Hawaii's poke popularity spreads to the mainland

Poke popularity spreads to mainland

Millions of tourists visit Hawaii each year seeking sun and sea breezes. Increasingly they also come for poke, reports CBS News correspondent John Blackstone. The flavor-packed concoction of raw fish is an essential part of the diet for Hawaiians like Ray Ho, who says he's eaten it all his life.

Lately, however, he's seen poke transform.

"They've been very creative in thinking of different ways of making it," Ho said.


As poke has risen to prominence, poke places are popping up across the country. In Illinois, Zach Friedlander is hoping to take his Aloha Poke Co. nationwide by the end of the year, opening roughly a dozen more locations.

"It's a healthier way to eat, it's revolutionizing the way people eat fast food, the way people look at fast food," Friedlander said.

The fact that poke is making it big so far from home makes some people in Hawaii proud, but others find it just a little bit fishy.
"I've looked at some of the menus and I've looked at some of things and we don't throw pineapple and bananas and all kinds of -- I've seen weird variations of stuff where I'm like, 'What is that?'" said chef Mark Arriola of Merriman's restaurant on Kauai's Poipu Beach.

But what also worries Arriola is that the new popularity of poke could lead to overfishing. A study by the U.N. reported that nearly 90 percent of fish stocks are fully fished or overfished. Even in Hawaii, Arriola said fishermen can't always meet demand.


"It's scary because there's no guy living under the water that can say, 'Oh there's plenty of fish, we're good.' We don't know until they don't show up anymore," Arriola said.

"I don't necessarily think we're going to put a dent in the fishing industry with the amount of restaurants we're opening," Friedlander said.

The Aloha Poke Co., like many others, said it uses sustainable suppliers and methods to make sure the fish and the business stick around for a long time.

"A lot of people have kind of gone back and forth, is this a fad, is this just going to come right out, and I'm a firm believer that poke's here to stay. It's not just a menu item," Friedlander said.

Still, vacationers Jenny Au and Jason Lieu who can get poke at home in California said it's just not the same as having it in Hawaii.
"The quality is much better here -- and a better price too," Lieu said.

"And you're in Hawaii, so it's just better," Au said, laughing.
Truth is palm trees and sea breezes may just make everything taste better.