Jul 20, 2012

Poke – Hawaiian Soul Food

Poke (pronounced poh-keh)
Click on photo to enlarge
In Tahiti, poisson cru, French for raw fish with fresh coconut milk, is an orgasmic island salad, and unfortunately is not seen here in Hawaii very often unless you make it yourself. Poisson cru is usually made with fresh ahi tuna that is first briefly marinated in lime juice, then mixed with fresh vegetables and drizzled in fresh coconut milk, which softens its flavor and takes it over the top. I have been to Tahiti, and the poisson cru was amazing, I couldn't stop eating it!

Poisson cru has been taken to another level here in Hawaii in the form of poke. Poke (pronounced poh-keh) is a delicious combination of raw fish, and other fresh local ingredients. Just as poisson cru has become the national dish of French Polynesia, poke is Hawaii's soul food. It is a mixture of all that is beautiful about the islands, a hybrid of Polynesian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, European and western influences, and is loved by both locals and haoles. Today there is a huge selection of delicious poke available everywhere from supermarkets to high-end restaurants. Poke is very easy to make yourself, and is a delicious first course for your next party, or if you don't want to share, make it just for yourself.

Here on island, locals drive down main street Kaunakakai looking for fishermen who sell their small, freshly caught ahi or aku tuna out of coolers in the back of their pickup trucks. It's a lot cheaper to buy tuna this way here, and so much better because the price is right and it's right out of the ocean. It's good to live Moloka'i.


Kapu Aku Poke Sunrise
In 2002, I was a finalist in the Sam Choy Poke Recipe Contest here in Hawaii, 
this was the recipe I entered:

Marinade ingredients:
Juice of 12 limes
6 tablespoons sweet pickled ginger finely minced
6 tablespoons Hawaiian shoyu
6 teaspoons sesame oil
6 teaspoons ground roasted sesame seeds
3 teaspoons red chili powder to taste
3 teaspoons Hawaiian sea salt

Combine in bowl:
6 pounds Aku (skipjack tuna), finely diced to 1/4” size
1 cup crushed roasted macadamia nuts
3 cups fresh ogo finely chopped (soft red Hawaiian seaweed)
3/4 cup minced green onion
3/4 cup minced sweet onion
1 1/2 cup red tomato finely diced 1/4” size

To serve:
2 boxes round sesame crackers
7 dozen quail eggs
1 cup roasted black sesame seeds

Combine Aku mixture with marinade. Gently mix together and marinate for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. With small ice cream scoop serve 1” mound of poke on top of a sesame cracker. Make an indentation in the top of the poke mound and top with the yoke of one raw quail egg. Sprinkle with roasted black sesame seeds and serve immediately. Serves 60 poke pupu’s (appetizers).

Tahitian Poisson Cru
When you get that craving for poisson cru, you don't have to go all the way to Tahiti, try this recipe, it's easy, authentic, and delicious.

1 1/4 pounds sashimi-grade 'ahi tuna, cut into small squares
pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup lime juice
1 Japanese cucumber, cut into strips or cubes or shaved
1 ripe tomato, seeded and diced
1 tiny hot red pepper, seeded and minced, or a good splash of chili pepper water
pinch of fresh-ground pepper
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (canned is OK but fresh is best)
3-4 sprigs green onion, thinly slivered

Place cut tuna in a large, non-reactive bowl. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the tuna. Pour over the lime juice, give it a gentle stir, and allow it to marinate 5-10 minutes. Add vegetables and chilies, season with pepper and pour over coconut milk. Gently fold mixture. Taste and correct seasonings, then cover and chill. Garnish with green onion and serve. Variations: Add grated or shaved carrots, diced or shaved red onion or sweet onion, a little minced garlic and/or a pinch of sugar. Makes 6 servings.

Spicy Ahi Poke
Kochujang is a Korean hot & spicy condiment made from glutinous rice powder mixed with both powdered, fermented soybeans and red peppers, and is widely available in Asian markets. If you can find it, substitute Sambal or Siracha chili pepper paste. Be careful, they are hot!

2 pounds highest-quality ahi tuna, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 tablespoons tobiko (flying fish eggs)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 heaping tablespoon Kochujang Korean chili pepper paste, or to taste
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup sugar
bunch of cilantro, chopped (Chinese parsley) or green onions, chopped fine

Start with the soy sauce. Add sugar slowly, until you have "cut the saltiness of the soy sauce" but do not make it taste 'sweet'. Add the Kochujang paste and mix well. Add sesame oil, sesame seeds, chopped parsley, ahi and tobiko, mixed gently. Refrigerate for about an hour to allow flavors to marry. Makes 8 servings.

Ono Island Poke
1 pound fresh Ahi tuna
juice from 1 lime
juice from 1 lemon
sea salt to taste
1 or 2 Hawaiian chili peppers, minced (or 1/2 Jalapeño pepper, without seeds)
1 cup yellow onions, diced
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 cup ripe mango, diced
1 cup ripe papaya, diced
1/2 cup coconut milk

Cut Ahi in cubes. Juice one lime and one lemon. Pour over fish and let fish sit for a couple of minutes. Add a good pinch of sea salt, or to taste. Add peppers and onions to fish and mix well. Carefully stir in mangoes, papaya and coconut milk. Makes 4 servings.

Lobster Poke Salad
1 1/2 pounds boiled lobster tail, chilled (imitation crab meat may be substituted)
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup Japanese cucumber, diced
1/2 cup rinsed and chopped fresh limu or ogo (Hawaiian seaweed)
1/4 cup minced green onions
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 or 2 Hawaiian chili peppers, minced (or 1/2 Jalapeño pepper, without seeds)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon sesame oil
4 ripe avocados, halved, peeled and seeded
4 cups watercress tops or frisee lettuce seasoned with fresh lime juice and salt

Cut cooked lobster in bite sized pieces, then combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl, except the avocado and lettuce, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Carefully cut avocado halves into slices, leaving the top end attached, forming a fan. Place each avocado half on a bed of seasoned watercress tops or frisee lettuce and spoon 1/2 cup of chilled lobster poke salad into each avocado half. Makes 8 servings.

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