Have I told you that I’m taking ballroom dancing? I adore it. It’s my escape for a few hours a week. I was a former jazz dancer; but ballroom dance is like learning a new language. It’s challenging but exhilarating. I am learning at the Dance with Me Studios on West 37th St. When I’m finished with my lesson, I’m famished and on the corner of the 37th and 6th Avenue, I discovered a Poke take out called PokeWorks.
If you haven’t heard, poke (pronounced poh-kay) has been taking over the NYC food scene since the beginning of 2016, when Ligaya Mishan of The New York Times declared a little-known restaurant, Sons of Thunder, to be serving the best poke in Manhattan. Suddenly the business went from barely staying afloat to serving hundreds of poke fans a day. This happened around the same time word was coming to New York about the exploding poke scene in LA, and today we have over 500 restaurants serving poke in this city alone!
Poke is a dish that hails from beautiful Hawaii–which is probably why it made it’s way to LA before getting here. Most poke is a raw fish-based dish that celebrates the protein. Today, most people think of the bright red Ahi Tuna, when they think of poke, but the Polynesian roots of the dish were humbler than that. Pre-colonial era poke was usually made from locally caught reef fish and seasoned with fresh sea salt and/or seaweed, topped with some crushed kukui nut (candlenut).
Eventually the Japanese and Korean workers on the island would add their own spins to the dish–like shoyu (soy sauce), sesame oil, and kimchi. It wasn’t until about the 60s or 70s that the dish became known as poke, which is a Hawaiian word meaning “to cut crosswise into pieces.”Around the same time that poke got its name, it became associated with the brightly colored ahi tuna that was suddenly available to the masses.
You can make your own poke bowl at home with lots of fixins. The base is usually a rice or quinoa or even a noodle or salad. And usually a raw fish is your protein. Although tuna is the most popular, I used salmon in my poke. I marinated it in soy, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and mirin. You could also use chicken or tofu as your main protein. The ideas are endless. I surrounded my salmon with edamame, avocado, bean sprouts, pickled onions, cucumber, watercress, seaweed and more.
But you don’t have to travel very far to get your very own poke–in fact, I encourage you to have your own Poke Party! Invite your friends over and everyone gets to make their own bowls–a healthier alternative to making your own pizzas!