Pokemon may be a world-famous game, but I found a real “poke man” in executive chef Jayson Kanekoa at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa in Hawaii. He has won the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival’s Best Poke contest for five years in a row, and each year he makes a different version of poke.
What’s poke, you ask? Pronounced “po-kay,” in its simplest terms, it is small cubes of marinated fish (typically tuna). The sauce can be as simple or complex as you like. Served as an appetizer with cocktails or even a main course, poke has become popular across the nation with poke pop-ups and stands sprouting up in many cities.
Sometimes poke is served on warm sushi rice for a satisfying main course. Kanekoa calls his a “Poke Bowl,” and spices it up with chile peppers, seaweed or even the edible part of the sea urchin.
Ahi tuna is available nationally now, so you can make your own version of poke. Just make sure you get the freshest tuna possible. Sushi-grade tuna refers to it being frozen, to kill any bacteria or parasites, and then defrosted. Kampachi is a farm-raised yellowtail off the Kona Coast of Hawaii that is used as a domesticate alternative to wild tuna. I have visited the farm and enjoyed the kampachi, both as sushi and sashimi.
If you can find fresh seaweed, go for it; otherwise, look for dried seaweed called kelp, kumbu or nori. I like the flakes but you can also use the powder.
Contact Diane Rossen Worthington at www.seriouslysimple.com.
30 peeled garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup ogo (fresh seaweed) or dried nori flakes
2 tablespoons green onions, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons soy sauce
Sea salt, to taste
Hot chile flakes (optional)
2 pounds sushi-grade ahi tuna, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Roast the garlic: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the cloves in a large piece of heavy foil. Sprinkle with the oil and wrap tightly in a piece of aluminum foil.
Place the package on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the garlic is soft when pierced with a knife. Remove from the oven and cool. Mash the softened cloves with a spoon or process in a food processor until smooth. You should have about 2 tablespoons roasted garlic.
Make the poke sauce: Combine the roasted garlic, seaweed, green onions, soy sauce, salt and chile flakes in a medium serving bowl. Mix to combine.
Add the tuna and mix to coat with all the ingredients. Season to taste. Serve immediately.
Advance preparation: Can be prepared up to five days ahead, covered and refrigerated.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.