What is Poke?


Poke shops on Hawaii’s islands still double as grocery stores and fish markets, offering fresh-seasoned raw fish over rice without pineapple or kale, instead serving traditional Hawaiian ingredients like limu, ogo, cinnamon, and tobiko.

But the Instagrammable lunch bowl trend has spread far beyond Hawaii. Discover its various variations and its history.


Poke (pronounced po-kay) is an iconic Hawaiian dish and global culinary sensation. Consisting of marinated raw fish (typically ahi tuna), poke is generally served in a bowl alongside rice and other toppings for an easy and nutritious meal. Poke should be consumed responsibly as some varieties may contain dangerous bacteria and parasites, which should be considered before eating this delicacy.

Poke has long been a part of the Hawaiian diet and culture, dating back millennia. Initially, it consisted of raw fish massaged with sea salt and kukui nuts; fishermen enjoyed this dish alongside their families. Over time it developed with Hawaii’s ingredients; immigrants from China and Japan brought sesame oil, soy sauce, and shoyu, while salmon became one of Hawaii’s staple ingredients.

Poke derives its name from the Hawaiian word for chunk, which refers to cuts of meat or seafood. Poke originated to preserve fish without refrigeration by marinating it with salt and other spices; today, it remains a popular fast-food option across islands and America.

Today’s version of this classic dish incorporates many types of fish and ingredients beyond its traditional staple, ahi tuna. However, other seafood such as salmon or edamame may be substituted as needed; fresh avocados provide essential vitamins A and C sources that add texture and color.

Poke is an ideal food to help those on weight watchers’ diets since it’s low in calories and fat. Furthermore, its abundance of antioxidants protects against free radicals, helping fight free radical-induced cancer development again, when prepared using nutritious vegetables like cucumbers, radishes, or avocados – which contain potassium to lower high blood pressure while providing plenty of fiber that aids digestion and keeps people feeling full – its health benefits become even more impressive.


Poke refers to an array of fish, seafood, and vegetable dishes prepared with marinades. Most often seen is cubed raw tuna marinated with soy sauce and sesame oil; however, numerous variations are available such as adding avocado, octopus, salmon crab, or any other fusion cuisine ingredients for topping. It is typically served on top of sushi rice.

Shoyu poke is the core of all poke recipes, featuring cubed ahi tuna mixed with soy sauce (shoyu), green onions, Maui onion, or sweet onion, and limu for an authentic Hawaiian taste. This classic combination showcases both the fish’s freshness and the ingredients’ flavor.

Limu kohl, or Hawaiian seaweed, adds a subtle sweetness and crunch to dishes like poke. This ingredient can be purchased at most Hawaiian grocery stores and online. In addition, Limu Salt–made of roasted kukui nuts combined with sea salt–can also be used as a flavoring agent; you’ll likely find this in both Japanese and Hawaiian markets.

Popular varieties of poke include ahi with sesame seeds, jalapeno peppers, and sriracha sauce. These variations add flavors that pair nicely with seaweed, radish pickled ginger masago, or wasabi to enhance its flavors and make a truly memorable dish!

For something different, swap out the ahi tuna for cubed sashimi-grade salmon to create a shoyu salmon version. Also, switch up your green onion for sweet onions or shallots for lighter flavors, and use white or red pepper as an extra spicy touch!

Poke can become an unforgettable culinary masterpiece in the hands of an expert Edomae sushi chef, such as when Sushi Sho offers their $300 omakase menu featuring 30-plus courses of ahi with wasabi mustard and pickled ginger – one example among many! There are different variations of poke available, and those that allow their ingredients’ flavors to come through are among the most successful versions.


Poke is a highly customizable dish, and there are numerous toppings you can add to personalize your bowl of poke. Sweet or savory toppings add texture and flavor to this versatile meal. Standard toppings for poke include sliced cucumber, avocado, mango, tobiko fish eggs, furikake seasoning mix, and seaweed salad.

While traditional poke recipes use tuna for their ingredients, other forms of seafood can also be used in their place. Ahi poke is especially popular in Hawaii and can be served with spicy sauce or garnished with kimchi for an exciting variation on this classic dish. Octopus poke is another tasty variation, and numerous others are on the market.

If you’re making poke at home, there are a few key ingredients you should keep on hand. Most can be found at any grocery store and help create delicious poke bowls. Start by selecting high-quality tuna that meets the specifications for sashimi-grade tuna to achieve optimal flavor and texture.

Soy sauce is another critical component in creating delicious fish dishes, serving as a marinade and adding umami flavor to the plate. You can find soy sauce in most grocery stores, Asian food aisles, and Japanese markets; other similar sauces may also work, such as ponzu and yuzu.

Toppings for poke are typically fresh and colorful. Cucumber slices make an excellent crunchy-refreshing topping option; avocado provides vital nutrition, while mango adds fruity cocktails-esque flair.

As an ideal savory topping, shredded nori makes for an appealing garnish. Commonly found wrapped around sushi rolls, nori can add extra texture and crunch when added to poke bowls. To prepare this delectable addition, buy sheets of dried seaweed from your local Asian market and cut them into small strips using kitchen shears or sharp scissors.

Edamame beans make an irresistibly healthy addition to any poke bowl. Low in fat and rich with all nine essential amino acids, frozen or fresh edamame beans can be purchased and then quickly boiled in water for two-three minutes before draining and seasoning with salt and sesame oil before enjoying!


Poke doesn’t just consist of tuna; it can include various fish species, seafood products, or vegetables such as cubed avocado. Poke dishes typically feature sauces like kimchi, wasabi, or sriracha to reflect Japanese and Korean influences in Hawaii cuisine. Cooked shrimp is often substituted for those not willing to consume raw fish. Cubed avocado slices may also be included.

Poke can be enjoyed alone or combined with greens such as mizuna in a bowl for easy customization and personalization. Furthermore, this versatile meal can be prepared and stored in the fridge until ready for serving.

At the core of all good poke, fresh fish is critical. Look for sushi or sashimi grade ahi from either your local grocery’s frozen fish section or at its seafood counter and ensure it has no foul odors before purchasing it.

Along with selecting high-grade fish, it is also essential to properly prepare its ingredients. A marinade consisting of soy sauce and sesame oil with some lemon or lime juice and some ponzu sauce may add additional flavors; combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl using a spoon until all flavors have combined evenly.

Ensure that everything that touches the fish before and after handling it is sanitized thoroughly, including the cutting board, a bowl used to mix ingredients, tools or surfaces that may have come into contact with it, etc. Sanitization takes two seconds maximum; always worth your while!

Poke is an irresistibly flavorful and nutritious dish and has quickly become a fast-casual phenomenon that can be found across the country. Originating in Hawaii, this unique cuisine provides the ideal way to experience island culture right from your kitchen! So why wait any longer – make your poke bowl now!