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Poke Mania

Poke, which rhymes with “OK” and not “spoke”, is a dish traditionally made of fresh raw fish seasoned with Hawaiian salt, seaweed and roasted candlenut meat. It’s a beloved Hawaiian specialty (they’re so invested in this dish, some will take offense if you spell it as pok√©, which is not traditional). In the 60s, it became the dish to have at every single pupu (party), though it’s versatile enough to be served at any occasion and is perfect with beer after a hard day’s work. The secret to a good poke is fresh, fine quality fish cut in fingertip-size slices. Whatever seasoning is used should only enhance, but never overpower, the fish’s mellow and buttery flavor. Poke represents Hawaii’s deep connection to the ocean, its source of abundant food, and yet the dish easily accommodates new ingredients from other cultures like chili, sesame oil or soy sauce. Last year, poke appreciation reached fandom levels in New York, and it’s slowly gaining ground in Manila. It’s easy to see why: it’s healthy, unbelievably versatile, and fits so well with the current enthusiasm for fast casual dining. Oh, and poke is very instagrammable, too. 

WHERE TO BUY:

Poke Poke
“Poke is millennial, sushi traditional,” says Chef Kel Zaguirre who serves up the most diverse selection of poke bowls in town. The menu at Poke Poke features nine signature poke bowls ranging from the basic: an ahi tuna poke bowl, to creative riffs like the Cali poke bowl filled with fresh ripe mangoes, kani and white rice. The best selling For The Rich Only is heaped with steak cubes, crispy bacon, a soft boiled egg and a touch of white truffle oil. You can even design your own poke bowl. 
G/F Estancia Mall, Pasig City

Ahi Hawaii
The couple who owns this tiny restaurant wanted it to feel like the beach stalls in Waikiki, where they  honeymooned. The menu offers five bowls that play up the umami flavors of poke. The Ahi poke, for example, has all the traditional elements: salmon and tuna sashimi, seaweed, rice, but then is added mango, melon, cucumber, tomato, sesame oil, honey, toasted breadcrumbs and soy garlic sauce. The combinations are fun and flavorful, and they don’t shy away from adding unusual ingredients like cheddar cheese, elotes sauce, squid balls and even Spam. It’s hip and young and fun.
3 Maginhawa Street, Quezon City, (0999) 881-2239

The Wholesome Table
Their elegant version of poke feels almost like chirashi in its mix of flavors and textures. Fingertip-size cubes of salmon sit on a bed of brown rice, with wakame (Japanese seaweed), ebiko (roe), flavored with Japanese mayonnaise, togarashi, pickled ginger, onion leeks and stir fry sauce. Admire the beautiful plating for a moment, then mix it all up to get a pleasing symphony of flavors and textures. 
Branches at Estancia Mall, Pasig City; Salcedo Village, Makati; Bonifacio High Street, Taguig 

Kapoke
Operating only at the Legaspi Sunday Market or select bazaars in the city, this is the most fun and affordable poke in the city. Create your own bowl, building your poke from the base up. Begin with rice (we love sushi rice), choose between salmon or tuna, choose your veggies and toppings (from tempura flakes to chicharon bits). Add ripe mangoes for a little extra oomph. Mix it all up and enjoy. 
IG: @kapokeph, FB: kapokeph

 

MAKE YOUR OWN:

TUNA POKE BOWL
Serves 4

Recipe by Nancy Dizon Edralin

3 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons sliced shallots
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon chili paste 
1/2 kilo Ahi tuna steak, sashimi grade 
2 tablespoons chopped spring onion

6 cups white rice, cooked
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup pickled pink ginger
1 cup cucumber, diced
1/2 cup nori, shredded
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted
1. In a large bowl, mix together the soy sauce, shallots, sesame oil and chili paste. Set aside. 
2. Cut the ahi tuna into 1/2 inch cubes. Add the ahi tuna and spring onions to the mixture. Gently combine.
3. In a bowl, add desired amount of rice for the first layer. Then arrange the ahi tuna, carrots, pickled ginger, cucumber and nori.

Photography by Paul del Rosario
Styling by Nancy Dizon Edralin