The poke 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 poke shops opened their doors downtown.
Poke, pronounced poh-kay, means “to cut.” Based on the traditional Hawaiian style dish, poke 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 entree 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 poke newbies.
Angela Wong, owner of Splash Poke, 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 poke at home and found she had a passion for it. It was then she decided to take the leap and open Splash Poke.
“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 Pok 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 poke dishes for the masses.
Hui uses yellowfin tuna as one of his main proteins for poke. 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 poke 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 poke 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 poke bowl and adds that each chef in Hawaii has his or her own recipe.
Although poke 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 poke before to taste before they buy. I want them to have a positive experience,” says Hui.