I keep seeing this thing called poke everywhere, and I’ve just kind of been in the dark about it! I decided to give it a try this week, and I’m so glad I did. I felt the same confusion about Pho until I tried it a few months ago: A) what is this stuff, and B) how do I even pronounce the name? Phoe? Phuh? Po?
So even though it seems like 95% of the population in America has now been exposed to poke, if you were confused like me, here’s the scoop:
I’ve heard it pronounced “poke-ay” and “poke-ee”, but it seems like the former is the way the Hawaiians say it, at least via Youtube. And there’s no accent on the end. It’s a raw fish salad that originated from Hawaii, and although it’s fairly new to the mainland USA, Hawaiians have been eating the stuff for generations. Traditional poke is made from tuna or octopus, with Japanese seasonings like soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and scallions, but there are plenty of other variations to it. And of course there are ways to go all funky on the traditional poke seasonings by adding any sort of creative flavor to the raw fish, like jalapeño, Sriracha, avocado, or quinoa.
So if you’re still unsure about poke, think of it like a deconstructed sushi roll that’s served in a bowl. It’s a mound of raw seasoned tuna, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and (if you’d like to add it…) a pile of sticky white rice. I also chose to add avocado, chile oil, and pickled ginger to mine, which was t-t-tasty!
Poke-Poke opened in Austin in the middle of 2016 by wife-and-husband team Trish and Jason, who moved from California to open their second Poke-Poke location; the first is located in Venice Beach. (If you’ve been in Austin for long, you’ll know this location as the S. Congress spot that used to hold an Amy’s Ice Creams across the street from St. Ed’s University….but never fear! There’s another Amy’s Ice Creams just another mile north on S. Congress!) It’s a small shop with a few tables, some counter space, and an outdoor area with picnic tables.
My thoughts about eating poke for the first time:
– I’m glad I added rice to the bowl! I’m not sure I could have handled that much raw fish…
– Poke-Poke is insanely reasonably priced for the amount of fish you get! A small bowl is only $8, or $11 if you choose to go sans rice for more fish. (But even though I asked for rice, I was still given a big serving of fish!)
– It was vaguely similar to the feeling of eating beef tartar in Paris…obviously the two foods are entirely different, but the texture of eating that much raw meet without a lot of other food to mix in was a lot to handle.
– I definitely enjoyed it and will eat it again…but I think I’ll always eat rice with it instead of going purely traditional (or at least, I think eating it without rice is the traditional way….does anyone know for sure?) and eating only the raw fish.
-I kept thinking, I wish I were on a beach right now! It would have tasted even better if I had been smelling the salty ocean air and listening to the waves.
So if you know anything about poke, could you fill in the gaps for me? Is eating it without rice the “traditional” way? And what about the seasonings…is adding chile oil or pickled ginger ok, or would that be considered disrespectful? According to this chef from Hawaii, Hawaiians feel conflicted about the attention poke has been getting recently…I want to make sure I’m eating it right and not screwing up a longstanding traditional food! Because I think it’s awesome.
Oh my gosh…there are so many great foods to try. And I just want to try them all!
I’m heading out of town this weekend for an orchestra concert; I’m going to play Mahler Symphony No. 5! This is a MASSIVE piece and I’ve never performed it, so I’m super stoked! I’ve spent the better part of today practicing it, and I’m currently listening to a recording of the Vienna Philharmonic performing it via Apple Music, so I’m just about ready for our first rehearsal! Wish me luck!
Happy weekending, friends!