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.

What is Hawaiian Poke and why does everyone love it? 

Poke1

 Audrey Magazine:

Do you cringe at the thought of eating raw fish or skip out on sashimi at a sushi restaurant? Well, you may soon be warming up to the idea because Hawaiian poke is becoming increasingly popular in Southern California. Perhaps locals are taking more Hawaiian vacations and the demand to bring those island flavors home are high. Or maybe more of our island neighbors are moving to the mainland. Whatever the reason is, Hawaiian poke is welcome to make its tasty mark.

In Hawaiian, “poke” means “to slice or cut.” Traditionally, the dish consisted simply of fresh cut fish with sea salt, candlenut, seaweed and limu (algae). It wasn’t until the 19th century that other vegetables, such as the Maui onion, were incorporated. According to food historian Rachel Laudan, the poke we are familiar with today did not become popular until the 1970s. Although it is only recently that food fanatics are feasting on this tasty yet healthy dish, poke is not new to the food industry. It has been quietly waiting in various American restaurants, served only as an appetizer and waiting to be discovered as a main dish.

Northshore Poke Company's tuna mixed with their Waimea sauce, which is similar to spicy mayo.

Modern poke is a salad typically made with cubed raw fish (usually tuna), sea salt, seaweed, tomatoes, onions and soy sauce. However, with its growing popularity and poke restaurants slowly popping up, there are now several variations of this dish. At some restaurants, such as Northshore Poke Company, patrons may customize their food by selecting their type of fish, flavor, spice level and whether they would like their fish served as a salad or in a rice bowl. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, there are also poke nachos and poke tacos.

Raw fish isn’t always the most appetizing term, but Hawaiian poke is packed with so much flavor, it certainly won’t leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.

 

Video

HYPEBEAST Eats presents “Helena’s Hawaiian Food”

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of venturing to the Hawaiian paradise, you’ve surely heard locals speak of Helena’s. The Honolulu-based restaurant has remained a stalwart in the food scene since 1946, preserving not only its own place, but a space for Hawaiian cuisine in a developing era of food.

Unlike trendy restaurants striving to find an identity, Helena’s deeply steeped in its own tradition: the walls hang pictures of a young Helen Chock; sweet, fragrant marinade smells waft into the seating at the front. Having inherited the space from his grandmother, owner Craig Katsuyoshi explains that menu strives to convey a feeling of comfort — best exemplified by his grandmother’s recipe for Pipi Kaula: dried beef short ribs.

The latest HYPEBEAST Eats finds Katsuyoshi walking us through the “secret” of making the perfect short ribs and preserving this gem of a spot.