Nothing reminds us of the Hawaiian Paradise more than the fantastic taste of Hawaiian Poke. From the first moment, we tasted the salty toasted notes of this iconic island dish we were hooked. It instantly transports us back to the sandy shores of Maui, relaxing on the Lanai with a bowl of Poke, a Ripe Avacado and sipping a Mai Tai, every time we take a taste.
The problem is, we have traveled far and wide, From L.A to Sydney, All across the states, and around the Pacific rim. However, finding real Authentic Hawaiian Poke is damn near impossible off the Islands. California has become a spiritual home of Poke, and it has exploded in the Vibrant Cities of Australia’s Pacific Coast. A healthy, simple, fresh meal that fits perfectly with the active lifestyles of these regions. But they are doing it wrong. So we endeavored to create and bring you the Best Hawaiian Poke Recipe we could come up with. One that really evokes the flavors and tastes of the Hawaiian Island, but at home.
Partner this with our Ultimate Mai Tai Recipe here!
Authentic Hawaiian Poke
Whenever we have eaten Poke outside of the State it just never tastes right, and on top of this, the endless recipes on the net seem to follow the L.A. Style of Poke and insist on making Poke Bowls and other such monstrosities! The only way we get close is to knock it up ourselves. We are not a Recipe Blog and our expertise lies in the Travel Industry, however, I am no stranger to a Kitchen and can muster up some pretty elaborate dishes, So feel perfectly able to bring you this quite simple recipe.
For a more general explanation of Poke, we have our What is Hawaiian Poke article, which explains more about the history and culture of the dish, but we guess if you are looking for that PERFECT Hawaiian Poke Recipe you already know what Poke is!
The Ingredients list is fairly simple there are a few optional items, that we think really add to the taste and look but the dish will still work without. This leaves only 4 essential ingredients and NO cooking so it’s a pretty straightforward dish and hard to understand why it is gotten so wrong so often!
- 200g 7oz – Ahi Tuna (Previously Frozen)
- 75g 2.5oz – Sweet Maui Onions (See below for substitute)
- 4 Tsp – Light Soy Sauce
- 3 Tsp – Toasted Sesame Oil
- 1 Tsp – Lime Juice (Optional)
- 1 Tsp Chopped – Seaweed (Optional)
- Pinch – Chilli Flakes (Optional)
- 5 Tsp – Sesame Seeds – Toasted (Optional)
- 2 Tsp – Black Sesame Seeds – Toasted (VERY optional)
Enough for two as an Appetizer or an addition to a Rice Bowl. Will stretch to 4 as an appetizer if used in Nachos’s or Tacos etc…
Poke is not a Tuna Dish by definition and you can use anything as the main ingredient. Ahi Tuna is the Classic so it is what we focus on and use in this dish but in reality, you can use anything. Apart from Chicken!*
Ahi is the Hawaiian Name for Yellowfin Tuna and one of the most widely available Tuna’s sold as steaks and for Sashimi. You can make it with Bluefin, but really you should not be wasting Blufin Tuna on anything other than Sashimi unless you have offcuts!
The Key to great Ahi Poke is Great Ahi. At home, we don’t always get the best Fish and when we do it’s often very expensive, but every now and then we find some great-looking steaks at decent prices and we know it’s Poke Time! The most obvious thing about Ahi is for it simply to LOOK good. You are eating this raw. The Dressing is only a Mild cure and does not get right into the flesh so it is a Raw food, so naturally, it needs to be very appealing to the Eye. Our first bite is with the Eyes, so milky and insipid fish is not going to give a good taste.
You are looking for a translucent texture and a deep red color almost like Turkish Delight. While texture and smell are equally important, these tend to be linked to the appearance, color and transparency seem to fall off before the smell and touch turn.
Most people think you need Fresh Tuna, but the reality is it is insanely hard to get hold of fresh Tuna and not even a good idea if you are eating raw. Almost all Tuna sold in the USA is Previously Frozen. Even the BEST Sashiimi restaurants will sell Previously Frozen, in fact, even the TERM Sashimi Grade actually means it has been previously Frozen. Why.
Well, it’s a bit icky, You might want to skip onto the next ingredient, and just trust us it’s good to use Previously Frozen Tuna. Basically, the Yellowfin Tuna is a TOP preditor, it lives a long time and eats a lot of fish in its existence on earth. During that time it is liable to pick up the odd nasty, the odd Parasite. Some of these can be transferred to humans. Ew. Freezing the fish kills the parasites and any eggs meaning the Fish is safe to eat raw.
So look for Previously Frozen or even Sashimi-grade Fish to ensure it is free from nasties. As we said though you will really struggle to find any that isn’t unless you live near a Tuna Fishery.
At this point, we should point out there are inherent risks in eating raw seafood and you should only try our Poke if you are ok with these risks, especially in high-risk groups. Millions of tonnes are eaten raw around the world though so it is on the whole pretty safe.
*Sorry we have a thing about Chicken Poke!
Maui Sweet Onions
An absolute essential, but one that’s hard to get off the Islands. But do not fear there are plenty of alternatives that are all but indistinguishable from the real deal. All you are looking for is a sweet onion.
Sweet onion is essentially one that has very little onion taste. The onions are not there to flavor this dish more give a little crunch and a mild sweet flavor. That pungent onion taste would ruin the delicate tastes of the Tuna and overpower the toasted notes.
If your Supermarket or veg seller does not stock Sweet onions then you are looking for the biggest flattest onion you can find, one that looks bloated and overgrown. these tend to have taken on more water and have less kick, older onions have often mellowed too. When chopping also avoid the ends as these are where the pungency is concentrated. Taste the onion and if it is quite “oniony” then use less than stated.
Light Soy Sauce
We prefer a good Asian brand, but really any will do
Toasted Sesame Oil
Again, any Asian Brand will add richness and authenticity but any supermarket brand will do, try and not to use a bottle that has been hiding in the back of your cupboard for months as oils do go stale with time.
Lime Juice (Optional)
You do not have to add the Lime Juice but we like the citrus edge it brings, lemon juice is fine, and either from a bottle is fine as you are looking for the acidic kick, not real flavor.
Another Optional, but we love the Unami Notes a bit of Seaweed brings, we just dice up Nori sheets and add them.
Chilli Flakes (Optional)
We are not sure this is really authentic but we add them almost by default, While some Poke recipes are spicy the most authentic are not usually, but we like just a tiny kick and seasoning effect that a few flakes add.
Sesame Seeds (Optional)
Sesame Seeds are Completely optional, they add a nice bite and a toasted pop to the dish but the toasted Sesame Taste mainly comes from the Oil. We do like the Visual contrast they bring.
Black Sesame Seeds (VERY optional)
Definitely Optional, these are for visual effect only, they add almost nothing to the taste even toasted.
Scallions / Spring Onions (If you must)
Scallions are often added to the Dish, but we disagree. They are normally sprinkled onto a big batch by supermarkets and Luaus. But this means very few get to a personal serving. These like the Black Sesame are mainly a Visual Garnesh but unlike the Sesame, they do add to the taste, and for the worse! They add Too much onion taste and it tends to detract. The green adds contrast and looks great but only add if you are making a big load for a part and just scatter on the top.
Some Recipies add Sea Salt, we tend not to as the Soy add all the Saltyness we desire, but if needed add to taste.
The Method is exceptionally easy, involving almost no cooking.
1 – Toast the Sesame Seeds, If using. Simply add a thin layer to a hot pan and keep moving until they turn brown and emit a sumptuous toasted aroma! Allow to cool.
2 – Dice the Ahi. Dice into small chunks less than 1 cm across,
3 – Dice the Onion and add to the Ahi. Make the onion pieces smaller than the Ahi. Add the Seaweed, Chilli Flakes, and Sesame Seeds and Mix.
4 – Make the Dressing. Add the Liquid ingredient together separately. The Toasted Sesame Oil, Soy Sauce, and Lime Juice. Mix together to Emulsify the oil and liquid then add Half to the Ahi.
5- Mix thoroughly. Then add the rest a Tsp at a time. Keep adding until each piece is thickly colored, but stop before the chunks cannot take anymore and the dressing begins to pool in the bottom.
Or at least within a few hours. Most Poke is made well ahead of time, but letting it sit does little for the taste and there is a real freshness about immediately cut, dressed, and served Poke that adds to the Taste!
We find it goes amazing with a little homemade Sushi, but that’s a whole other Recipe! store-bought will do if that is a stretch!
Please let us know if you try our Authentic Hawaiian Poke recipe, we really went to town to replicate the Hawaiian flavors we taste on our island trips and not the blander, hipper varieties we have tasted elsewhere. While NO Poke recipe will ever taste right without a pacific paradise backdrop with sand in your toes we really think this one gets as close to the islands as any recipe we have tried.
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We are not a recipe site and only have a few Authentic recipes from our favorite locations around the States