You’ve seen the healthy poke craze sweep America, and now the Hawaiian street food is set to take the UK by storm. Rowan Grant reviews the newest poke joint to open its doors – Oke Poke, in Manchester’s Norther Quarter.
It’s not ‘poke’ like a jab in the ribs. It’s ‘poh-keh’. And no food is trendy unless you’re part of the crowd who knows how to pronounce it properly (quinoa is so 2005). But while it might seem like a new trend, the simple and Hawaiian snack has been around for centuries. It’s a pick-and-mix bowl of raw fish with salad, rice and dressing, and an average serving yields about 350 calories.
I arrive at 12.30 ready for lunch. The shopfront is a large window decorated with four simple decals of their specialities: fresh poke, pokeritos (poke seaweed wrap), juices and infusions. Each of the four, 4-person seating stations are occupied by a couple, but the stations are big – so Niall, my boyfriend, and I – pick one to share. It’s quiet inside and the white industrial-style tiling feels clinical.
We order at the counter, and it’s pick and mix style: choose a base of rice or leaves; pick a protein of raw tuna or salmon (with chicken and tofu as alternatives); select three salad sides of diced vegetables, fruits, or more exotic options like tobiko roe; pick a garnish of nuts, seeds or spices; and finally, a dressing for your bowl. All this for £7.95.
You can see what you’re choosing: all ingredients are displayed in a gelato-style stall.
I go for tuna with black rice, spring onions, celery, and mango, topped with pickled ginger and the classic soy, ginger and garlic dressing, along with a lemongrass and ginger infusion tea.
Niall also picks tuna, but with sushi rice, salad leaves, radish, avocado, chillis and wasabi dressing. The portion sizes are quite large and I notice one couple is sharing their bowl.
The tuna is exquisite, the texture of Turkish delight with the subtle flavour you’d expect from this sashimi paired with a classic Asian dressing. There’s a lot of it, more than you’d get in an average sushi serving, and more than I am able to get through. As I try to work my way through the rice with my chopsticks, I’m increasingly surprised by the grit between my teeth. There’s an odd juicy piece of mango amongst a portion that is mainly under-ripe, very disappointing. The real hit of flavour comes with the ginger which I’d like more of.
My lemongrass and ginger tea arrives in a disposable cup, made from biodegradable materials, but it’s impractical that the cup is as hot as a Big Island volcano. It’s surprising it’s not a home-made infusion at £2.45 – just a Pukka tea I drink at home.
Oke Poke is introducing this nourishing, low fat and raw lunch at an affordable price to the health conscious market. I’d definitely go back – but after teething problems with their supplies are ironed out.
This article was written in May 2018. My target media style was Healthy Eating Magazine.