I hear Mother Nature has been giving everyone at home a taste of spring lately. Warm weather and not a drop of rain. Well, in case my neighbors are wondering where the rain clouds have been hanging out they passed through Maui a few days ago. We’ve had two heavy (though brief) downpours over the last couple of weeks. There’s been plenty of time for sun and sand in between so I’m not complaining one bit. In fact, the rainy days have been the perfect excuse to stay in and prepare this fresh, colorful dish to share with you. Win-win.
When in Maui (or any of the other Hawaiian islands) and craving local flavors what do you lean towards? Loco moco, kahlua pork, saimin or something else? What’s your favorite?
My husband and I have been visiting the islands for years and have done the “tourist thing” a few times so we haven’t ventured much outside of the resort areas the past few years. We’ve become lazy visitors, to be honest. We’ve embraced a routine of morning exercise followed by a few hours at the beach and have been quite content. But that’s what vacation is for, right? Maybe this is what it means to be an old married couple. Relationship-affirming activities don’t have to be pins-and-needles exciting–these days we have as much fun floating on the blue water together, engaging in conversation both mundane to spirited (those political conversations, though) and even just sitting next to each other engrossed in our own books.
But I digress. When the shave ice craving hits we drive to Lahaina’s Front Street for a fix. And before increasing rents sadly forced a local saimin joint to close its doors we were regular customers for several years. But if you’re craving poke the good news is that it’s available in abundance. Restaurants and local markets have freshly-prepared poke every day…and they come in countless flavor combinations.
The original poke was thought to be a snack created by centuries-ago Hawaiian fishermen out of scraps of fish and flavored simply with soy sauce, sesame oil and sometimes seaweed. These days the flavor options are much broader and while traditional poke does not include an acidic component, I don’t see the poke police beating down your door if you add a squeeze of lime in yours. This preparation just blurs the boundaries a bit, crossing over to ceviche or tuna tartare territory.
There was no reason at all for me to prepare this dish from scratch, but I couldn’t think of a better recipe to share while on this trip. More importantly, I now have a go-to market on Maui. Maui Prime Fine Foods is a small gourmet shop that sells meats, cheeses, wine (and everything in between) that you would need for a party. We eat in a lot when in Maui and shop Safeway and Foodland for staple items but always stop at Maui Prime for meats and other specialty items. The prices are reasonable, the quality of products high and the owners very nice.
A good piece of ahi doesn’t need accompaniment but what was traditionally considered a snack can be a made more substantial, too. Served on a bed of rice with your favorite toppings, the marinated tuna makes for a colorful and healthy meal. I like citrus with my fish, so I have taken my favorite tuna tartare recipe (which has the traditional poke components) and used it as my base. Feel free to leave out the lime altogether to make your version more authentic. The important thing is to use sashimi-grade ahi and you won’t go wrong whatever flavor combinations you use.
Now the sun is shining and the beach beckons… aloha!
- For the Poke:
- 1 lb sashimi-grade tuna
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (or a combination of neutral oil like vegetable or canola and sesame oil)
- Juice of 2 limes
- Zest of 1½ limes
- ½ teaspoon wasabi powder
- 1¼ teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce (I like Crystal Hot Sauce)
- Kosher salt, a pinch or two
- Freshly ground black pepper (about three turns on my peppermill)
- 3 scallions, chopped, white and green parts
- 1 jalapeno pepper, minced (keep or remove the seeds based on your heat preference)
- For the accompaniments (use all or pick your favorites to customize your bowl)
- 1-2 avocados, halved and sliced
- Toasted seaweed sheets (or furikake)
- Radishes, sliced thinly
- Cucumber, sliced thinly
- Scallions, chopped
- Lime wedges, for garnish
- Soy sauce as a condiment served on the side
- For the poke:
- Dice the tuna in ¼-inch pieces and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine the oil(s), lime zest, lime juice, wasabi, soy sauce, hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Add the diced tuna to the mixture along with the scallions and jalapeno. Mix well. Allow the tuna to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour for the flavors to blend.
- Scoop individual portions of rice in bowls and top with poke and the accompaniments listed above. Serve and enjoy.