Remember when you used to poke people on Facebook? That seems kind of strange now. Maybe 10 years from now, people will look back on Instagram or Snapchat and be all “What?!??!”.
Anyhoo, this isn’t a blog post about the Facebook type of poke. Nope, it’s poke as in pokē the Hawaiian verb for “section” or “to slice or cut” or “to cube”. Think of bright red jewel-like cubes of raw tuna in a subtle marinade of soy and sesame oil with just a hint of crunchy onion. Mmm, are you hungry now??!? And I should mention, it’s pronounced poh-kay (to rhyme with okay).Legend has it that Hawaiian fishermen would take the off-cuts of their daily catch, cube them, add a little seasoning and enjoy as a snack (what a job perk – tuna on demand!). Poke seasonings are heavily influenced by Japan (hence the soy and sesame) as well as the local Maui onions. Poke can be made with tuna, salmon and even cured octopus.
Right now, poke is THE food to eat and here are some reasons why. Just a few weeks ago I was in Ohio (of all places), checking out the best places to eat on yelp and I enjoyed the most unexpectedly-delicious bowl of tuna poke by Hai Poke at a pop-up location in the Short North area.
I’ve written before about the wonders of being able to buy sushi-grade tuna from Browne Trading Company and when I stopped by this weekend and saw the beautiful red tuna loin in the seafood counter, I figured I’d try making a poke-inspired dish at home.
Assuming you can get your hands on top quality fish, it couldn’t be easier! Mix up a marinade of soy sauce and sesame oil (Ponzu is my secret weapon for a non-authentic but delicious citrus twist), add the cubed tuna, a handful of scallions and a sprinkling of sesame seeds and you’re done! Add jalapeno, chili flakes or a little sriracha if you’re feeling spicy.
To make your poke into a more substantial lunch or dinner, make a poke bowl which strays into chirashi territory (chirashi means scattered in Japanese and so a chirashi bowl is basically a bowl of scattered/decontructed sushi).
1lb of sushi grade tuna (allows for 1/2lb per person for a substantial lunch)
2 tbsp soy sauce (low sodium)
2 tbsp ponzu
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp sesame seeds (a mix of black and regular makes for prettier poke!)
4 scallions (sliced) or 1/4 Maui onion (diced)
Optional: red chili flakes if you like it spicy
1. Combine soy sauce, ponzu, sesame oil, sesame seeds, scallions or onion to make marinade.
2. With a super sharp knife, slice tuna into cubes. Discard any sinewy pieces.
3. Place diced tuna into a bowl. Gradually add marinade, you want the tuna to be glistening vs. drowning. Store in refrigerator (covered) for up to 12 hours.
Enjoy! And/or use the poke to top a bowl of your favorite rice and vegetables like seaweed salad, avocado cubes, cucumber cubes, radish, edamame etc
I had a little poke left over so thought I’d try out poke appetizer spoons (read about other tuna appetizers including tuna tartare cones and spoons here), these would be good for a health concious gathering. Make up the poke according to the above recipe and then fill each spoon with a little brown rice, a cube of tuna poke and top with a scallion slice or edamame bean (because I like edamame more than scallion!). Look for shoyu soy sauce without gluten if you have a gluten-free diet.