What Is Poke?

Poke is enjoying a bit of a renaissance in foodie circles these days, so you may as well know a few things about it. So what is poke? Here are a few facts that should help answer that question:

  • First, you may have pronounced it wrong. It rhymes with “okay”. However, if you’re a server and you have customers asking for “pokey”, then they probably mean poke.
  • The word “poke” in Hawaiian means “chunk”. In the old days, people in Hawaii just cut any meat or seafood into small chunks which they marinated. Today, it usually denotes seafood.
  • The most basic recipe calls for yellowfin tuna, which in Hawaii is called ahi. The tuna isn’t cooked—it’s eaten raw. Before you make a face, you have to understand that in many Eastern cultures, fish is eaten raw. Just in case you’ve forgotten, the most common preparation of sushi also calls for raw fish.
  • The yellowfin tuna is cubed, marinated, and then added to a salad.
  • Usually, the dish is flavored with soy sauce and sesame oil. You also tend to find sea weed and kukui nut.
  • That’s basically it, but then such a generic description means that you can have a lot of variations. That’s exactly the case in Hawaii, where there may be more than a hundred different recipes.
  • Lots of poke dishes add onions to the mix. You can add your own ingredients, including mayo, wasabi, or kimchee.
  • You can use other types of tuna.
  • You can also use other types of seafood. You can find one using octopus meat.
  • It doesn’t have to be seafood at all. In fact, some recipes use cubed avocados!

So what’s your favorite poke recipe?

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