One of the things we like best when traveling to new countries is of course sampling the food, and the Pacific Islands is definitely one of our favorite food destinations. Hawaiian poke is a legend amongst those underrated destinations.
There are a lot of misconceptions about the cuisine of the Pacific Islands, namely that people eat nothing but spam and corned beef. Now that is not to say that both of these dishes are not popular! I have honestly never seen more variations of spam than in Nauru, but there is much more to the cuisine of these islands.
Raw fish is a big deal in the Pacific
I have written for street food guy about raw fish in the Pacific and it is no wonder that with the ambulance of fresh tuna (many of the countries earn most of their money through fishing rights), proximity to Japan, their former colonial overlords, that raw tuna was gonna be a thing.
Classic sashimi in the Pacific islands is amazing and whilst not always having wasabi is still some of the best I have had in the world. Nauru cuisine often features raw tuna in Chinese restaurants served with hot sauce – very fusion! And the best sashimi I have had in my life was in Tarawa, Kiribati.
What about a good poke?
OK, well I had to get the pun out of the way, but it is actually pronounced /poʊˈkeɪ/ (Hawaiian for “to slice” or “cut crosswise into pieces”).
The history of Hawaiian poke came about when fishermen wanted a way not to waste their offcuts, trying not to waste food has of course led to many culinary feats, such as bubble and squeak.
Traditional Hawaiian poke may consist of cubed raw fish, maui onions, Inamona (a condiment made of roasted, salted candlenut), Limu, soy sauce, green onions, or sesame oil, often with a coconut base. It is usually served in a bowl and is internationally known as poke bowl.
It has sometimes been compared with kinilaw, which is known as Filipino ceviche. I personally find them to be very different, with kinilaw being much more sour.
I first discovered poke in Majuro of the Marshall at the Marshall Islands Resort (MIR). Although I had a Marshallese Poke, which made much more use of the coconut element and was certainly sweeter than a ceviche/kinilaw.
Where can you buy poke?
Fusion poke type restaurants can be found all over the world now. I have personally seen and or had them in Saigon and Phnom Penh, and apparently they are a thing from North America all the way to China..
I am yet to try them in Hawaii, but with Hawaii set to host a regional football tournament in 2022, YPT are indeed hoping to be there.