Steamy days in the islands call for cool food that provides instant sustenance without heating – and that’s how Hawaiian poke (pronounced POH-kay) was invented. Just like all species, humans seek foods that are available to them and provide necessary sustenance.
Hawaiian culture has always revolved around the sea. Ancient Hawaiians drew their sustenance – physical and spiritual – from the land and sea around them. Guided by a philosophy that paired a cycle of cultivating and harvesting plants and animals with conservation of those resources, they lived in balance with their environment. Even in modern Hawaii, poke epitomizes healthy clean eating for islanders, native or not.
Served as an appetizer or side, poke is as popular as plate lunches in Hawaii and served in the home, at parties, and available everywhere – from tiny seafood shacks on the sand to local supermarkets like Foodland.
If you love sashimi, you’ll love poke. Even if you’re not keen on the idea of raw fish, poke might just be the way to initiate your palate since it’s quickly marinated in a light savory sauce, can be served over rice* for a “poke bowl” , and dressed up with an assortment of tasty condiments and garnishes.
Ingredients for Hawaiian Ahi Poke
A perfect example of true Hawaiian poke would be Mauai’s poke champion, Chef Jayson Kanekoa‘s recipe. Kanekoa is the Executive Chef at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott and shared a pared down version (2 lbs. of ahi tuna versus 5 lbs. for the competition) of his winning recipe on Food Republic. However, the dressing for Hawaiian poke is soy sauce based which doesn’t work for people on a low sodium diet or for the increasingly popular paleo lifestyle. I adapted Chef Kanekoa’s recipe to be low sodium and paleo-friendly with ingredients that I use to mimic the salty, umami of soy sauce without all the sodium.
- 1 1/4 pounds sushi-grade Ahi tuna
- 2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 cloves black garlic smashed
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon Coconut Aminos*
- 1/2 sheet nori torn into small pieces
- Togarashi spice
- Sesame seeds
- 2 green onions sliced
- Chopped macadamia nuts
- Thinly sliced cucumber
Cut Ahi tuna into 1/2-inch cubes.
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Add the ahi and mix gently to coat the fish.
Serve over rice for a poke bowl, with fried wonton chips, or alone with chilled thinly sliced cucumber.
*Coconut Aminos can be found at natural food stores. It is soy-free, often used as a substitute for soy sauce in paleo recipes, and has far less sodium than even low-sodium soy sauce.
*For added nutrition and a nuttier flavor, I used Planet Rice Quinoa and Sprouted Rice instead of white rice. Quinoa PowerBlend™ is 75% sprouted brown rice, which is rich in health benefits, and 25% red, white and black quinoa, a complete protein that’s also high in fiber. Quinoa PowerBlend cooks quickly, evenly and offers a great grain alternative. It’s also Gluten Free, Non-GMO, and Whole Grain.
I have roots in Hawaii – my mom was born in Honolulu and raised on Kauai, and the islands are calling me because it’s been waaaay too long.
My first Mother’s Day – at the Hyatt Regency, Poipu Beach, Kauai.
Planning a trip to Maui? (I’m hoping we’ll be able to eek out a week to go this year…) Please note that The Haleakala National Park Visitor Center has been closed until further notice due to structural damage, according to a Feb. 25 National Park Service news release. Located a few miles from the Summit Entrance Station, the Haleakala Visitor Center sits on the rim of Haleakala Crater. It’s where park visitors go for their camping and cabin permits and those colorful National Park Service park brochures and maps. The Park Service is advising all campers to pick up their permits at the visitor center by 3pm.
“Due to a cracked beam in the ceiling, the Headquarters Visitor Center is closed until further notice while the damage is assessed and repaired,” stated the news release. “There is currently no estimate as to when this visitor center will reopen. The headquarters rest rooms, which are not near the damage, remain open.”