One of the greatest pleasures of my job is my regular visits to Chef Felix Tai of Pounders Restaurant. Not only do I get the chance to try out some incredibly ono recipes, I get to spend 2 hours or more with a passionate, somewhat excitable, “food is my LIFE” award-winning chef. Our time together FLIES by – and I learn more than mere cooking tips. The secrets of the universe are opened up and I actually feel nourished both body and soul.
This month we are sharing two poke recipes – Chef’s Straight forward Poke, and Poke prepared the ancient Hawaiian way. And because poke is quintessential Hawaii as far as Chef Felix is concerned, we’ve mixed in some history, instruction and just a touch of philosophy from the Master himself – so you can feel inspired too!
Straight forward Poke served with heart
(with running commentary from Chef Felix)
12 oz yellowfin tuna
“Preferably not previously frozen or treated with carbon monoxide”
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp Kikkoman soy sauce
“We need a whole blog on why this soy sauce is preferred in my dishes”
1 tbsp pure sesame oil
“Quality is EVERYTHING!”
About ¼ tsp sea salt
“This measurement is used very loosely – the true measurement is how much love you put into it…once you put your soul into this simple recipe, you will know what it needs”
Optional ingredients can be added ‘to taste’ depending on preference. A pinch of this, a dab of that. Don’t let it overpower the fish, just let it highlight it.
Possible additions: Dried seaweed, sea asparagus, sweet onion, scallions, cucumber, pickled ginger, fried shallots, or even shake it up by adding cilantro or lemon zest.
“…..the possibilities are endless as you elevate each flavor.”
Cut fish across the grain in cubes.
Place fresh fish in a mixing bowl.
Add soy sauce, sesame oil and any optional ingredients and mix well.
Add sea salt to taste.
The correct way to cut your meat
When cutting any meat, even fish and especially raw fish for poke, ALWAYS cut against the grain. Cutting through any muscle fibers will make the meat more tender… and for poke, you want it to be as tender as possible. Using the deep red part of the loin called akami would be the preferred local choice but in most stores frozen ahi comes in steaks.
Serve with rice or in a salad, or eat it just by itself! Another approach? Scoop it up with a side of tortilla chips.
You can refrigerate your poke up to 2 days. After that, any leftover fish should be cooked. Add it to a stir-fry, or in with fried rice, noodles, or soup.
Poke prepared the ancient Hawaiian way
If you want truly traditional poke as they made anciently…
Forget about soy sauce.
Forget about ahi.
Instead, find yourself a fresh reef fish such as kumu (goatfish), uhu (parrotfish), ono, maona, kahala (amberjack), uku (grey snapper), grouper, or mahi-mahi.
Add limu (seaweed) and sea salt for flavor.
Top with roasted kukui nut, cracked and toasted. (Unlike macadamia nuts, kukui is rather oily and has a nice fragrance when heated.)
That’s it–simple and delicious!
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Nina Jones, a mainland gal from way back, is now a transplanted Islander. With her husband of 41 years, she has lived in La’ie since serving a mission at the Polynesian Cultural Center from 2014 – 2016. She is now an employee of the Center, working in the Marketing Dept. Her hobbies include swimming, traveling, studying and writing about what she is learning from the various Polynesian cultures. Her blogs focus on their history, beliefs, practices and – as an added bonus – delicious food! To her, Polynesia is not just a place to visit, it is a way to live and she is very honored to be able to be a part of their amazing world.