Poke in the Prairies
Seafood lovers will fall for this raw fish dish gaining popularity in the city.
October 1, 2017
photography by Cooper & O'Hara
Angela Wong, owner of Splash Poké
The poké trend has hit the prairies. Whether you’re building your own bowl or choosing a chef’s creation, the fast casual dining option is stirring up some Edmonton excitement. While you may not associate fresh seafood with a land-locked province, local palates are intrigued by the Hawaiian staple — within a few weeks, two poké shops opened their doors downtown.
Poké, pronounced poh-kay, means "to cut.” Based on the traditional Hawaiian style dish, poké is created with marinated, raw sectioned fish. Some describe it as a raw fish salad. It can be served on its own as an appetizer, but most often as an entrée on a bed of rice with toppings including everything from sesame seeds to nori, raw fruits and vegetables.
Although traditionally made with ahi tuna, some modernized versions are using scallops, octopus, salmon and even cooked chicken for those poké newbies.
Angela Wong, owner of Splash Poké, is no stranger to the restaurant business. Her family has been running restaurants in the Edmonton area for more than 20 years. Inspired by her travels in Hawaii, Wong started making poké at home and found she had a passion for it. It was then she decided to take the leap and open Splash Poké.
“I like to let the fish speak for itself. We, of course, only use sashimi grade fish,” adds Wong. But finding the magic number for the amount of seafood to order has been a bit of a challenge. Splash Poké goes through about 500 pounds of seafood per week. Splash offers four signature bowls and the rest are build-your-own. Sauces are homemade with inspiration from Wong’s mother and the different flavours she discovered in Hawaii.
Nearby, on 104th Street, you’ll find Ono Poke Co., a new spot owned and operated by NAIT graduate Lawrence Hui. Hui is channeling his love of seafood and time in Maui into creating poké dishes for the masses.
Hui uses yellowfin tuna as one of his main proteins for poké. He enjoys the bright colour, firmness and says you can infuse more flavours into this type of fish. Hui is also incorporating scallops and spot prawns into his menu — which changes every three months.
“We have a new seafood order coming in every single day. I want people to understand that this is a chef-driven poké restaurant. My team and I want to keep things exciting and explore different flavours. We put a lot of thought into creating each signature bowl,” says Hui.
Another important component to poké is the sauce. Hui has created a number of different sauces, but says his creation of Hawaiian Chili Water definitely stands out. Chef Hui thinks this helps bring out even more flavour in a poké bowl and adds that each chef in Hawaii has his or her own recipe.
Although poké is still new to many people, Hui is very happy at how the city has embraced this fast casual dining option.
“I enjoy educating customers. I encourage those who have never tried poké before to taste before they buy. I want them to have a positive experience,” says Hui.
This article appears in the October 2017 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.