Poke (pronounced poh-keh) is the Hawaiian word for “to section” or “to slice or cut”. It is also one of the many dishes in Hawaii that is representative of its history and culture; a mix of traditional Hawaiian technique and food with Japanese ingredients. Considered local “grind” (comfort food) to native Hawaiians, Poke is a centuries-old tradition; a classic Hawaiian pupu (appetizer or main course) dating as far back as the arrival of the first Hawaiians in the island chain.
Back then, Poke was a simple, filling meal. Scraps of raw fish cut into bite-sized pieces and marinated with sesame oil, shoyu (soy sauce), green onions; inamona (a seasoning mixture of toasted and chopped kukui nuts, or candlenuts), Limu (algae), and ‘alaea (a Hawaiian sea salt mixed with red volcanic clay).
As other cultures came to the islands, Poke changed. Easier access to deep-water fish saw aku (an oily tuna) and he’e (octopus) become the new “traditional” forms of the islands staple.
Modern Poke variations include sushi-grade yellowfin (ahi) tuna, raw salmon, various species of shellfish, and tofu. Each makes use of an array of ingredients and seasonings including seaweed, Roe (fish eggs), wasabi, dried or fresh chilies, toasted macadamia nut, Furikake (a dry Japanese seasoning that typically consists of a mixture of dried fish), sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, avocado, Japanese ponzu (citrus) sauce, teriyaki sauce, mushrooms, crispy onions, pickled jalapeno, sriracha sauce, cilantro, pineapple, cucumber, sugar and salt. These contemporary Poke dishes can be served alone or on top of a bed of white rice, pineapple, Sushi-meshi (seasoned rice) or red cabbage.
Nutrition values vary depending on the dish variation selected; a 4 ounce serving of ahi Poke with traditional ingredients has 150 calories, 5 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 33 milligrams of cholesterol, 240 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of protein, 2 grams of carbohydrates and 0.5 grams of dietary fiber. Ahi Poke also has 400 IU of vitamin A and several trace vitamins and minerals including vitamins B-12, C, D, iron, zinc, folate, magnesium, manganese, potassium and niacin.