Living in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the native Hawaiians were lucky enough to have access to some of the best fish in the world. While most of the fish they consumed consisted of reef fish, they did occasionally catch small tuna, which they would cut up and make into poke (pronounced POH-kay).
Poke made by the earlier Hawaiians did not contain soy sauce, onions, or sesame oil reminiscent of the modern-day version. Rather, it was made simply with fresh fish, Alae (Hawaiian salt), Limu (sea algae), and Inamona (roasted and salted candlenut). This form of poke is still popular in poke shops around Hawaii.
The new classic version contains soy sauce, onions, scallions, sesame oil, and chili flakes (also called shoyu poke). Poke can be made with fish (cooked or uncooked), octopus (cooked), crab, or just about any other seafood. There are now even vegetarian varieties of poke, although they can more accurately be classified as salads.
The new mainland craze called “poke bowl” is loosely based on a hybrid of the Japanese classic dish, chirashi, and Hawaiian poke. It is noteworthy to point out that a true Hawaiian poke is fish (or any seafood) that has been marinated for at least a few hours.