History of Fresh Hawaiian Poke In Hawaii
Poke (pronounced POH-kay) is served in most Hawaiian homes and restaurants as a side dish, and no gathering in Hawaii would be complete without a few bowls of Hawaiian poke. In Hawaiian, poke means “cut piece” or “small piece.” Poke is bite-size pieces of raw fish doused in seasonings. Poke is actually the Hawaiian version of the elegant Japanese sashimi (a combining of the Hawaiian and Japanese taste for raw fish). The fish for Hawaiian poke is sometimes even lightly seared or fried.
For centuries, Hawaiian fishermen cut their catch of raw fish into cubes and seasoned it with whatever ingredients they had. Modern versions make use of seasonings brought by the many different cultures of the Islands, such as soy sauce, onions, tomatoes, and chilies. Poke is so common in the Hawaiian culture, that you can stop at a local grocery store and choose from several freshly made varieties.
Mention regional foods to Hawaiians, and people think of poke. It is considered a local food or “local grind” – comfort food to the Hawaiians. Normally local food is not the cuisine that is served in upscale hotels and restaurants of Hawaii, but Hawaiian poke has crossed such boundaries. Poke is still evolving in the Hawaiian Islands. It was not until the 1970s that the recipes for Hawaiian poke started appearing in cookbooks.
Each year, Sam Choy, one of Hawaii’s most famous chefs, hosts an annual 3-day Hawaiian poke festival. The contest draws over 2,000 entries from Western Canada, the mainland United States, Hawaii, and the South Pacific. From these, 75 entries are selected as finalists, with many wildly inventive variations of the basic Hawaiian poke. The public is invited to taste after the judging, and it does not take long for the poke to disappear amidst a murmur of “mmmms” and “ahhs.”Umekes Fishmarket Bar and Grill’s owner, Chef Nakoa Pabre, is a two time winner of the overall Champion of the Sam Choy Poke contest in 2013 and 2014. Call 1-808-238-0571 for more information.