At San Francisco’s Aloha Festival, you can get traditional Pacific Islander fare, including poke, which is also easy to make at home. Image source: Flickr CC user Family O'Ab
During my last trip to Hawaii a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t wait to head down to a local market and get fresh ahi to whip up some classic Hawaiian poke. There was a neighborhood market nearby and I bought four pounds of ahi tuna to feed a crowd.
I’ve found that if you want to feel like you’re in Hawaii (and who doesn’t?), the Pacific Islander Cultural Association’s annual Aloha Festival is the perfect way to get your tropical island fix. This year it’s set for August 6-7, 2016 at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds.
There will be dancing, lots of live music, workshops on island culture, canoe club displays, and of course lots of island food to eat. Classic foods include “plate lunches,” teriyaki chicken, Spam musubi, kalua pig, lau lau (a steamed vegetable and meat dish), poi (mashed taro root) and my favorite, tuna poke. Poke is classic Hawaiian dish made with nothing more than cubes of raw fish and a splash of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil. It’s a little like sushi, and a little like ceviche, but with a flavor all its own.
Once the fun is over, the best way to recreate the experience is by making your own poke (you’re probably not going to want to steam a whole pig for 12 hours or hunt down taro root in the store). Poke is delicious and it’s super easy, especially if you have the fish delivered to your door.
Poke: It’s All About Freshness First
Since you won’t be cooking this dish, start with the freshest ahi tuna you can find. You can also use salmon, octopus, or other kinds of tuna but ahi is the classic preparation. Ordering your fish online ensures you’ll get it at least three days fresher than you’d find at your local market since it goes from supplier to you without a stop in the middle. Some stores will offer “sashimi grade” fish, but the fact is you don’t know how long the fish has been sitting on the ice, or if it’s been handled with gloves that touched non-sashimi grade fish.
Cut the tuna into dice-size cubes. In a large bowl, mix soy sauce with rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. Add the fish to the bowl and toss gently in the marinade. Let it marinate in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes or more. When you’re ready to serve, I like to add black sesame seeds, sliced green onions and cubes of avocado. You can serve steamed rice or rice noodles on the side, but personally I don’t think this dish needs a thing.
If you’re excited about the Polynesian culture festival and want to make your own poke, instead of searching the markets for fish labeled ‘sushi grade,’ let the fish come to you from a trustworthy supplier like Daily Fresh Fish. We’ll ship you fast, unbelievably fresh fish that’s also sustainably caught so you can celebrate Pacific Islander culture with tuna that tastes like it was just pulled from the warm blue waters of Fiji.