Poke – The Taste of Hawaii

Monahan's Seafood Market | Fresh Whole Fish, Fillets, Shellfish, Recipes, Catering & Lunch Counter

If you’re like me and love sashimi, ceviche, crudo, tartare or almost anything that’s raw, pickled, cured or corned you’re going to love this one- Poke!

Pronounced “pohkay” it’s loved throughout the islands and is hitting the mainland by storm. The word poke means to cut, slice, or section in pieces. Early Hawaiians seasoned raw fish with salt and whatever other seasonings that were on hand, such as different types of Limu (seaweed) or Inamona (toasted insides of kikui nut). Later when soy sauce, onions, chiles and tomatoes came to the islands, things started to get creative. Nowadays most pokes are soy sauce based with Inamona (we substitute toasted macadamia nuts), onions, sea salt, chiles, some type of Limu and sesame oil. Some people add toasted sesame seeds or oyster sauce or maybe a pinch of brown sugar.You can really create your own as long as you’re using a fish that’s sushi grade.

sashimi tuna

I first fell in love with poke on a buying trip to Honolulu back in 1980. After getting up at 4 a.m. to visit the Honolulu fish auction, which was amazing in itself, we headed over to the Tomashiro Market for a breakfast of raw marinated fish. The market was awesome, with loins of number 1 Yellowfin, Bigeye and Bluefin tuna laid out in rows the way we display lake perch. It seemed like they had a whole wall of different styles of poke. I tried the Ahi (tuna) and Tako (octopus) and immediately realized why it is the national obsession. The clean fresh saltiness was like a sweet slap in the face from the Maui surf.

It’s no wonder you can find poke all over the Islands, even in the smallest little grocers and general stores. One of those small stores is the Fukushima Store in Haiku on Maui. George and Alice Fukushima have been running their shop for over 40 years (even longer than Monahan’s). The store is famous for their amazing bright red hot dogs, sashimi and sushi, and of course, poke. Their son Gene studied naval engineering at U of M and we were fortunate to have him at our market for a few years. Gene learned a lot from working with his dad— hard work, not wasting a thing and some good recipes, including poke.

It’s a little hard to make authentic poke without kikui nut or Limu, preferably Lipoa, but our version is pretty darn good. Here’s our recipe for Ahi Poke. Enjoy!

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Monahan's Seafood

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