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Taste of Hawaii – Poke

Hawaiian PokeEngland is revered for their fish and chips, down south loves their collard greens, and here in Hawaii, we’ve got Poke. Pronounced Poh-kay which means to cut or to slice, this popular pupu (appetizer) is as much a part of Hawaii as the hula.

Poke was originally prepared by native Hawaiians by slicing ahi tuna / yellowfin and seasoning it with sea salt, seaweed and ground kukui nut. Modern day poke is still made with yellowfin, but has evolved to include lobster, crab and other treasures of the sea. You’ll even find vegetarian poke made with tofu.

The passing of time has not only seen poke include other types of seafood; thanks to the melting pot of cultures that make up the fabric of Hawaii, the seasoning has been kicked up a notch as well. Gone are the days of simple sea salt and seaweed poke. Today’s varieties offer a more flavorful twist with ingredients like soy sauce, ginger, citrus, and of course “secret sauces”.  Throw in some extras like tomatoes and sweet Maui onion and you’ve got yourself a very fine poke indeed!

Here in Hawaii we are so obsessed with our poke that we’ve even got an entire festival devoted to it! Started in 1992, the Poke Festival is the brain child of Chef Sam Choy who is also the author of a cookbook dedicated to the same. The festival includes cooking classes, tastings, poke recipe contests and more.

If you’re wondering where you and your taste buds can go to sample this Hawaiian specialty, check out our post on how Hawaii’s cuisine measures up against the rest of the nation. Kona’s Da Poke Shack actually took the top spot on Yelp’s list of best places to eat in the entire country, and what do you think their specialty is? You guessed it, poke!