Blog – What is Poke?



What is Poké? The top 5 answers

by Hugh at Lushlicious™

I first tried poké (pou’kei) on a vacation trip to Hawaii.  I became instantly addicted to the fresh fish and healthy salad combination and the explosion of taste and variety of ingredients. I felt “more healthy” after eating poké.  The exotic and very tropical taste made me feel the essence of Hawaii was contained in that bowl. The vibrant colours, the fresh sea scents, the tropical flavours, to the laid-back eating experience. A perfect food for relaxed eating on a tropical beach in paradise.

Where did Poké originate?

Poké has a long history and deep traditions in Hawaiian culture. If you want to experience the ‘real’ poké you should visit Hawaii and ask a local where to best try poké. The word poké (pou’kei) means “to slice” or “to cut into pieces”. The early days of pou’kei started with fishermen seasoning the cut-offs from their fish to eat as a raw fish snack. Traditional types of fish used were ahi and the brightly coloured small reef fish and also bone fish, found in shallow water close to shore.  In Hawaii, “ahi” refers to two species of fish, the yellowfin tuna (Smaller yellowfin are also called “shibi” in Hawaii) and the bigeye tuna. (Yellowfin tuna flesh colours range from pink in small fish to deep red in large fish).  Traditionally native Hawaiians most often chopped up the brightly coloured striped reef fish or bone fish they caught off the beach and season it with just a few ingredients, sea salt, limu (seaweed) and inamona (roasted and crushed kukui nut). Over time poké has been influenced by other Asian cuisine, especially Japanese, and descendants from, Chinese, and Korean laborers brought to work Hawaii’s sugar and pineapple plantations.

What is traditional poké?

Today, ‘traditional’ or ‘classic’ poké most likely will include cubed raw fish like ahi or salmon along with –

  • onions – scallions, yellow or sweet onion, red onions, shallots
  • Soy sauce (Called ‘Shoyu’ in Hawaii and Japan)
  • Salt – Fine grain sea salt or Hawaiian ‘alaea’ course grain salt
  • Sesame oil
  • Furikake – Dried seaweed with various seasonings which may include dried fish
  • Mirin – Sweetened, sake-like, fermented rice wine
  • Rice Vinegar (unsweetened and unseasoned)
  • Hot sauces and chilies – Various, from sriracha (crushed red pepper flakes) to Sambal Oelek (ground chilli peppers)
  • Bonito flakes – Shaved dried skipjack tuna (aku)

What is modern poké?

Today, at most Poké counters you will find the above traditional ingredients served on a bed of white or brown rice (and/or lettuce) or red cabbage along with a large variety of many toppings and sauces. They may include edamame, imitation crab meat, octopus, scallop, shrimp, tofu, wasabi, masago and tobiko fish roes, olives, cucumber, kale, cilantro, corn, ginger, avocado and many, many more options.

Although some may initially consider poké to be a simple raw fish salad tossed together, the combination of ingredients are endless. A poké dish does not even have to include raw fish anymore, (cooked fish and vegan varieties are available) and poké is appearing in menus of restaurants and bars everywhere. Poké counters where you can build your own poké of choice are ever increasing in numbers in major mainland cities. Poké has become the ‘new’ healthy fast food, even though it has been a big part of Hawaiian culture for centuries.

Poké is a healthy meal?

Poké is a very fresh, tasty meal. But is it healthy? Usually poke is healthy, with lean protein, heart-healthy fats from fish, avocado and seeds and with lots of fibre from all the vegetables. The key to a healthy poke bowl is to customize the meal and to reduce the amount of rice and sodium-rich pickled vegetables and increase the fresh vegetables. Keep those important heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids with fresh fish in the poke. The fish should be as fresh as possible and kept at the correct chilled temperature. You can switch the common rice base served at poke counters with half rice and half salad or cabbage or add fresh fruits. Be mindful also of your portion size, especially if you’re using rice or noodles as a base. Also consider the amount of times you may be consuming tuna in a week. Check your local nutritional guidelines if you are consuming tuna often because of the mercury content. (Pregnant women are usually advised to avoid tuna during pregnancy.) Add sauces, in limited quantities especially if they are high in sodium or fat or both. A small drizzle is better than a heavy pour. 

How to make Poké ?

A good way to control the quality and make a healthy poke is to make your own at home. But is it difficult to make your own poke? To start you have to be confident and proficient using a sharp knife like a santoku knife. The word “santoku” has Japanese origin and means “three virtues” and refers to chopping, dicing, and mincing the knife is used for. A santuku is a very good general all-purpose knife to use and the santoku knife is designed to provide a comfortable, well-balanced grip. There are many brands and a range of qualities available and many reviews online. I cannot give a recommendation, but here are two options available on Amazon – Mac Knife MSK-65 and DALSTRONG Santoku Knife – Phantom Series

Of course the best poke is made with the best fresh fish. You should start by going to a reputable fish market or fishmonger in your local area and let them know you will be eating raw fish in a poké meal. Let the fishmonger give you advice on the most fresh and appropriate fish they have in that day. Raw fish should be prepared and eaten the same day it is purchased and stored at the correct temperature before preparation and consuming. Speak with your fishmonger or Japanese supermarket staff. The first step is to cut fish fillets that are around 3/4″ thick into strips 3/4″ wide then cut the strips into 3/4″ chunks. Some recipes call for the fish cubes to be marinated in sauce and seasonings for at least an hour and other recipes call for the fish to be tossed in the bowl immediately with your choice of sauce and all the other ingredients. Of course this article is just a starting point. There are hundreds of poké recipes online and some good poké recipe books available at your local book stores or online or for loan from your local library. Good luck, and enjoy creating great healthy, fresh poké.

I eat poké now on a weekly basis in Canada and every time I do I am transported back to my first tropical Hawaii experience. A little bit of tropical paradise, even if it is in the middle of Canadian winter.


by Hugh at Lushlicious™


I created Lushlicious™ to be a clean non-cluttered “Pinterest’ style site highlighting delicious food and drinks available at restaurants, cafes, bars, breweries, wineries and many more establishments. The site is best viewed on a mobile device by using your phone in a horizontal position or of course on a tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

On my own posts I provide direct links below each post to the map location of the business and a link to the business website, and I also provide an easy way to share the posts with share buttons for many popular social media sites directly below each post.

I personally have tried, enjoyed and photographed all of the food or drinks I post here. I also share professional posts by others…. restaurants, cafes, bars, breweries, wineries, etc. where they feature their food or drinks or food related products. You can also read interesting delicious food and drink related articles on the article page. (Continuously being added)

My hope is to continue creating and all positive experience here, therefore this is not a review site of any food or business, however there are many links to review sites listed under the ‘Reviews’ tab if you wish to look at reviews posted by others.

Enjoy your visit and I hope you find my site very useful and informative and return often to view daily new posts. If you wish to help me continue and expand this site and you already plan to make a purchase on Amazon in the next 24 hours I greatly appreciate you visiting Amazon via my links, and Amazon will give me a small commission on items purchased. If you wish to leave me a comment or suggest a delicious food or drink to be listed on my site please do so via my twitter account @Lushlicious and DM me there.

Thank you.


Legal Notice – We are a participant in the Amazon Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon and affiliated sites.