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.

By Published On: February 26th, 201648 Comments

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!

48 Comments

  1. Gingerbread Jenn February 26, 2016 at 7:19 AM - Reply

    Oh wow, this looks amazing! I’ve been seeing lots of poke recipes lately, they look delicious. I’d love to it this :)

    • chef mimi February 26, 2016 at 7:34 AM - Reply

      I couldn’t fine one recipe for it! I even looked on epicurious.com

  2. Nadia February 26, 2016 at 7:33 AM - Reply

    Interesting, you have introduced me to something new. I had no idea what poke was.

    • chef mimi February 26, 2016 at 7:34 AM - Reply

      If you love ahi sashimi, this just takes tuna to a new level!

  3. Gerlinde de Broekert February 26, 2016 at 9:35 AM - Reply

    Hi Mimi , this brought memories of all my Hawaii trips over the years. Just like you, I have only been to two Luaus and that is plenty for me. Your poke looks authentic and delicious. Here on the coast Costco sells poke . Have a wonderful weekend.

    • chef mimi February 26, 2016 at 1:00 PM - Reply

      One luau is enough! Costco sells poke? I’m so jealous!

  4. Vinny Grette February 26, 2016 at 9:58 AM - Reply

    Lovely post, Mimi! It was evocative of REM Cooks – I still miss Richard’s posts.

    • chef mimi February 26, 2016 at 12:54 PM - Reply

      I know. He always used the ring mold!

  5. Linda Duffin February 26, 2016 at 1:07 PM - Reply

    That sounds great. I don’t think poke has become a ‘thing’ yet on this side of the pond but it clearly should be! The flavour combinations are lovely.

    • chef mimi February 26, 2016 at 3:09 PM - Reply

      Can you get tuna in England?

      • Linda Duffin February 26, 2016 at 3:49 PM

        Yes, we can get it fresh, luckily.

  6. sue marquis bishop February 26, 2016 at 2:15 PM - Reply

    Gorgeous dish, Chef. MIMI! And of course the Hawaii photos added to your post. Womenlivinglifeafter50.com

  7. bestthingsinlife1964 February 26, 2016 at 3:49 PM - Reply

    Yum. Fortunetly I live in a city with an (over) abundance of excellent Japanese restaurants but if I didn’t I would totally make this.

  8. anotherfoodieblogger February 26, 2016 at 3:52 PM - Reply

    I too thought of Richard over at REMCooks when I saw this, so went to his website and did a search for Poke. About 5 or 6 recipes came up! Although none of them were like your delicious version posted here. I enjoyed reading about your Hawaii trips, too!

    • chef mimi February 27, 2016 at 4:19 PM - Reply

      Do you mean that Richard has published posts on poke??? How funny! I did a general search and found none!!!

      • anotherfoodieblogger February 27, 2016 at 4:23 PM

        Yes, he has quite a few on his website! I searched directly on his site, not from google or anything like that. Maybe you’ll like a few of his!

      • chef mimi February 27, 2016 at 5:13 PM

        oh my I just looked!!! He has a ton of poke recipes!!! Thank you for the heads up!

      • anotherfoodieblogger February 27, 2016 at 6:57 PM

        You are so welcome Mimi! I hope you find new inspiration from our dear friend Richard. xo

  9. David Scott Allen February 27, 2016 at 10:08 AM - Reply

    I’ve only had poke once, Mimi, and I loved it! I also like the modern serving idea of the rice and avocado. That would make for a beautiful presentation. Thanks for a beautiful recipe and some nice memories from your life.

    • chef mimi February 27, 2016 at 4:22 PM - Reply

      Obviously you have to love raw tuna, but that plus the Asian flavors? It’s fabulous!!! It’s funny how trends are – I had poke at 5 different places for lunch and dinner and it was served the same way! (Not that I cared…)

  10. thejameskitchen February 28, 2016 at 1:04 AM - Reply

    I love ahi poke since the day I had it a Roy’s in San Francisco but I could never find some of the special ingredients they use in their (gorgeous) recipe. Thanks for giving me a version, I can make the moment I am out of this not eating raw fish period, Mimi, LOVE IT!
    Nicole

    • chef mimi February 28, 2016 at 7:55 AM - Reply

      Hahahaha! Mine seriously tasted like what I had at many different restaurants, although I’m sure there’s seaweed or something else unique in the traditional recipe. So I’m happy with what I created!

      • thejameskitchen February 28, 2016 at 11:53 AM

        Exactly, some red algae which I could never locate. I am sooo looking forward to yours! N xx

  11. chefceaser February 28, 2016 at 8:35 AM - Reply

    Reblogged this on Chef Ceaser.

  12. The Gourmet Gourmand February 28, 2016 at 3:25 PM - Reply

    OMG I saw you posted this and I had to stop by to comment. I absolutely adore raw tuna everything- we have a lot of places popping up around San Diego that serve poke. I think we must be “close” enough to Hawaii (5 hours… by plane…) that it has found its way here. Never attempted to make it before though- pinning your recipe to try!

    • chef mimi February 28, 2016 at 5:35 PM - Reply

      You’re so lucky you can get it! But I’m serious. I was in Kauai exactly 4 years ago almost to the day, and there was no poke on menus anywhere. It has really become trendy. But it’s so good!!! I’m with you on the raw tuna.

  13. Molly in Hawaii February 28, 2016 at 6:13 PM - Reply

    MMMM! This looks great!

    If you want another variation, here is a recipe from Honolulu Magazine that I have had a few friends on the mainland try (http://www.hawaiimagazine.com/blogs/hawaii_today/2009/7/17/ahi_poke_Hawaii_style_recipe) with good results. Their blog also posts lots of great recipes to remind you of your Hawaii vacations without having to attend another luau! I am totally on the same page as you, only go to a luau if you must…and then drink lots of mai tais. They help pretty much any situation.

    Aloha!

    • chef mimi February 28, 2016 at 6:24 PM - Reply

      Oh thanks!!! Can’t wait to check it out!!!

      • Molly in Hawaii February 28, 2016 at 6:27 PM

        I hope it helps you recreate your favorite Hawaii dishes!

  14. ChgoJohn February 29, 2016 at 10:25 AM - Reply

    You’ve certainly created a beautiful dish, Mimi, and I’m sure it’s delicious. With those ingredients, how could it not be? :)

    • chef mimi February 29, 2016 at 4:29 PM - Reply

      Thank you! Asian flavors are so lovely!

  15. camparigirl February 29, 2016 at 5:32 PM - Reply

    I saw the equivalent of luaus both in Tonga and Samoa and they were great – they don’t use MCs! Although I had to drink some god-awful bitter drink in Tonga (maybe called kava) that would make me think twice about participating again!

    • chef mimi February 29, 2016 at 8:45 PM - Reply

      Ha! Very interesting!!! I need to travel more like you!!

  16. marymtf February 29, 2016 at 9:58 PM - Reply

    Mimi, you really are a chef. That’s a lot of hard work. Never been to Hawaii or heard of poke. Thanks for bringing it to us.

    • chef mimi March 1, 2016 at 7:04 AM - Reply

      I’m definitely not a chef, but thank you for the compliment. Some raw tuna and a few Asian ingredients was all it took!

  17. Abbe Odenwalder March 1, 2016 at 10:21 PM - Reply

    Love this! And I love your luau photos. We got married in 81. Seems like a long time. Poke is one of our faves and believe it or not, even Costco sells it on the weekends. Some varieties are better than others, but not bad for the price. Love your spectacular take on this!

    • chef mimi March 2, 2016 at 7:17 AM - Reply

      There’s no Costco where I live. No Whole Foods, no Trader Joe’s, nothing. So I”m really jealous. So you’re at 35 years married – impressive!

  18. Karen March 2, 2016 at 9:19 AM - Reply

    I’ll take taste over looks anytime although I do think you poke looks good just the way you served it.

  19. dishinwithdidi March 6, 2016 at 3:28 PM - Reply

    Mimi my friend; *insert Didi hugging you* I cannot, I mean cannot eat raw “anything”. I know that if we went on a vacation together you would encourage me to at least try. The flavors of this poke sound amazing!!

    • chef mimi March 6, 2016 at 3:45 PM - Reply

      I have a friend like you! She says it’s a texture thing…

  20. Kiyo Miller March 7, 2016 at 11:15 PM - Reply

    Looks fabulous! I live on Maui. Please come to visit some time!

  21. gwynnem March 9, 2016 at 5:17 PM - Reply

    I want this right now! Poke is so good. :)

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