Hawaiian Poke

The only times in my life, until recently, that I have enjoyed poke were the three times my husband and I attended luaus in Hawaii.

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Luaus were something we resisted – not because of the traditional food and entertainment, but because there’s always a maniacal M.C. who narrates the luau festivities, and will pull people out of the crowd to participate. Like these poor guys who had to wear coconut bras and perform the hula.

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But after going to Hawaii many times, beginning with getting married there in 1982, we decided we needed to attend a luau for cultural reasons. Sort of like eating haggis in Scotland. You just have to do it.

I, of course, tried all of the authentic luau culinary offerings. I tasted poi and didn’t like it, but I ate everything else, and especially loved the poke, pronounced poe-kay – essentially a marinated chopped ahi salad.

Fast forward some years, and we took our daughters to Hawaii, and decided they needed the luau experience. The entertainment really is impressive, but even my daughters spent the whole time rolling their eyeballs because of the obnoxious M.C. Still a unique and I think necessary experience for all when you visit Hawaii. And the poke is really good.

Then, during their college years, we took our daughters and two girlfriends to Hawaii. We felt the friends needed the cultural luau experience as well, so for the third and last time, we subjected ourselves to a luau. We all drank overly sweet Mai Tais and I enjoyed a plate of poke as the bulk of my luau meal.

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Our recent vacation to Kauai was my husband’s destination choice for his 60th birthday. I mostly looked forward to the array of fresh fish and seafood that of course I can’t purchase where I live. We practically ate fish until it was swimming out of our ears!!!

Which brings me to poke. In the four years since our last visit to Kauai, something happened with poke. It became popular. Actually more of a trend. I’m not typically fond of trends, but, well, it’s poke. The modernized version is marinated chopped ahi, served over a bed of rice, over a layer of avocado, shown below.

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Here’s a photo of one I had that was topped with eel. It was incredible.

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After returning home, I searched for poke recipes online and found NONE. So I’m creating my own. I’m sure there’s supposed to be seaweed/furikake in it, but that’s not something I can get my hands on. Here’s what I did.

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Hawaiian Poke
Serves 2

1/4 cup dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
Snipped chives
2 – 4 ounce frozen tuna/ahi steaks*
Cooked white rice, approximately 2 cups
Ume plum vinegar, or rice wine vinegar
2 ripe medium avocados
Juice from 1/2 lime
Salt
Chives
Cayenne pepper flakes
Sushi ginger
Caviar

First prepare the marinade. Place the first 5 ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and stir well.

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Make sure the tuna is dry; I use paper towels for this purpose. Finely chop the tuna steaks. My cubes were about 1/3″ inch and I think they could have been even smaller to be more manageable.

Place the tuna in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Bring the tuna close to room temperature before serving.

Add some vinegar to the cooked and cooled rice, about 2 teaspoons, and fluff; set aside.

Blend the avocado with the lime juice. Season with a little salta do set aside.

If you want a drizzle, first remove the tuna from the marinade and place the remaining marinade in a small pot. Reduce. I chose not to do this.

When you’re ready to plate and serve, begin by forming a layer of avocado on the plate inside a circular mold. Top with the rice, trying not to push it down too firmly.

Then top with the marinated tuna. Carefully remove the mold and add a little more tuna if necessary.

I could tell that I perhaps used too much of the marinade while placing the tuna on top of the rice. It’s not as pretty, but it definitely still tastes good!

Sprinkle with some snipped chives, add a slice or two of sushi ginger, top with caviar if you have some and a few cayenne pepper flakes for some optional heat. I now remember sesame seeds as well in poke that I ordered.

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None of these garnishes are necessary to me. What’s important is the avocado, rice, and tuna!!!

This was seriously a fabulous, re-created treat for me, even though it was 38 degrees outside. And I honestly can’t think of how I’d change this recipe!

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note: For the rice, I used an Italian risotto rice. I didn’t have sushi rice or even white rice in my pantry, and I wanted something that would stick together.

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* I don’t live near an ocean, so the only fish or seafood I can cook is previously frozen. It’s not ideal, but it’s my only option.

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