 AM on a Wednesday is a normal and worthy endeavor.


Kimchi & Bulgogi Nachos


And then, as soon as you can (though maybe not at 1 AM), you make them and post about them. Because dude, bulgogi nachos. With kimchi, and plenty of melted cheese, and a pile of spicy greens on top? Perfection. Of course, Korean Mexican fusion is nothing new, and it receives a healthy share of ire as the poster child (it seems) of what people perceive as unnecessary fusion cuisines, but I really feel like it works here. The well-salted tortilla chips are a fantastic balance to the savory-sweet beef bulgogi, and the tang from the kimchi helps liven up those otherwise heavy flavors. And anyone who’s been here in Cambridge knows that there’s nothing closer to heaven than a healthy pile of melted mozzarella on tender Asian-marinated beef.

The best part is that I’m not the only one feeling the need to put Asian food on nachos this week (which is how you know you’re onto something!) because Steph at I Am a Food Blog put a California roll all on tortilla chips and it looks so, so good. Can I just start a diet where I eat only things on nachos? I feel nothing but good things and low cholesterol can come of this.

And lastly, some happy news — we’re heading to Hawaii tomorrow! B2 had his first case settle (!) this week, which means it’s literally the best time ever for us to set off on our first real vacation since starting work last fall. We’re planning on staving off fall for two more weeks, eating lots, and lots, and lots of good food (if you’re on Oahu, you might wanna stock up on poke now … before we get there and empty out all the Foodlands), figuring out how to wed, and, most importantly, spending some long-overdue quality time with family. I sense that I might need a Korean cooking refresher from his mama. Unless putting things on nachos is an age-old Korean tradition I don’t know about.



Kimchi & Bulgogi Nachos

Kimchi & Bulgogi Nachos

Kimchi & Bulgogi Nachos


Yield: serves 3-4.

I opted for ground beef marinated in bulgogi marinade for these nachos, rather than the traditional thinly-sliced beef, because I felt it would be more scoopable. Feel free to use traditional bulgogi meat.


  • for the bulgogi:
  • 1 small pear, crushed or blended
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp minced ginger
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar or sweetener of your choice
  • a pinch of ground black pepper
  • 1 green onion, chopped finely
  • 1/2 lb ground beef (or traditional beef bulgogi meat)
  • for the rest:
  • 1 small onion, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • tortilla chips, to your preference (I used about 4-5 cups’ worth)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella (or more, to your preference)
  • 1/2 cup kimchi, diced (or more, to your preference)
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, sliced
  • 1 green onion, diced
  • a few sprigs of cilantro (optional)


  1. A few hours ahead or the night before, marinate the bulgogi meat. Puree pear, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and black pepper in a food processor or blender, then mix with the ground beef and green onion. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes before making the nachos, and ideally overnight.
  2. When you’re ready to make the nachos, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute the onions briefly, then add the ground beef and panfry together until the beef is cooked and the onions are translucent.
  3. Layer the bottom of an 8×8-inch glass dish or a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with a layer of chips. Spoon about half of the beef and onions over the chips, then half the mozzarella. Layer another few handfuls of chips, then the remaining beef, onions, and mozzarella. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted, about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Top with diced kimchi, sliced jalapeno, green onion, and cilantro. Serve immediately.

12 Things Never to Say to an Asian Woman

Cosmopolitan: (Jennifer Chen)


1. Where are you from?
This is usually followed by an intense stare as the person, most likely a dude, is trying to figure out if I’m Chinese, Thai, Korean, Japanese, or something else “exotic.” When I say New Jersey (the most exotic of the states), this leads to question #2.

2. No, really where are you from?
Let’s get to the point. You want to know where my family is from. Taiwan. Are you happy now? Where are you from? Because I’d really like to know so I can avoid going there.

3. I really like Asian women.
Let’s get married then! Who cares if we have nothing else in common? All that matters is that you love Asian women! Oh, you know who else likes Asian women? Everyone. Because we’re awesome.

4. I need more napkins.
Just because I’m walking by you in a restaurant, don’t assume that I work in that restaurant. Are you shocked to know that not all Asian people work in Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese restaurants? Because it’s true. We don’t all work on your nails, your dry cleaning, and your $15 Asian fusion tacos.

5. I have no idea how to use these things [waving around chopsticks].
Then don’t. Grab a fork and eat those noodles like the non-Asian you are. It’s OK! I’m not judging you. (But secretly I am because chopsticks are the superior utensils.)

6. I just love geishas.
Great! I really love firemen. They’re hot. But if I wanted you to don a fireman’s uniform, ride in a big red truck, and slide down a pole for me, I doubt you would do it. So don’t ask me to dress like a geisha, bow down, bat my eyes, and dance for you. Not gonna happen. Unless you’re an actual fireman.

7. Hi, [insert name of another Asian lady].
Seriously, we don’t all look alike. Learn to tell us apart. If my name is Jennifer Chen, it doesn’t mean I’m related to Annie Chen. John Smith is not related to Helen Smith. We are different people. Unless this is an Orphan Black situation, then we’re all the same people.

8. Konichiwa or Ni Hao Ma.
Stop chasing me around and speaking bad Japanese or broken Chinese. If you stalk me down the street, saying “good morning,” to me in Japanese, then follow me into Staples where I’m buying gel pens, and ask to marry me because you really like Chinese women, then I can’t help you. And your pronunciation is awful, so I suggest you fix that first. You can work on the rest later. Without me. SAYONARA!

DUDE, I speak better English than you do. Stop shouting and speaking slowly to me as if I’m illiterate. You sound dumb.

10. I hear Chinese people eat dogs.
Yup, it’s true. I’m eating a free-range Labrador Retriever steak with a side of pug bacon right now. Does that gross you out thinking that we eat dogs? You eat animals like pigs who are actually smarter than dogs. Who’s the jerk now? (Free tip: You are!)

11. Can you figure out the tip?
I know you think I’m a wizard at math. (Eye roll.) I got a 45 on my calculus final in high school. That’s barely half right. But sure, let me figure out the bill. I owe zero dollars. Thanks for dinner!

12. You have lovely almond-shaped eyes.
I love me some

r dinner!

12. You have lovely almond-shaped eyes.
I love me some Claudia Kishi from The Baby-Sitters Club. She is my spirit animal/imaginary friend. But if I have to read one more time that Claudia or any other Asian woman has “almond-shaped eyes,” I’m going to smack everyone.

Check out this link:

12 Things Never to Say to an Asian Woman


Seonkyoung Longest wins Food Network’s “Restaurant Express”

The Korean contestant wins a much-coveted gig: running a restaurant at Las VegasM Resort called Jayde Fuzion, which opened December 17th.

The Food Network‘s Robert Irvine, which some may know best from Restaurant: Impossible, hosted a new reality competition this year called Restaurant Express, in which contestants battle to earn a job opening a new restaurant in Las Vegas’ M Resort. On December 15, the finale aired, and the winner was Korean contestant Seonkyoung Longest — a woman with no restaurant management experience who nonetheless kept impressing the judges with her Asian fusion food, week after week.

Seonkyoung Longest was born and raised in Korea, where she helped in her parents’ restaurant before moving to Columbus, Mississippi in 2009. Prior to competing on the show, Longest had made a name for herself with over 90 videos on her YouTube channel. She hosts three shows on YouTube: “Asian At Home,” “Chop Chop,” and “Seonkyoung’s Kitchen,” and she was a finalist on MasterChef Season 4 earlier this year.

Check out this link:

Seonkyoung Longest wins Food Network’s “Restaurant Express”