Everything You Need to Know About: Poke


OK, let’s get down to poke. If you weren’t sure — we made this line intentionally rhyme — as an easy reminder that poke is pronounced “poh-kay.” This fish and rice based dish hails from Hawaii, but has done a swimmingly good job of taking over the mainland. Simply put, if you’re a sushi fan — you’re going to want to try this. (No judgement on you late-to-the-poke-party people).

If personally crafting your own poke bowl sounds daunting, don’t worry, many restaurants have signature bowls. But, for those adventurous orderers…remember this acronym when it comes to crafting a poke bowl: BPTS. This stands for: base, protein, toppings, sauce. Now, let’s get down to the specifics…


Most commonly, you’ll see rice at the bottom of the bowl. Whether it’s jasmine, coconut, brown or traditional white sushi rice, this is pretty standard. If you’re living a carb-free lifestyle, some restaurants offer alternative bases like lettuce or zucchini noodles.


Historically, poke bowls have featured cubes of ahi tuna…but as its grown in popularity, poke features the likes of salmon, fluke, yellowtail and even shrimp or octopus. Veggie options are also available (think: tofu, tamago egg). If you’re not a purist, there are also marinated versions of the above fish offered at most spots.


Here’s where you can go wild. We’ve chosen a handful of popular toppings and broken them down below.

  • Pickled….cucumbers, radishes, onions.
  • Crunchy…onion crisps, sesame seeds, wontons.
  • Spicy…togarashi (chili pepper seasoning), jalapeños.
  • Salty…masago/tobiko (fish roe), seaweed salad, furikake (seasoning with seaweed, sesame and more).
  • Healthy…avocado, edamame.
  • Fruity…mango, pineapple.


Common dressings you’ll see on menus are: sweet shoyu (soy-based, light), ponzu (soy-based, more citrusy; also “chili ponzu”), and aioli (garlic, wasabi, sriracha).

Now that you’re well-versed on everything that goes into a poke bowl…we have a few tips:

  1. Try out a poke spot’s signature bowl first…take note of what you like and dislike. Next time, you’ll be better suited to build your dream bowl.
  2. There are a lot of different toppings, which is great…cause, variety. Go for a mix of toppings with a range of textures — it’ll make for a more well-rounded bowl.
  3. Sauces can sometimes be overpowering if you’re not used to the flavor. Add a request for sauce on the side in your special instructions. That way you can control how much — or how little — sauce your poke gets.