PEOPLE POST: Move Over Fried Fish, Poke is the New, Healthier Option During Lent

Today, Good Friday, marks the last day practicing Catholics forgo meat in observance of Lent—which includes, in part, fasting. This year, the Lenten season began March 1 (Ash Wednesday) and the stage for the faithful to give up (or take up) certain foods or practices.

During this time, McDonald’s has for years dominated the scene as one of the main providers of alternative options for Catholics who abstain from meat with their Filet-O-Fish sandwiches (fish is okay to eat)—even seeing an uptick in sales.

The burger-chain sells nearly 25 percent of their wild-caught Alaska Pollock fish sandwiches during Lent, according to a USA Today story published last month. 

I, like many devout Catholics, have not been eating meat on Fridays. However, I wanted a healthier fish option on these days (where fish actually looks like fish and not a fish product tile), so I took it upon myself to try a new poke restaurant every Friday.

Poke is the latest craze to hit the mainland from Hawaii. Like surfing, California is one of the first states to take to poke. But what makes this healthy Hawaiian treat American are its ingredients like salmon, cilantro, jalapeños, and in some places, corn.

Here’s my take on some of the poke restaurants I visited in Long Beach:

The Poke Bar, 525 East First Street

Poke Bar

Photos by Mark O’Meany.

The Poke Bar is the quintessential poke restaurant. It is fast food ala Hawaiian, with Subway-like efficiency, where you go down the line and choose the ingredients you want. If you have never tasted poke the Poke Bar is a great place to taste your first poke bowl.

Their bowls are well balanced master pieces of yummy buttery tuna, sweet and salty sauces, and it’s all carried on a hearty bed of rice. You can mix and match the toppings to your own personal preference, but this is the first poke place I have been to that offers corn as a topping,giving your poke bowl notes of southwestern cuisine.

The Poke Bar is everything a poke restaurant should be.

Poke Pola, 5030 East 2nd Street 

Poke Pola

Photo by Asia Morris.

Poke Pola had some of the best ingredients. The tuna here is by far some of the best tuna I have tasted, but the yellowtail was angelic. When the yellowtail touches your tongue it melts. An equivalent sensation to this disappearing act are Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnuts; but instead of sugar heaven you taste oceanic paradise. Poseidon himself would roll back his eyes in sheer pleasure at the taste of this yellowtail.

The marinades at Poke Pola are next level. Their sauces are described as “This monkey’s gone to heaven” and “The floor is lava,” and can only be described as a volcanic eruption of flavor in your mouth.

Poke Pola had such good tasting ingredients that it seemed they had to continuously refill their ingredient stations. My poke bowl presentation could have been more desirable, but that was secondary to its mind blowing taste.

Poke Kai, 6424 East Spring Street

Poke Kai

Poke Kai seemed to be the most authentic poke restaurant. With marinated protein options like “Hawaiian Tuna” and “Hawaiian Squid,” the marinated seafood allows for the fish to absorb all the flavors so you get a well balanced bite.

I recommend the “Hawaiian Squid” here. It is unlike any squid I have tasted; it is sweet, salty, with no overpowering fishy taste, and the cucumber in the “Hawaiian Squid” gives it a fresh crispy bite. If the idea of eating an invertebrate seems foreign to you, do not shy away, you can always ask for a sample.

Poke Kai is a taste of the Pacific on the mainland.

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Stephanie Rivera is the community engagement editor for the Long Beach Post. After graduating from CSULB with a degree in journalism, Stephanie worked for Patch Latino and City News Service before coming to the Long Beach Post in 2015.