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What is Hawaiian Poke?

Hawaiian Poke

The word poke is Hawaiian for “to slice or cut.” Poke is a traditional Hawaiian snack dating back to the original Polynesian immigrant fishermen catching small reef fish. After removing the loins from their fish, they would scrape the meat from between the bones, add a little alaea salt, and eat it over rice.

Over time, Hawaii welcomed people from many places in Asia, and each brought their own culinary traditions with them. Soy sauce and green onions, from Japan, were quickly assimilated into the Hawaiian pantry, and later, toasted sesame oil from China. Later, furikake (mix of dried fish, sesame seeds, and dried seaweed), chopped dried or fresh chili pepper, limu (seaweed), roasted crushed candlenut (kukui nut), fish eggs, wasabi, and Maui onions were added.

As fishermen became more sophisticated, fish from deeper water became available, and ahi (yellowfin tuna) and aku (skipjack tuna) replaced the small reef fish. Today, these richer fish are the preferred type for poke in Hawaii and on the mainland. In more recent times, poke has been made with octopus, salmon, and various kinds of shellfish. Poke found its way to the mainland in the 1960s as jet travel made Polynesia accessible and island fever swept the Beach Boys, grass skirts, hula dancing, Trader Vic’s and his famous rum drinks, and Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki expedition into vogue.

Pacific Catch leads the Bay Area poke explosion

Long before Poke became the huge trend that it is today, Pacific Catch brought it to San Francisco. In 2003, Pacific Catch opened its first location on Chestnut Street in San Francisco. Inspired by Hawaiian seaside fish shacks, Pacific Catch featured poke on the original menu alongside simple grilled fish sandwiches, tacos, and over rice. Since then, Pacific Catch has made creative poke a centerpiece of our culinary identity.

Today Pacific Catch features a refrigerated glass case filled with five traditional and creative pokes ranging from our 2003 Original to more recent recipes made from cured salmon and green onion, sliced Hamachi and avocado, and ahi with toasted macadamia nuts. Our regularly changing list of Chalkboard Specials includes a rotating poke that changes as new fish and vegetables come into season.

Enjoy our pokes on their own on wonton chips, or make a meal out of three varieties served over warm sushi rice. Have a poke handroll, or share some poke nachos. Try our famous wasabi rice bowl with poke on top. At Pacific Catch, we are constantly working on new and creative ways to create and serve poke.