Poke Salad | Day 13 of 31 Days of Salad

posted on: Friday, January 13, 2012

Mariko is more like a sister than a friend. We've known each other before we dived into this crazy food blogging business. She lived close by when Enzo was a newborn and her daughter Amaya was a newborn. It was good having her along for the crazy-new-parent-ride. She was friends with Christian before Christian and I started dating. Like I said, she's more like a sister than a friend. Mariko lives in Hawaii (lucky!) with her talented husband (ceramics artist) and her two awesome kids with awesome names, Amaya and Mozely. Oh, and Mariko can cook crazy good and has great taste in food. We went to NYC once and all we did was eat and she pretty much planned everything. If you go on a food trip take her! If you can't go on a food trip you can still get to know her through her blog, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Thanks Mighty, love you lots. xoxo

There's pretty much only one way I like to eat fish.


(I know. I'm weird.)

Occasionally I'll eat a cooked fish, but in general I don't cook fish at all, and I try to eat good sushi only. I've sworn off of mediocre sushi, so I don't get to eat fish very often, since eating good sushi is synonymous with spending good money.

Money well spent, in my opinion.

One of the nice things about living in Hawaii is that everybody gets me and my preference for uncooked fish.

Poke ("poh-kay") is a mix of cubed, raw fish (usually tuna, but octopus is common too) marinated with sauces and seasonings, and sometimes other thinly sliced veggies, like limu seaweed or raw onion. When you eat poke with rice the sauce seeps into the white grains, and it's hard to tell which I like better sometimes. It sounds so strange if you've never had it. I find it completely addictive. Poke is way easier to get and cheaper than sushi, and even the most run-down looking place can serve good poke.

There are some restaurants that serve poke, but generally it's a comfort food that you can find at local supermarkets and small convenience stores. The Superette in Kahuku is well known for their poke and rice, which sells by the pound. Students risk referrals and worse to go off campus for their poke and rice every day. Usually I have to stand in line behind them.

If you get a tub of poke and rice, kids lurk around to see if they can beg a bite or more. Better get extra.

I first had the poke appetizer at Stage Restaurant in Honolulu a couple of years ago, for Valentine's Day. I was really turned off by the decor of the place and especially by the butt of the life-size horse-lamp (yes. Really.) directly by my face, but they won me over with the first dish. Sometimes we decide to go back there simply because I get a craving for it and the inventive pastry chef's cotton candy. It's common in Hawaii for fine-dining restaurants to recall the flavors of common foods and dress them up. This version had the most perfectly crunchy Marcona almonds and popped with tobiko. The avocado was so unusual but the cream of it worked with the fish. Finish all of that mouth music off with the heat of a couple of slices of jalapeno and I was in heaven.

I decided I had to make it myself. I couldn't wait.

It's not their exact appetizer, but it's pretty darn close. I added the sprouts and the arugula, because I envisioned it as a salad. The poke is so flavorful that the base of it needs some neutral flavors and the crisp of the salad helps play up everything else. It helps to keep the flavor from becoming monotonous. I love it.

And it's easier than getting a babysitter, except that I have to compete with my daughter for the last bite.

Poke Salad (inspired by Stage restaurant’s Ahi poke appetizer)
(printable version)

Serves 4-6 as a small dish
  • ¼ Cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp mirin
  • ½ small red or sweet onion, thinly sliced and chopped into 1” pieces
  • 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • ½ Cup toasted Marcona almonds
  • 1 avocado (peeled and seeded) cut into 1/2” squares
  • 1 lb sushi grade Ahi, cubed into ½” pieces
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 Cup sunflower sprouts
  • 1 Cup baby arugula
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped green onion
  • Sprinkle of sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons thinly sliced jalapeno pepper, optional

  1. Heat the soy sauce, sugar, and mirin in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Stir it around until it gets thicker, like maple syrup. This will take about 6 minutes, and the sauce will bubble for most of that time. Set it aside to cool.
  2. Put the onion into a small bowl and sprinkle the sherry vinegar over it. Just a little will do. The onion will soak up the vinegar and add a bite of acid to the poke which is really lovely next to the sweetened soy sauce. Let it sit for 10 minutes. (This part is optional if your name is Scott Conant from Food Network’s Chopped.)
  3. Chop up the Marcona almonds until they look like big, dry bread crumbs. Remove the onions from the sherry vinegar.
  4. Toss the Ahi, cooled sauce, onions, almonds, and sesame oil in a medium bowl. Add the avocado and toss gently again. You have to be careful to keep the avocado from getting mushy and mixed in like a sauce—you want the chunks with the fish.
  5. When serving, put a bit of the sprouts and arugula down on individual plates and top with the poke. Sprinkle on the sesame seeds, some of the green onion, and the pepper, if desired. You could serve the poke on its own, with rice, as well.


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