From New York to Singapore, everybody is crazy about poke. What started off as a traditional Hawaiian meal is fast becoming a convenient and healthy option for millions of people all over the world. In the Philippines, poke has become increasingly popular with restaurants such as Poke Poke leading the way.
In its simplest terms, poke is made from marinated cuts of fresh seafood that is served over a bed of rice. Poke first became popular in the 1970’s in its native Hawaii, when fishermen and seafood vendors began to use the dish as a way to extend the shelf life of fresh seafood.
Four decades later, poke is experiencing culinary acclaim the world over. Almost every major city across the world has its own thriving “poke culture” with cities and restaurants crafting their own personal and regional spin on the Hawaiian favorite. And in the age of social media, it was only a matter of time before the poke bowl won the hearts and mouths of Filipino foodies.
Locally, poke has seen increasing visibility in food parks and pop-ups across Metro Manila. This changed in late 2016 when Poke Poke opened its first branch at the Estancia Mall, in Capitol Commons, Pasig City and established themselves as the “Purveyors of Poke.”
Poke Poke began as the collective brainchild of a group of friends that included business couple, Speedy and Alta Lyttle, and well-known executive chef, Kel Zaguirre; the fire starters of the famous Filipino restaurant, Locavore. Together, the group explored the creative and fiscal capabilities of the dish and began to tailor poke to suit the Filipino palate. “It was a big risk at the beginning”, shares co-owner Alta Lyttle. “More than anything, we wanted to capture families and health-conscious individuals. That is why we made the decision to adjust poke to suit Filipino tastes.”
The resulting poke bowls became a fusion of Asian and Continental tastes with traditional Hawaiian sensibilities.
“People were hesitant at first because they were unfamiliar were with the concept (of poke)”, adds head chef, Kel Zaguirre. “But once they tasted poke and became familiar with the dish, it opened their eyes to possibilities of what we can do and where we can go on a culinary level.
Since its launch, Poke Poke has expanded across the Metro with three additional branches, allowing more people access to their offerings.
“Since we’ve found our place in the market, Poke Poke has become the healthy alternative for people looking for a quick and delicious meal that won’t leave them feeling heavy or bloated”, says Speedy Lyttle.
It’s easy to see what makes poke such a memorable dish for diners. One single bowl can singlehandedly capture a collection of textures and flavors that are often enjoyed separately. It’s new, exciting, and healthy.
At an age marked by constant discovery via social media, poke’s increasing popularity represents today’s consumer: fast and health-conscious, with a worldly outlook that craves constant discovery and the privilege to share new discoveries with the uninitiated.
The rise of poke is not a trend. It is a glimpse into the culinary habits of generations to come.
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