Perfect Poke Todaypoke bowl with sushi rice, raw salmon, sliced avocado, and seaweed slaw with green onion and edamame. there is a pair of chopsticks resting on the bowl

Perfect Poke Today

Poke has been around for centuries, but the kind we see today in restaurants was popularized in the 1970s. Poke (pronounced po-kay, rhymes with “okay”) bowls are a dish native to Hawaii and take inspiration from Japanese and Korean cuisines.

Although there are some ingredients that are of traditional to the dish, many restaurants are opting to make their poke bowls customizable from start to finish. This is an especially popular choice for fast casual restaurants where customers can pick their protein, marinade, vegetables, toppings, and sauce.

What goes into a Poke Bowl?

The featured ingredient of the dish is usually cubes of raw fish that has been marinated in soy sauce and/or sesame oil. Raw, sushi grade tuna, octopus, and salmon are all common seafood options for poke bowls. Tofu and edamame have more recently become popular vegetarian options. North American fast casual restaurants often skip the marinating step and opt to add sauce on as the bowl is being assembled. This allows for easy customization for customers.


The base of a poke bowl often has sushi rice; this rice is short grain, slightly sticky and is the kind used for making sushi rolls. Because poke bowls are most often served chilled, sushi rice provides a more pleasant texture for customers than long grain white rice. Rice is also an excellent base because it is so versatile, is filling, and is an economic choice for fast service restaurants. Soba noodles, quinoa, couscous, and zucchini noodles are all options for a base as well.

Poke bowls are often topped with vegetables, such as any combination of green onion, cucumber slices, finely shredded purple cabbage, avocado cubes or slices, pineapple, carrot matchsticks, or radish slices. These veggies are usually added raw but grilling a slice of pineapple adds aesthetic appeal and brings out even more of the natural sweetness of the fruit. This complements the fermented and salty flavor found in many of the most popular sauces and marinades.

Regional Adaptations

Common sauces and other toppings depend if the bowl being assembled is a traditional Hawaiian one, or one that has more modern Asian influence, or if it has been adapted to contemporary North American tastes.

Traditional Hawaiian poke bowls are often seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt or limu (the general term for edible algae/seaweed).

Poke seasoning with Japanese influence can have items such as soy sauce, furikake (mix of dried fish, sesame seeds, and dried seaweed), chopped dried or fresh chili pepper, fish eggs, and wasabi.

North American poke may be topped with ponzu sauce, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, sriracha sauce, or seasoned mayonnaise.

How to Serve a Poke Bowl

Poke is traditionally served with chopsticks in Hawaii, and that is a great way to enjoy it. A fork is also an option if chopsticks aren’t the customers’ preference or they are unable to use them for any reason. A fork better allows novice and expert chopstick users alike to take a tiny piece of different components of the dish.

Poke bowls are normally served in, well, a bowl. Fast casual restaurants, or restaurants that offer takeout and delivery, a disposable bowl and lid are the best option. Our bagasse sugarcane bowls and plastic lids are durable and can hold both hot and cold food safely. (Although poke bowls are generally served chilled, some restaurants may choose to offer some hot ingredients as an option.) These bowls are wide at the top, making them ideal for adding lots of vegetables and fish atop the base. Arranging poke like this not only looks appetizing and pretty, but it allows the customer to take a bit of different toppings in one bite.


Poke bowls allow restaurants and their customers to both get creative. The dish can be made as simple as wanted or filled to the brim with fresh vegetables and flavorful sauce. Offering pre-made poke bowls is a convenient option for people on the go, while allowing customers to customize each step of the way gives them exactly what they would like to try.