It is pronounced “poh-kay” but, as Singaporeans so enjoy doing, the Hawaiian word for “to cut or slice” has been localised to “po-kee”.
Phonetics aside, poke in Hawaii is synonymous with raw fish and, in its most classic form, involves cubes of raw tuna marinated in different sauces – usually two parts shoyu to three parts sesame oil. The meat is then tossed with toasted sesame, sweet white onions and scallions.
Widely sold in supermarkets across Hawaii, the marinated fish is often served atop a mound of salad or rice. Tasty, colourful and healthy, it is a popular item all over the Hawaiian Islands.
For John Chen, his wife and their two friends, a holiday to the American state in the Pacific Coast in 2014 presented them with a new obsession.
“We were hooked from the first bowl, and for the rest of the trip, we went around Oahu trying different versions,” recalled Chen. So inspired were the four that in August 2015 – just a year upon returning from the vacation – they opened Aloha Poke, the first restaurant here focused solely on serving poke bowls.
At lunch, diners get to choose from fresh tuna from the Philippines and Indonesia, and Norwegian salmon, both of which can be served marinated in wasabi mayo or in a spicy sauce. There is also a variety of add-ons including edamame, flying fish roe and chia seeds.
At dinner, the Ultimate Poke Bowl awaits: a Chinese communal soup bowl-sized portion featuring a hodgepodge of tuna, salmon, mesclun, almonds, cherry tomatoes and pineapple.
For those who are wondering just how authentic it can possibly be, Chen says their biggest endorsement comes from Hawaiian customers who return at least once a week for their poke fix. “They say it reminds them of home,” says Chen with pride.
Aloha Poke, 92 Amoy Street.
Sample variations of the poke bowl available at these other restaurants around Singapore.