First things first: this is not Hawaiian poke. Poke, pronounced ‘po-kay,’ means to cut into small pieces, and the eponymous dish descends from the island tradition of preparing freshly caught reef fish with sea salt, seaweed, and crushed, roasted nuts of the kukui or candlenut tree. Japanese immigration introduced sesame oil and soy sauce to the raw fish that reminded them of sashimi. But it wasn’t until 1991, when a group of island chefs at a cooking symposium decided to focus on what they called Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine, that the modern version of poke was born.
An aside on Hawai‘i vs Hawaii. What looks like an apostrophe is actually an okina, an island punctuation mark that indicates a glottal stop. But the Hawaiian statehood act left it out, and it would take an act of Congress to correct the omission. There’s a movement to restore the okina.
What an islander might call mainland poke is more like the Japanese kaisendon donburi, a rice bowl with raw fish and vegetables. Our version borrows the basics of Hawaiian poke technique, uses some traditional Japanese flavors, and adds the combination of condiments, fresh vegetables, and pickled garnishes you might find in a modern poke bowl.
Partially thaw the albacore (it’s easier to cut when still a bit frozen), cut it into roughly half inch cubes, and toss with our Yuzu flavored olive oil. Then add a splash of white tamari (darker soy or tamari can discolor the fish and should be added at the table), sea salt, date syrup for a bit of sweetness, red chile for heat, and garlic, dried kelp, ginger, and togarashi for a ton of flavor. Add some sliced green onions for texture and more flavor.
The poke is great on chips as an appetizer, but we like to go full poke bowl with rice and combinations of fresh and pickled vegetables, herbs, and condiments. Cut fresh vegetables like cucumbers, carrots, and radishes into matchsticks or thin half moons. Thin slices or cubes of avocado add creamy contrast. Pickled red onions, kimchi, or purchased Japanese-style salt pickles provide more tang. Soy sauce and citrusy ponzu add more umami, while Kewpi mayo and spicy Korean-style gochujang deliver the tang and heat.
One Fish, One-Hook Caught using traditional, single hook and line rigs, each fish is individually netted instead of gaffed, then bled and packed in a seawater and ice slurry for the short trip to the dock. The small, fast, and nimble boats are out and back within 24 hours. The only way to get fresher-tasting fish is to catch it yourself.
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