Foods | Cooking
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Hawaiian Poke History:
Poke (pronounced POH-kay) is
served in most Hawaiian homes and restaurants as a side
dish, and no gathering in Hawaii would be complete without a
few bowls of poke. In Hawaiian, poke means "cut piece" or
"small piece." Poke is bite-size pieces of raw fish doused
in seasonings. Poke is actually the Hawaiian version of the
elegant Japanese sashimi (a combining of the Hawaiian and
Japanese taste for raw fish). The fish for poke is sometimes
even lightly seared or fried.
For centuries, Hawaiian fishermen cut their catch of raw fish
into cubes and seasoned it with whatever ingredients they
had. Modern versions make use of seasonings brought by the
many different cultures of the Islands, such as soy sauce,
onions, tomatoes, and chilies. Poke is so common in the
Hawaiian culture, that you can stop at a local grocery store
and choose from several freshly made varieties.
Mention regional foods to Hawaiians, and people think of
poke. It is considered a local food or "local grind" -
comfort food to the Hawaiians. Normally local food is not
the cuisine that is served in upscale hotels and restaurants
of Hawaii, but poke has crossed such boundaries. Poke is still evolving in the Hawaiian
Islands. It was not until the 1970s that the recipes for
poke started appearing in cookbooks.
In September of each year, Sam Choy, one of Hawaii's most
famous chefs, hosts an annual 3-day poke festival. The
contest draws over 2,000 entries from Western Canada, the
mainland United States, Hawaii, and the South Pacific. From
these, 75 entries are selected as finalists, with many
wildly inventive variations of the basic poke. The public is
invited to taste after the judging, and it does not take
long for the poke to disappear amidst a murmur of "mmmms"
Ahi Tuna Poke Recipe:
Yields: 4 to 6 servings
Prep time: 15 min
2 pounds fresh or sashimi-grade Ahi tuna steaks, cut into bite-size pieces*
* If you cannot buy freshly
caught fish, purchase only fresh sashimi or sushi-grade
fish. Look for tuna fillets that are bright in color, not
dull or darkened or dry looking. Buy loins or thick fillets
(at least one-inch thick).
1/2 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup chopped green onions (tops included)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 to 2
chile peppers cored, seeded, and finely minced
Coarse salt to taste
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds**
1 tablespoon finely-chopped toasted macadamia nuts***
Boy choy or romaine lettuce leaves
** To toast sesame seeds:
Place sesame seeds in a small dry saucepan over medium heat;
stirring occasionally, toast 3 minutes or until golden brown
(watch closely as seeds burn easily).
*** To toast whole macadamia
nuts: spread whole nuts on a baking or cookie sheet and
toast in a preheated 300 degree F. oven for 5 to 8 minutes
or until lightly browned (watch closely as nuts burn
In a large bowl, combine tuna,
soy sauce, green onions, sesame oil, ginger, chile peppers,
salt, sesame seeds, and macadamia nuts; mix lightly. Cover
and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.
To serve, tear lettuce leaves into
comfortable holding sizes and spoon approximately 3
tablespoons of poke onto each piece. either eat with your
fingers or use a fork or chopsticks.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.