If you have ever been to the Hawaiian Islands, you know one of the best things about a vacation there is the Hawaiian food. You just know that the shrimp in your delicious seafood platter, that you ordered at the beautiful beachside restaurant, was just swimming around in the ocean yesterday. The Hawaiian food on the islands is so fresh and delicious, it makes Hawaii an easy decision when planning your next vacation.
It could very well be the tropical air, the smiling locals, or the majestic scenery that makes Hawaiian food taste so good there. If you are having your meal next to a breathtaking sunset over the ocean, with the warm tropical breeze wafting through your hair, you could be pretty much eat anything at all and it would taste wonderfully. This is the spirit of the Hawaiian Islands. This is the spirit of Aloha. It is this Hawaiian spirit that we bring to Reno with the Pola Poke menu.
Even though the Poke Bowl dish is a favorite Hawaiian food. There is a whole lot more to both the Hawaiian food culture and the history behind Poke, and other favorite Hawaiian food dishes. For those of us who love Hawaiian food and the Hawaii Islands themselves, let’s dive right into how poké and other dishes have become so popular in the United States and abroad.
The History of Hawaiian Food
The first known settlers of the Hawaiian Islands were Polynesian sailors sometime between 300 and 800 CE. The settlers brought a variety of plants and animals to the islands, which still grow and thrive there today. They soon discovered that the naturally rich soil and tropical climate were capable of growing pretty much anything.
These original settlers fished and raised taro for poi, planted coconuts, sugarcane and yams. As far as current history states, there were no known indigenous people occupying the islands prior to the Polynesian settlements.
Mixing of Cultures
Late in at 18th century, Europeans and Americans discovered the islands. As a result, they introduced their particular cuisines at the time, and begin opening sugar plantations across the islands. Sugarcane then became Hawaii’s first major export. With the combined original Polynesian diet, the English and American dishes, as well as some salted fish from whalers, the beginning of what we know as Hawaiian food began to emerge.
It was right around this time that due to all of the mixed cultural foods and dishes flooding into Hawaii, the dish Lomi Salmon, more commonly known as Lomi Lomi salmon, came into existence. Lomi-Lomi Salmon is a cold-served dish comprising of salted and shredded fresh salmon, served with tomatoes, Sweet Maui Onions, and scallions. You will most commonly find this Hawaiian food dish served at luaus.
With sugarcane becoming Hawaii’s major export, the islands saw a great influx of immigrant workers from all over the world. Workers from China, Korea, Japan, and more began to sail to Hawaii. With them came another influx of cuisines that would ultimately influence what we know as Hawaiian food today. It is almost like the beauty of the Hawaiian Islands drew all of the most delicious food from all around the world and combined them to create the most perfect cuisine imaginable.
This is how the “Plate Lunch” came to be. In Hawaiian, Plate Lunch means “Pa mea ‘ai,” and it is the perfect example of Hawaiian food. A standard plate lunch consists of two scoops of white rice, macaroni salad, and an entrée. If you want more than one entrée, then you are having a Hawaiian mixed plate.
Hawaiian Food Favorites
One of the most interesting aspects of Hawaiian food is the use of Spam in multiple dishes. Most mainland folks think of spam as garbage food. However, to Hawaiian natives, it’s a a local favorite and one with a rich history… and to be honest, some damn tasty dishes. One of the staples of the Hawaiian spam dishes is Spam Musubi. Spam Musubi is a lunch food made with a slice of grilled spam sandwiched between rice blocks and wrapped together with Japanese nori (edible seaweed).
Where this delicious dish came from is somewhat disputed. The Japanese Americans who were interned in camps during WWII claim to have invented it. However, spam was everywhere during those times as it was a common food issued to soldiers in the war, so its hard to say where it came from exactly.
The Loco Moco
Another favorite Hawaiian food is the Loco moco. One can hardly step foot into the airport on one of the islands and not have a helping of the famous loco moco. Like most Hawaiian dishes, there are many variations, but the traditional loco moco is served with white rice, heaped with seasoned hamburger, a fried egg, and brown gravy. The different types of loco moco include of course spam, bacon, sausage, kalua pork, teriyaki beef, and more.
It would be near impossible to write about Hawaiian food and not mention the Kalua cooking style. We are sure you have heard of Kalua Pork or even Kalua turkey. Kalua is a traditional Hawaiian cooking method that uses what is called an “imu,” which is basically an underground oven. The word “Kalua” in Hawaiian means “to cook in an underground oven,” and is also used in a context to describe the food cooked in the oven, such as “Kalua Pork.” You will find this style of cooking at traditional Luau’s as well.
When creating an underground oven for Kalua cooking, the chefs created a large pit and lined it with stones over a hardwood fire. It would take about two to three hours of the fire burning to reach the temperature needed. Once the stones are hot enough, they are spread out over the coals from the fire and the pit is lined with leaves. Finally, the pig or turkey is placed on top and left to cook for hours.
Most often, hot stones would be placed inside of the body cavities of the animal being cooked to ensure the meat is cooked through. Then more leaves would be placed on top of the pig so that no steam escapes and the meat cooks in the natural juices from the animal and so the meat is not soiled by the dirt of the pit.
The King of the Hawaiian Food, the Great Poke Bowl
When it comes to Hawaiian food all of this sounds great. The delicious spam dishes are much better than you would think, and the kalua pork is just about as juicy as any meat you will find. However, you can’t think Hawaiian food and not consider poke.
Here at Pola Poke, we love all kinds of Hawaiian food. But to be frankly honest we may be a bit biased when it comes to what we consider the very best of all the Hawaiian food, the Poke Bowl. You might notice how much we love Poke based on our menu, and our name for that matter.
It is believed that it was the native Polynesians, well before the first white people appeared on the islands, who first invented Poke. It all started when fishermen would season the cut-offs of their catch for snacks. It’s said that the original recipe consisted of raw fish, seasoned with sea salt and seaweed and topped with crushed candlenut. As soon as the Hawaiian natives began trading with sailors, soy sauce and sesame seed oil became part of the recipe. However, the poke gospel didn’t spread right away. In fact, it took a considerable amount of time for the word to get out. But when it did, much like sushi, it made a serious impact.
Poke Goes Mainstream
According to the historian Rachel Laudan, (Laudan, 2017) the present, the standard recipe of poké didn’t come to be until the 1970s and it wasn’t until the 1990s that the dish received its name “poké.” And let’s not confuse that with “poki” or “po poki” which means cat. We don’t eat cats. We eat fish!
It wasn’t until around 2012 that poke started to become popular in North America. (Vince Dixon, 2016) From mid-2014 to 2016 the number of Hawaiian food restaurants in the states doubled. Including the number of restaurants that served poke. Then the different variations of the dish exploded in size here in the United States. Ponzu Sauce, mushrooms, crispy onions, pickled jalapeno, siracha, pineapple, ginger… the list of ingredients added to poke bowls around the country goes on and on. And we should know. We’ve got nearly 30 options to choose from at Pola Poke Bowl in Reno.
The Best of Hawaiian Food Comes to Reno
Living in the Biggest Little City means that you also get to have your choice of all the cuisines that all the major metropolitans have to offer, and that includes Hawaiian food. At Pola Poke, we offer all the ingredients if you are after the traditional Hawaiian food poke bowl. If you want to step outside of the standard poke bowl, then we offer the ingredients that will allow you to really express yourself with our Build Your Own Bowl (BYOB) menu.
If you are new to Hawaiian food and poke, then Pola Poke is the place for you. We offer 5 signature poke bowls that offer a variety of different poke styles to suit any taste. After you’re finished with your delicious Poke bowl, enjoy another Hawaiian food favorite dessert, an Acai bowl!
Reno has a lot of Hawaiian food options and they are all great. But, if poke is what you are after, then Pola Poke is the answer. Check out our menu online or just come in today.
Get Your Fresh Food Fix!
Pola Poke is proud to bring fresh poke, acai bowls, smoothies, and craft coffees to Reno, Nevada! Our palate-pleasing sustainably sourced bowls offer the perfect combo of healthy and tasty. Pola Poke is locally-owned and operated by a Reno native. We also offer freshly-roasted coffee compliments of a Native American coffee roaster located in Verdi, NV.
Customize your bowl to kick start your wellness and nutrition for the day. Choose from our menu or make it your own poke bowl with a variety of fresh, delicious ingredients. Our menu offers the perfect selection of healthy lean meats, veggies, and toppings to satisfy every fish-lover. Additionally, we’re the perfect choice for keto and protein-rich diets.
So what are you waiting for? An invitation? Well, here it is! Come join us and see why everyone in Reno is raving about Pola Poke Bowls! And if you’re too busy to come say hi, we also offer online ordering for your convenience. What more could you ask for?
Enjoy Fresh Poke in Reno
Pola Poke Bowls
3594 W. Plumb Lane Ste A
Reno, NV 89509