Polynesian people have been preparing and eating raw fish dishes for centuries. Hawaii, Samoa, Tonga, Aotearoa, Tahiti, and other Pacific Island Nations each have their own variations and styles of fresh, raw, seasoned fish.
Traditional Hawaiian poke consisted of freshly caught fish that has been scaled, gutted, skinned, deboned, and cut into bit size pieces. Depending on the type of fish, some, like the moi, a Pacific Threadfin, called The Fish of Kings by Hawaiians were prepared with bones and all. Traditional Hawaiian poke used readily available ingredients, seasoned simply with Hawaiian sea salt, limu (various seaweed; sea plants), and Inamona, made from roasted, finely chopped or mashed kukui (candlenut). Ancient Hawaiian fishermen seasoned the cut-offs from their catch to serve as a snack or quick meal while still at sea.
Sometime in the mid 20th century the simple and tasty traditional Hawaiian poke dish took on a whole new flare becoming the poke dish that we know of today. Poke adopted the use of common, modern condiments and ingredients, much of it heavily influenced by Japanese cuisine. Such adaptations were Maui, brown and green onion, peppers, shoyu (soy sauce), sesame oil, sesame seed, furikake, fish eggs, wasabi and also a sriracha & mayonnaise sauce mix. For the most part, these foreign changes to the traditional Hawaiian dish were accepted by the already mixed multicultural population of Hawaii.
The mainstream poke trend puts Hawaiian cuisine in the spotlight as it makes it’s way across the United States and other countries. All in all, it’s a good thing to share Hawaii with the world although, not without controversy. As poke restaurants are popping up with their own unique culinary creations in large metro areas such as New York & Chicago these non-Hawaiian chefs are putting out wrong or misleading information to the general public about the history and traditions of the Hawaiian food dish. Hawaii chef Mark Noguchi got a bit riled up on the misconception as these high end restaurant entrepreneurs called poke bowls and poke burritos an authentic Hawaiian staple. Noguchi also commented on how these people pronounced the Hawaiian dish “poki” or “poke” (pohk) instead of “poke” (po-kay), saying they should at the least get that right.
1) to slice, cube, section, cut crosswise into pieces, as fish, meat or wood;
2) to press out, as the core of a boil or the meat of an ‘opihi shell;