Friday, April 25, 2008


Poke, (pronounced po-kay) is a dish from Hawaii that I truly love. Poke basically means "to cut or slice into pieces" and it consists of small, approximately 1" cubes of raw fish, most commonly ahi tuna), seasoned with salt, spices and depending on the type of poke, a variety of ingredients like seaweed, onions, sesame oil, chili oil, shoyu, etc. It originated when early Hawaiian fisherman cut up their raw fish and seasoned it with whatever spices and things they had available.

I try to get my visitors to Hawaii to try it and have some success, usually dependant on whether or not they eat sushi, as unlike ceviche, poke is most definitely raw fish and not "cooked" by citrus juice. Unfortunately, not everyone sees the beauty in the small cubes of glistening dark red fish and when you throw in the seaweed as in the limu, poke at left above, I usually get a crinkled up nose and a "that's OK" when I offer it to them. For those who do try it however, they are usually quickly converted and want to eat it throughout the rest of their visit.

You can buy poke most anywhere--fish markets, grocery stores, roadside trucks, etc. It is considered home or comfort food here--you will find it at buffets, parties and cook-outs but you will also find it on the menu at upscale restaurants. You can make it at home, but to be honest it is far easier to just stop and pick some up.

I eat poke often, for lunch or dinner, with rice or a salad or most often just the poke itself scooped up on a taro chip. That's when it is best--especially when it has been one of those days. Not a bad day necessarily, but let's say a day at the end of a long week. A day when you got up really early to go to work to take a 5-hour facilitator-led computer class on line that started at 5:00 AM, then that was followed by another long meeting and although you vowed to leave work by 1:30 or 2:00 at the latest, the time slipped by and you left work just in time to hit Friday traffic. That's when a quick stop at the grocery store (not the finest poke but certainly the most convenient) results in 1/2 pound each of limu and shokyu poke and a bag of garlic-taro chips. Then you drive home, put it in a bowl, find a favorite pair of chopsticks and dig in, relaxing, (watching the new Grey's Anatomy you DVR'd last night and then realizing eating small red chunks of raw fish is maybe not the best food to eat while watching bear mauling victims and surgical contests--"intestines in the hands!" so then turning off the TV), reflecting on your week, enjoying the fresh local flavors and thinking "Lucky you live Hawaii" where you can enjoy as much poke as you want.

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