How a bowl of raw fish became the next big thing in fast food

Sweetfin poke
Poké has been popping up everywhere. Sweetfin Poke/Facebook

If you haven’t yet heard of poké (pronounced POH-kay), that’s bound to change soon.

A wave of restaurants serving this Hawaiian raw-food specialty have crashed into dining scene, bringing the next phenomenon in fast-casual food.

Poké is a mix of raw cubes of seafood (usually ahi tuna or salmon) in a soy sauce-based marinade. It’s often garnished with seaweed, cucumber, avocado, or tobiko, and served over rice or greens. Ubiquitous in Hawaii — you can pick it up at grocery stores or even gas stations — poké is a deconstructed, flavorful version of sushi. It’s also generally healthy and endlessly customisable.

It also doesn’t hurt that, as Bloomberg has pointed out, it’s much more economical to open a poké spot compared to a traditional restaurant, which requires industrial-strength cooking equipment and a venting system.

Raisa Bruner contributed reporting to an earlier version of this article.

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[slide
permalink=”/#already-a-mainstay-in-the-los-angeles-dining-scene-pok-spots-are-popping-up-all-around-new-york-city-1″
title=”Already a mainstay in the Los Angeles dining scene, poké spots are popping up all around New York City.”
content=”Source: Gothamist
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/56abc3cbc08a80431d8bb3ba”
source=”Shutterstock/EQRoy”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-273537182/stock-photo-hawaiian-poke-with-onions-and-sesame-seeds.html?src=pEzkMCwetUScf0n9o5VCDQ-1-8″
]
[slide
permalink=”/#theyre-a-middle-ground-between-quick-salad-bowls-think-chopt-just-salad-or-sweetgreen-and-the-more-calorie-filled-offerings-of-chipotle-pok-bowls-fit-that-niche-theyre-flavorful-packed-with-protein-and-dont-feel-like-rabbit-food-but-are-still-light-and-healthy-2″
title=”They’re a middle ground between quick salad bowls (think Chop’t, Just Salad, or Sweetgreen) and the more calorie-filled offerings of Chipotle. Poké bowls fit that niche: they’re flavorful, packed with protein, and don’t feel like ‘rabbit food,’ but they’re still light and healthy.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/5953dbc8d084cc42238b5e22″
source=”Peter N. / Yelp”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#by-allowing-endless-customizations-pok-bowl-restaurants-are-playing-into-our-modern-desire-for-new-tastes-and-changing-options-3″
title=”By allowing endless customisations, poké bowl restaurants are playing into our modern desire for new tastes and changing options.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/56abcfab58c32384008b67f8″
source=”Kate Taylor”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#while-sushi-can-cost-upwards-of-15-or-20-for-anything-more-than-a-small-basic-roll-most-pok-bowls-are-priced-in-the-10-to-20-range-depending-on-the-add-ins-for-a-complete-meal-if-you-balk-at-a-low-priced-raw-fish-meal-remember-the-restaurants-are-buying-quality-fish-in-bulk-reducing-cost-on-both-ends-4″
title=”While sushi can cost upwards of $US15 or $US20 for anything more than a small, basic roll, most poké bowls are priced in the $US10 to $US20 range (depending on the add-ins) for a complete meal. If you balk at a low-priced, raw-fish meal, remember: the restaurants are buying quality fish in bulk, reducing cost on both ends.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/56abd26f58c3238d008b679d”
source=”Pokéworks/Facebook”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#for-those-concerned-about-health-and-quality-it-is-raw-fish-after-all-chefs-and-restaurant-operators-say-that-the-more-volume-being-served-the-fresher-the-product-can-be-consistent-consumption-means-that-the-food-doesnt-sit-for-more-than-a-day-5″
title=”For those concerned about health and quality —  it is raw fish, after all —  chefs and restaurant operators say that the more volume being served, the fresher the product can be. Consistent consumption means that the food doesn’t sit for more than a day.”
content=”Source: Eater
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/56abd3a758c3239d078b670e”
source=”Julienne D./Yelp”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#finally-we-cant-dismiss-the-fact-that-pok-bowls-are-being-served-in-well-bowls-the-bowl-trend-is-well-documented-last-year-the-wall-street-journal-proclaimed-that-bowls-are-the-new-plates-and-it-isnt-slowing-down-anytime-soon-6″
title=”Finally, we can’t dismiss the fact that poké bowls are being served in, well, bowls. The bowl trend is well-documented (last year, the Wall Street Journal proclaimed that ‘bowls are the new plates’), and it isn’t slowing down anytime soon.”
content=”Source: The Wall Street Journal
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/56abd80bc08a8036008bdcfe”
source=”Emily H./Yelp”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#ready-to-give-pok-a-shot-if-youre-in-new-york-city-you-have-some-options-theres-wisefish-in-chelsea-similar-to-chipotle-you-choose-a-base-rice-or-zucchini-noodles-for-the-carb-conscious-a-protein-and-a-variety-of-toppings-like-fresh-cucumber-crab-or-seaweed-salad-7″
title=”Ready to give poké a shot? If you’re in New York City, you have some options. There’s Wisefish in Chelsea — similar to Chipotle, you choose a base (rice or zucchini noodles for the carb-conscious), a protein, and a variety of toppings, like fresh cucumber, crab, or seaweed salad.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/56abd472c08a809b088bdc5f”
source=”Raisa Bruner”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#pokworks-located-in-midtown-eastserves-a-quinoa-or-kale-base-option-with-unusual-accoutrements-like-lotus-chips-or-edamame-sauces-come-in-variations-like-sriracha-aioli-and-umami-shoyu-8″
title=”Pokéworks, located in Midtown East, serves a quinoa or kale base option with unusual accoutrements like lotus chips or edamame. Sauces come in variations like sriracha aioli and umami shoyu.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/56abc4d0c08a80880e8bdb0a”
source=”Pokéworks/Facebook”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#sons-of-thunder-also-in-midtown-east-offers-octopus-pok-along-with-the-usual-tuna-and-salmon-varieties-and-hot-dogs-for-those-less-inclined-to-raw-fish-9″
title=”Sons of Thunder — also in Midtown East — offers octopus poké along with the usual tuna and salmon varieties (and hot dogs, for those less inclined to raw fish).”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/56abc3a4c08a806f008bdb2c”
source=”Ashwin M./Yelp”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#theres-also-the-pokspot-in-union-square-which-offers-its-own-take-on-the-trend-10″
title=”There’s also The PokéSpot in Union Square, which offers its own take on the trend.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/5953de59d084cc08538b5a99″
source=”The PokéSpot / Yelp”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[slide
permalink=”/#for-californians-meanwhile-pok-is-already-easy-to-find-in-los-angeles-try-mainland-poke-sweetfin-poke-ohana-poke-co-or-poke-bar-for-starters-11″
title=”For Californians, meanwhile, poké is already easy to find. In Los Angeles, try Mainland Poke, Sweetfin Poke, Ohana Poke Co, or Poke Bar, for starters.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/56abc53958c32319008b671f”
source=”Sweetfin Poké/Facebook”
caption=””
credit_href=””
]
[/slideshow]