Hawai‘i wants the rest of the world to know: You’re doing poke wrong. It’s all wrong, from the way it’s prepared (what’s up with all the extra toppings and the kale salad?) to how it’s spelled (poké, poki) to where it’s served (bougie, trendy spots). Poke-like dishes are spreading across the Mainland, but you need to go to Hawai‘i to experience the real thing.
For the uninitiated, poke (which means “to cut” or “to slice” in Hawaiian) is most commonly a dish of raw, chopped fish and onions, seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil. Though you’ll find all sorts of variations on the sauces and ingredients, ranging from cooked seafood like shrimp and clams to even non-seafood ingredients, such as beets and beef, there are really just three types of poke, usually made with ‘ahi, that locals love most. The most common ones are shoyu (the aforementioned with soy sauce and sesame oil), limu or Hawaiian (with limu — the Hawaiian word for seaweed — and ‘inamona (roasted and crushed kukui or candlenut), and spicy (creamy, mayo-based).
In Hawai‘i, poke is most often eaten on its own as a snack, like boiled peanuts, though the idea of serving it over rice — aka poke bowls — is becoming more popular. It’s a casual dish, so much a part of locals’ lives that it’s eaten everywhere — at bars, on the beach, on the couch — usually straight from plastic take-out containers.
And the best poke destinations in Hawai‘i are supermarkets, convenience stores and hole-in-the-wall spots. The more unassuming and out of the way, the better; then you know the establishment is spending its money on fish and not on high rent and useless décor. Because for the best poke, fresh fish is the star. ‘
Part of the Eater Guide to Hawai‘iRead More