For a fresh, healthy and zesty meal that doesn’t skimp on the flavour, you can’t go wrong with a poke bowl: chunky cubes of marinated raw fish served atop a bowl of perfectly cooked rice, complete with various tasty fixings.
Hailing from Hawaii, the dish (pronounced as “po-kay”) in its current form is said to have originated in the 1970s and soon became a staple in home kitchens, supermarkets and stores around the islands. Traditionally, poke is made up of diced tuna (or in some cases octopus) that’s dressed with Hawaiian salt, seaweed and ground roasted candlenut – perfect for a refreshing treat after an afternoon at the beach or to cool off in the sunny weather.
Over the next few decades, poke found its way to mainland America and eventually went global. While the trend reached its apex between 2016 and 2017, you’ll still find plenty of places serving up the dish across the world, with different cultures adding their own spin.
To celebrate International Poke Day on 28 September, we’ve rounded up some of the best poke bowls in cities across the Singapore Airlines network where you can get your fix.
The poke bowl trend is still alive and well in Singapore, with most of the original poke restaurants still in business and new ones continuing to pop up. One of the city-state’s debut poke concepts, Poke Theory, offers generous portions chock-full of toppings including crispy salmon skin, pomegranate and spice-roasted cashews, while vegetarians can opt for avocado cubes instead of fish. Other favourites include Salmon Samurai and Aloha Poké, both of which also allow you to customise your poke bowl with the ingredients of your choice. Meanwhile, Norwegian export Pink Fish opened last year at Jewel Changi Airport and offers, among other varieties, a Hawaiian Poke Bowl that consists of salmon cubes, crispy greens, avocado, sesame, chilli mayonnaise and mango hot sauce atop a bed of rice.
2. Los Angeles
Given its relative proximity to Hawaii, Los Angeles was one of the first cities in mainland America where the poke trend first caught on. And with dozens of different poke restaurants, takeaway joints and stands to choose from, you’re sure to be spoilt for choice. Local favourites include Ohana Poké, where you can craft your own bowl out of premium ingredients including Koshihikari heirloom sushi rice, organic tofu, wild yellowfin tuna and Canadian salmon; Sweetfin, which does California-inspired poke bowls made with responsibly sourced seafood and fresh local produce; Oh My Poki, where the bases include white and brown rice, tortilla chips, mixed greens and the intriguing soy paper; and Jus’ Poke, where you’ll find a traditional Hawaiian version of the dish that’s no frills and all flavour.
For a poke bowl that’s a work of art in itself, make a beeline for Kaia, an Asian-Pacific-inspired restaurant at The Ned hotel that specialises in healthy fare. Its colourful poke bowls are available in salmon, tuna and avocado options and come topped with crunchy lotus root chips, thin seaweed slivers and even edible flowers. If you want your bowl on-the-go, you can visit one of the city’s fast-casual poke concepts such as Honi Poke, Ahi Poké, Island Poké and Polú Poké. At the latter – which has locations in Shoreditch and Fitzrovia – the poke bowls are created with sustainably sourced, MCS-certified fish that’s dressed in anything from spicy mayo and wasabi aioli to unagi sauce and Hawaiian barbecue marinade.
4. Hong Kong
The go-to place in Hong Kong to nab yourself a poke bowl is undoubtedly Pololi. Operating in the city since 2014, it bills itself as Asia’s first poke chain and currently has two outlets in the city in Central and Causeway Bay. You’ll be spoilt for choice with more than 30 poke flavours – five to six are available each day, with the menu rotating daily. The flavours are prepared in small batches throughout the day and served chilled. Two other solid options are Pokéworld, where you can swap out the standard white rice for either brown rice, soba or a salad or try their pokeritto (where the ingredients are rolled into a burrito-style wrap); and POKE HK, which has an umami-rich shiitake mushroom bowl as a vegan option and offers toppings including tamago strips, bonito shavings, onsen egg and tobiko (flying fish roe).
5. New York
Ask any New York poke lover for their top joints, and they’re likely to recommend Chikarashi. With three locations in The Big Apple, the popular restaurant offers a contemporary spin on poke, as influenced by Japanese chirashi dishes. Options for hungry diners include the Sichuan Chili Salmon that’s tinged with a spicy Sichuan mayonnaise sauce; as well as the Wasabi Mayo Tuna that comes with fish coated in shoyu and wasabi mayonnaise. Another favourite place is Sons of Thunder – with locations at Murray Hill and in the Financial District – where you can choose between tuna, salmon, octopus, tofu or golden beets; and Sweetcatch Poke, which serves delicious Hawaiian-style bowls across their various Manhattan locations.
From the city centre to Bondi Beach, Sydney is home to numerous poke bowl concepts doling out the dish with an Aussie twist. A popular spot is Finn Poké, which opened its first location in Byron Bay and has since expanded. It specialises in generously portioned, colourful poke bowls made with either wild-caught or sustainably farmed local fish. We recommend going for The Big Katuna, which consists of tuna, seaweed salad, roasted nori, pickled ginger, crispy onion and shoyu on a base of your choice. There’s also Fishbowl, which has multiple outlets around the city, where you can opt for a dish that’s made with aburi (seared) salmon; and Nudefish Poké, where a “boat to bowl” philosophy ensures that only sustainable Australian seafood finds its way into your meal.
Given the Danish penchant for healthy dishes and the country’s proximity to prime fishing waters, poke’s popularity in Copenhagen should come as no surprise. One of the top spots to tuck into a poke bowl is Olioli, which has a host of restaurants throughout the city, including at the Copenhagen airport. Other than tuna and salmon bowls, Olioli also has a uniquely Danish version of the dish on the menu at their Nordhavn store: an open-faced sandwich, in which the standard smoked salmon slices are replaced by cubes of fish that have been marinated in a sesame dressing. You can also stop by Maui Poke, where bases include rice, quinoa and kale; as well as fast-casual spot California Kitchen, where you’ll find a poke bowl that comes with sushi rice, kimchi, edamame and pickled ginger.
A long day spent carving up the waves at one of Bali’s famous surf spots calls for a poke bowl to replenish your energy. Thankfully, the island is home to plenty of stellar options. In Canggu, you’ll find Moana Fish Eatery, which serves up delicious tuna poke bowls filled with fresh and healthy ingredients; as well as the restaurant Fishbone Local, which does a mean poke bowl made with sushi rice, tuna, wakame (seaweed), avocado and edamame. Meanwhile, Uluwatu is home to Coco & Poké, where the dish is served on a banana leaf nestled into a wooden bowl. Besides the standard fish varieties, vegans can opt for the tofu version. And if you’re in Ubud, head over to Mudra, where you can add kimchi or gochujang (red chili paste) to your bowl to give it a Korean twist.
As some locations are temporarily closed due to the Covid-19 situation, please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours before visiting. Do also remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
For updates and travel advisories, please visit Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.