A Condensed History of Poke

Meaning literally “to cut crosswise into pieces”. Poke is one of the simplest Polynesian dishes that has made waves across the world. It has transcended well over its Pacific roots and has become the next new trend in healthy and clean living. Poke is more than just a single dish, it more describes a set of ingredients patterned and placed on a bowl.

This however, does not mean that there aren’t any trends and guides to follow. Typically, a Poke Bowl consists of chopped protein, most commonly seafood, marinated in a sauce of your choice laid on top of a base (in the form of rice or mixed greens) with mix-ins added to enhance the flavour and add that little kick.

Polynesian Roots

Centuries before western travelers had set foot on the island, native polynesians had already been preparing and making Poke. Historical evidence suggests that, initially, these meals were made of raw reef fish, seasoned with sea salt and seaweed and finally topped with crushed candlenuts.

The salting process was believed to have been done for both flavour and as a way to preserve the fragile fish. 

Across Oceans and Time

Most food historians have agreed that the prominence of the Poke Bowl hasn’t been around until the 1960s and ‘70s. The naming of the dish as poke was set side by side with the increasing availability and popularity of ahi tuna. The pleasing bright pink hue of the fish lend itself well to pleasing the aesthetic palate of westerners compared to the dull and grey of its traditional counterparts.

First appearing around seafood markets, the multicultural influences that are prevalent in these ports helped in the growth and distribution of this Polynesian dish. Added elements included some from both Western and Asian Cultures. Scallions, chili peppers, soy sauce etc. have all become common additions introduced by said cultures. It’s this variety and customization that lends to the timeless nature of the dish.

Another big factor of it’s growth in the western scene is by the influence of Chef Sam Choy. Chef Choy was one of many early endorsers of the dish and the Hawaiian regional cuisine movement as a whole in the early 90s.

In 1991, he established a poke contest, the first of many held every year in March. It featured poke recipes from across the state with chefs and home cooks displaying a tour-de-force of innovation on the Polynesian dish. The wide variety of contestants that ranged from chefs to home cooks proved just how versatile and adaptable the dish is to any and all cultures.

Present Day

Today, the strength of the Poke Bowl concept is stronger than ever. The dish is served in various restaurants and in various ways. Some focus on the seafood aspect while others allow the fluidity of the dish to speak for itself.

At Poke & Co, we put together the best of both worlds. Options of prepared Poke Bowls are at your fingertips with flavours and taste profiles ranging from spicy, sweet, seafood savoury and everything in between. If that doesn’t fill you though, there is the choice to create your own bowl from scratch using our mix of sustainably sourced ingredients. Want a spicy chicken bowl with onion mix-ins? All of that and more is possible with our create-your-own bowl system.