Poke bowls are the latest innovation from the lunch industrial complex. They’re favorites of trendy finance bros, white people with dreadlocked man buns and over-privileged health nuts who hear a Hawaiian word and think it will eliminate toxins and blow up their Insta stories. As a result, poke bowls are almost always overpriced for lunch food despite being unwieldy combinations of overpowering ingredients and confusing chewing sensations.
Still, the poke business is booming. According to Buzzfeed News, online ordering app Grubhub saw a 643 percent increase in poke orders last year, and they expect the dish to increase by 91 percent this year. The poke bowl is the latest food bowl trend, and bowls have long been popular with hip 20 and 30 somethings. Poke is Chipotle for sashimi. Sashimi is cool, it’s trendy, it’s for chill artsy types who found a full time job.
For better or, in my opinion, for worse, poke bowls are here to stay. At least for a while.
True to their Hawaiian/vaguely pan-Asian roots, most poke bowls include raw fish, rice, toppings like seaweed flakes and sesame seeds and edamame. Other common ingredients include radish, pineapple, onions green and red, seaweed salad, masago and hijiki.
Sounds delicious. But here’s the problem: poke bowls are hard to eat and you can’t get enough of the flavors in your mouth at once. Instead, each bite is an awkward combination of rice and onion, or seaweed and sauce. The best part about bowls — dishes that are typically meat and vegetables over grains and covered in sauce — is that each bite is a perfectly crafted combination of all the ingredients. With poke bowls, no matter how hard you try, you can’t get the perfect bite. There are too many long, thin ingredients like raw onions inevitably poking and shoving other ingredients off the utensil.
So now, I’m forced to eat the poke bowl one ingredient at a time, whether it’s raw onion or a hunk of wasabi mayo.
Speaking of fancy mayonnaise, the poke bowl has reached such popularity that older rich types are trying to cash in on the fad. Just check out this North Carolina country club running a rosé and poke special:
The Donald Ross Terrace is the place to be on Wednesday nights! Enjoy our new seasonal special, Poke and Rosé from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. Chef Shayne's refreshing Poke bowl will be paired with a glass of rosé for only $12. Live music by Joshua West tonight from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.! pic.twitter.com/l2yYwcd0Qr
— Greensboro Country Club (@GreensboroCC) June 6, 2018
They appear to have stuffed the whole bowl into a stemless wine glass. To. What. End? To be fancy. Just to be fancy. As if being a country club in North Carolina weren’t enough. How is anyone supposed to eat that? What’s with the juice at the bottom? I will say, it makes sense that they paired this with Rosé, the bland, confusing in-between of red and white wine. Not unlike a poke bowl, the bland and confusing in-between of rice bowls and sushi.
Another problem with poke bowls, noticed by one astute Twitter user, is they’re too often light on the poke and heavy on the rice. That is a rice bowl, not a poke bowl. Stay in your lane.
Earlier this week, an almost too-perfect argument against poke bowls cropped up on Twitter when financial dominatrix Madame Liu Mei demanded a $19 poke bowl from her submissive followers. Clearly, she picked the poke bowl because her job is belittling fans who get off on humiliation, and there is nothing more belittling than spending $19 on a rice bowl with identity issues.