Hawaiian native China West hasn't met a Sydney poke dish she didn't like – she just doesn't relate to it as traditional poke.
"To me they are more like salads. If you asked for beets and carrot in your poke at home they'd probably throw you out," she says, laughing.
The one-time law student-turned budding restaurateur was craving traditional Hawaiian food so much she opened a pop-up, Aloha Mate, in Manly this summer. It's been so popular it'll be staying long-term.
"Poke is the signature dish of Hawaii. You can buy it in the supermarket or a liquor store. Open a fridge anywhere and there's probably some in there," she says. "The focus is more on the flavour of the fish than the toppings, those core ingredients of fresh fish, onion and sesame seeds. My grandfather taught me how to make it."
West imports her seaweed, and edges a little off-piste with a vegan version of the classic.
Evidently her seafood substitute is so convincing West has had vegans return the dish saying they don't eat fish. After a successful stint working in collaboration out of the Rope and Anchor Cafe, Aloha Mate is here to stay at the venue.
"We're working out the details at the moment, but it's been a real success," she says. "It's Sydney's, if not Australia's, first traditional Hawaiian eatery."
Open daily 11am-6pm.
41 North Steyne, Manly, alohamate.com.au