Elijah Ferrian digs into a whole bowl of delicious fresh ingredients at this Saigonese bricks and mortar take on a famous Hawaiian dish. Photos by Vinh Dao.
We kept hearing about how great this place is, and so we decided to check it out for ourselves.
I feel like almost every other day someone is asking me if I’ve been to Poke Saigon on Nguyen Hue.
First thing’s first: what is Poke?
Poke is a Hawaiian dish. The classic preparation is marinated fish sliced thin.
Poke Saigon’s style is a modern take on it. It’s like a salad bowl. It’s something that’s trending all over the world in this “express” poke style.
The bowls are loaded with a ton of fresh ingredients that add a ton of different textures and colour to each order.
Basically, it works like this. You choose your rice. White rice, brown rice, sushi rice, salad or a half-and-half of rice and salad. Then you choose your fish, either salmon, shrimp or tuna.
A regular order is two scoops of poke for VND150,000. Extra poke (one scoop) is an added VND30,000.
Then things get complex. Well, not really, but there’s a lot of options. You choose mix in toppings.
The list is long, and I want to give people the idea for how awesome these bowls can be.
The toppings are kind of mixed between fried crunchy stuff, fermented stuff and everything else you could dream of putting into a bowl with rice and fish: daikon radish, pineapple, wasabi, tomato, ginger, green onion, chilli, guacamole, topiko, mushroom, coriander, deep fried garlic or onion, roasted black or white sesame seeds, togarashi and nori. Phew.
For those that just like “more” you could just have them throw everything in the bowl. It’ll probably be good. They also sport a “topping of the week”.
Lastly, you pick a sauce: shoyu, spicy mayo, sesame, wasabi mayo or shiso miso. They’re all great, but the shiso miso definitely stands out.
Emmanuel Tieu, owner and operator, used to live in Los Angeles and when he went to Hawaii he ended up trying poke and really liking the dish.
“I started making a business lunch of poke in LA, and it became really successful.” Tieu says.
“From this experience I wanted to bring it to Europe, but then when I came to Vietnam it just made sense. There’s a growing focus on healthy food, and I felt that this was the perfect time to introduce this concept. This was the first build, and we kept it small because there’s no poke in Vietnam. We wanted to try to test the Vietnamese palette for this type of food. It’s going really well, so we’re going to try to expand into District 2 and 1 further.”
As of right now, Poke Saigon is safe from being kicked out of their space (they operate out of a historic building on Nguyen Hue) because the building has had an extension on being demolished.
Nobody knows for sure when exactly this will be happening, though. If you want to get your hands on some poke, just play it safe and get in there as soon as possible.