Poke - Local Hawaii Delicacy
Poke (pronounced po-keh) Hawaiian food is a local Hawaii
treasure and one of the island's favorite foods. Poke literally means to slice or to cut, and in its most basic form, poke is simply raw, fresh fish (usually ahi) cut into bite-sized morsels, seasoned with seaweed, Hawaiian salt and some kukui nut relish or paste (called inamona) and served as an appetizer or snack. However, there are as many variations of poke as there are of another raw-fish based staple, sushi.
The wide variety of poke styles can be attributed to the annual poke festival started by famed Hawaii chef Sam Choy in 1992, which has fueled an explosion in the worldwide popularity of poke. The contest, now called the Aloha Festival's Poke Contest, has a myriad of categories that encourage experimentation and innovation, and only the best in Hawaii take the poke fame and prizes. New styles of poke use some of the freshest available seafood available (aku, tako, sea clams, snapper, lobster), local spices and seasonings (shoyu, sesame oil, green onions, chili pepper water, Maui onions, etc.), international flavors and spices (any and all Asian flavors, Mexican, Caribbean and other South Pacific flavors) and whatever else sounds like it might taste good (even beef or tofu instead of fish).
All the fanciness aside, no local gathering would be complete without one of the basic variations of poke and everyone seems to have a favorite place to pick up a pound or two before the potluck, party, Warrior football game, whatever. Anytime people get together with some beer, you are likely to find poke. Dan's Hawaii editors drink a lot of beer, and because the previous sentence is true, they also eat a lot of poke from a lot of different places. Writing about all the variations and places to buy them could fill an encyclopedia, so today I will discuss just a basic limu ahi poke.
Ingredients That Make Great Poke
There are essentially two factors that dictate the deliciousness of this traditional favorite, the quality of the ahi and the style of seasoning.
The ahi must be fresh as can be with a bright, shiny red color and should generally be of higher quality with very little stringiness. The best will just melt in your mouth. Frozen ahi can be passable, but the best frozen is definitely not as good as mediocre fresh. Good fresh ahi poke will run between $10 and $15 a pound, except during the New Year's season where it may double in price, and good frozen ahi will be in the $7 range. If you are from the mainland and view these comparatively low prices for fish with some skepticism, just be aware that this is high quality fish and is just one of the rare circumstances in which the cost of goods in Hawaii is less than in the lower 48.
You will find local poke connoisseurs generally agreeing, or at
least not disagreeing too much, on the quality of a particular piece of ahi, but the second factor of seasoning style is much more personal and subjective. Limu ahi will generally have limu ogo seaweed, Hawaiian salt, kukui, green onions, and sesame oil. Optional are some chili pepper water, chili, Maui onions and other slight variations. The flavors should enhance the fish without overpowering it, and the best places will balance everything properly and consistently.
Where to Get the Best Poke
Both of Dan's Hawaii most highly recommended places to buy traditional limu ahi poke on Oahu consistently serve the highest quality ahi, mix the seasonings to your specifications with appropriate balance on the spot and then toss the seasoning together with the fish just prior to packaging it and sending you on your way with your little treasure bundle. Both are in Kapahulu. I don't know why Kapahulu has the best poke.
The Dan's Hawaii picks for the best limu ahi poke on Oahu are Fort Ruger Market at 3585 Alohea Avenue and Ono Sea Food Products at 747 Kapahulu Ave. Check out the Dan's Hawaii articles Fort Ruger Market
and Ono Sea Food Products
for full reviews and information about the other local Hawaii delicacies available at these great little mom and pop stores.
Dan's Hawaii Tip
Fresh ahi ($10-$15 per pound) is almost always worth the premium over previously frozen ahi ($4 - $8 per pound). I am also always a little peeved when someone charges over $8 a pound for frozen.
I know you won't always be able to run to Kapahulu to satisfy your poke craving, so find a reasonable substitute close to home. Smaller shops are more likely to be consistent in flavoring from one visit to the next.
1/30/2013 2:58:04 PMi love to search for food and especially good food today im researching for an essay and its going to be fun its super easy when you study a lot so today im studying for the test i hope you like hawaii i do i love it i love food
Pat & Patti Watters
7/18/2011 1:47:36 PMWe recently moved to Hilo (Big Island) and have found great sources for a wide variety of poke. The best "do it yourself" poke is at Poke To Your Taste on Leilani where you spice it up the way you like. Otherwise, we pick it up at either Suisan market on the bay (I watch them bring in the ahi, cut it and put it out front, very fresh), OR at KTA market . . . yes, great poke and very fresh! Mmmmm, time for some wasabi poke and a Hawaiian Crow Porter!!
6/8/2011 6:48:23 PMthe poke bowl at ono sea food products was amazing!!! or shall i say, soooo onoooo!!!
Submit Your Feedback