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How To Make Hawaiian Poke

Move over, sushi: There's a new seafood sensation that's sweeping the nation, and it's called poke. Read on to find out what it is, how to make it, and, most importantly, how to pronounce it like a local.

Ahi Poke Basic

Photo by Melissa Goff

What is Poke?

Let's just get this part out of the way. Poke is a Hawaiian dish, and it's pronounced POE-keh, not po-kee or poke as in, "You'll poke your eye out!" You'd think it's a noun, but the word is actually a Hawaiian verb that means "to slice or cut."

What you're slicing or cutting when you make poke is usually some kind of fresh, raw seafood, such as ahi tuna or octopus. These bite-size bits are then marinated and chilled in a savory blend of shoyu (soy sauce), sesame oil, and green onions. Other ingredients might be in the mix as well: chili pepper, seaweed, sesame seeds, sweet onions, wasabi, and ginger. Roasted and chopped kukui nuts are sometimes included, but they can be hard to source outside of Hawaii. Still, some cooks substitute macadamia nuts, while purists say no way.

How to Eat Poke

Poke delivers the freshness of a sit-down sushi bar with the convenience of take-away fast food. In Hawaii, you can buy it by the pound in big grocery stores or little corner markets, stash it in your cooler, and take it to the beach. You eat it with chopsticks out of a bowl or cup, often accompanied by sweet white rice. It's that kind of casual snack food.

Now that the poke craze has hit the mainland, it's showing up everywhere from food trucks to restaurants coast to coast.

How to Make Poke

For best results, use only the freshest seafood. If you can, splurge on fresh or frozen sushi-grade ahi tuna at the fish market, and use it the same day you buy it. Here's how to slice tuna into the bite-size pieces:

Slicing Tuna Across the Grain

Photo by Meredith

1. Cut tuna across the grain into inch-wide slices.
2. Stack a couple of slices and cut into inch-wide strips.
3. Cut across the strips to make inch-wide cubes.

Cubed Tuna for Poke

Photo by Meredith

And that's the hardest part of making this dish. After that, you just toss it with the marinade and stick it in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Try these recipes:

Ahi Poke Basic

You can use this as your intro to making poke. Yes, it's that easy.

Ahi Poke Salad

This version is flavored with onions, ginger, seaweed, and macadamia nuts. Instead of spooning it over rice, you serve it on lettuce. Let's call this one Paleo Poke, okay?

Ahi Poke Salad

Photo by Fleetsailor

Ahi and Avocado Poke Tower

Poke stacks up with mango and avocado for a fancy poke party. You can serve it with chips or crackers, or use it to top a salad.

Ahi and Avocado Poke Tower

Photo by Diana71

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About Vanessa Greaves

Good food, friends, and fun are always on the menu. Find me as foodelicious on Allrecipes and vanny.gee on Instagram (but only if you don't mind cat pics and cocktails).