Hawaiian poke lands in Vancouver

Hawaiian poke is one of Vancouver's latest food fads. Photo by Jessica Purver
Hawaiian poke is one of Vancouver’s latest food fads. Photo by Jessica Purver

Reported by Jessica Purver

Asian-inspired Hawaiian poke has quickly become Vancouver’s newest fusion food trend.

Poke (poke-AY), a seafood dish popular in Hawaii, is made up of fresh cubes of raw, marinated fish and topped with assorted vegetables and salad ingredients.

Since July, five poke restaurants have popped up around the city, with more in the works. The Poke Shop, located on Water Street in Gastown, had its grand opening on Nov. 18.

Poke the right fit for Vancouver

Chef and co-owner Brian Leung has 15 years experience in the industry. He believes that because of the recent demand for poke, his new restaurant was a perfect branch opportunity.

“I’ve made multiple trips to Hawaii and figured that Vancouver has a perfect market for it,” Leung said. “It’s fast, it’s easy, it’s healthy.”

The shop has a tropical feel and offers Hawaiian-style drinks and poke bowl toppings like macaroni salad and watermelon.

“[It’s] the sheer number of choices we offer,” Leung said. “All our toppings, our proteins as well, are different, they’re unique.”

Connoisseur pleased by trend

Poke may be new to Vancouver, but it’s a familiar treat for Joey Dong, IT manager during the day and foodie by night. Dong was excited when poke shops opened up in the city.

“I’ve been to almost all of them,” he said. “Because I’ve been to Hawaii and I’ve had poke there and I loved it there, it’s cool to actually have it at home.”

For Dong, the Hawaiian connection is key. Along with poke, he believes other authentic Hawaiian food should be offered in the city.

More options wanted

“My fear is that it’s going to get oversaturated because right now it’s the “in” thing that everyone wants to have,” he said. “It would be good to get some more variety.”

Bao Down, run by Matthew Adolfo and Greg Edwards in Gastown, was one of the first pan-Asian restaurants to serve poke in the city. They have now expanded to three locations, and serve loco moco and other Hawaiian creations.

By mixing local ingredients with traditional Asian techniques and flavours, they strive to come up with new ideas in an increasingly competitive market.

“It keeps up fresh all the time, which is good,” Adolfo said. “[That’s] why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

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