I had noticed that stall since it began renovations because I had been reading about the dish in the news back home. It worked out after many months, that I came across the restaurant while famished and decided to give myself a little treat.
Hawai’ian Poke has become the rage all across the world. Poke gained popularity on the island chain in the 1970s and spread to mainland United States in 2012, it became more popular in the United States in the proceeding years and and then spread across the world. People who want to try something exotic, people who are in the know would have tried this dish. But it is not a new culinary creation, and was hardly a fancy dish when it was first created by the Hawai’ian people.
While a state in America, poke looks anything but American (i.e. stereotypically European American). Hawai’i cuisine is not the stereotypical American cuisine that takes its heritage from Europe because Hawai’i is made of people who are mostly not of European origin. For all its publicised flaws (I insist that American flaws are not so much worse than other countries but rather the effect of being publicised more widely than others), the United States is nothing if not a diverse country. Even among its European-American population* those born in Minnesota can trace their ancestry to the Nordics, whereas those from Maryland and more likely than not to have German ancestry and those who trace their lineage to Boston very likely have Irish ancestry. Someone from Hawai’i however is much harder to peg. Because Hawai’i is such a mixed society. Close to 40% of the population has Asian origin and barely 10% have native Polynesian origin and the most populous two groups are Filipinos (13%) and Japanese (12%) ancestry. Poke is a dish that takes a lot of influence from the Asian culture of the people’s on the island.
Poke is a raw fish salad in Hawaii and is usually served as an appetizer and sometimes as a main course (although in many places that serve it outside of America perhaps it is the main dish). Poke is today a fancy dish that the “on-point” people eat, but its origins were more humble. Poke was a dish that began when fishermen took the off cuts from their catch and seasoned them as snacks. The seasoning was mostly of Asian influence such as soy sauce, green onions and sesame oil. According to Wikipedia, “Traditional Hawaiian poke may consist of cubed raw fish, maui onions, Inamona (a condiment made of roasted, salted candlenut), Limu (algae), soy sauce, green onions, or sesame oil. Some of the more contemporary variations can also include seaweed, Roe (fish eggs), wasabi, dried or fresh chilli, toasted macadamia nut, Furikake and can be served alone or on top of a bed of white rice, pineapple, Sushi-meshi (seasoned rice) or red cabbage.” It is similar to a carapacio of a fish tartare in Europe and a Yu Sheng in Southeast Asia.
Hawaii Poke is one of the few specialised Poke restaurants in Stockholm, serving fast poke made on order and like many other cities the dish is gaining popularity. The restaurant looks bare on the inside, with a single staff member (who multitasks as the cashier, server and chef herself), as well as four plain menus on the wall.
It was an arrangement that would work considering as the restaurant while having a steady trickle of customers was not being flooded by customers, I shudder to think how one person could cope with a whole restaurant of customers should it actually happen. I ordered the Maui Classic, which was made up of “salmon, sushi rice, salad, misoslaw, seaweed salad, mango, masago, pickled ginger, sesame seeds, wasabi aioli”. This bowl came up to 115 SEK, which was fair by Stockholm standards (oh how my classification of fair has dropped since moving here!)
This form of Poke is taken from the American mainland and differs from that from Hawai’i because the raw fish itself is not marinated but prepared on demand with various sauces, in this case wasabi aioli. This variation is very much like how there is a Japanse style of Sushi and an American one, the latter adapted to suite the tastes of the people.
It was a tasty dish in a bowl, with a mixture of textures and flavour partying in my mouth, there was chewiness from the seaweed and soft meaty texture from the fish punctuated with the crunch of sesame seeds; the marinated ginger had an astringent sweetness and the sweet mango had a slight hint of sourness.
It’s hip for a reason and very tasty, I’d certainly like more of it although I’d personally like to try the traditional Hawai’ian version before deciding which I like better.
*yes if there are African American and Asian American the there IS something called European American. The only people who should be alled American are the people who were native to the lands, those mistakenly called native American. No, they are American.
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