Hawaiian poke is conquering the world

A huge range of foods can be used to make poke.
A huge range of foods can be used to make poke. / D. Maldonado
  • Poke is an old Hawaiian staple of preserved vegetables and meat which has been transformed by the influence of Japanese cuisine

Since it became fashionable in 2016 in the US, poke has become a global phenomenon. In Malaga, the first specialised restaurant, Ohana Poké & More, has had such a good reception that a year after its inauguration, a second restaurant has now opened. Many fusion and Asian restaurants, tapas bars and fast food outlets now include it in their menus.

But what is poke? In the plentiful images on social networks like Instagram, it appears as a sort of salad in a bowl, composed of a rice base (which can be substituted by quinoa, other cereals or noodles), a protein (raw tuna, salmon and octopus and also chicken, another type of meat or tofu); vegetables (seaweed, edamame, avocado, red onion, spring onion, etc.), soy sauce combined with different mayonnaise-based sauces, and 'toppings' of sesame seeds and nuts. A complete, simple, versatile and fun dish.

Little is known about its history. We know it comes from Hawaii and if we take into account that currently the native population of Hawaii represents no more than 6.6% of the total population, and that the main group of residents is Asian (40%), mainly Japanese, it becomes obvious why the preserved fish or meat became popular among surfers as 'Hawaiian sashimi'.

By 1970 a mixture of marinated tuna with red onion, spring onion, soy sauce and sesame was available in supermarkets with a range of toppings. Each family then mixed it to their own taste and, given the Japanese influence, rice or seaweed was usually added.

Food journalist Rachel Tan points out that poke was definitely launched on the world from the restaurant Pololi, a Hawaiian restaurant that opened in Hong Kong in 2014.

Rachel Tan places the expansion of poke to the US in 2016, and the conquest of Spanish palates was not long after. The second specialised restaurant in Spain, which is on its way to becoming the biggest poke brand in Europe, was born in Malaga.

Ohana Poké & More opened in Echeverría del Palo on May 4, 2017. Just one year later they set up a branch in Teatinos, and on July 4 they will be opening in the centre of Malaga.