Explore Maui

Poking Around

Sushi and sashimi lovers could learn a thing or two about how to eat raw fish from Islanders. Kama‘aina (Hawai‘i residents) consume the most fish in the nation, a majority of it prepared as the beloved dish called poke (pronounced poe-kay, not “poke” as in “to poke fun at someone.”)

Poke dates back to ancient Hawai‘i, when raw fish was simply seasoned with sea salt and ‘inamona (crushed kukui nuts), and either cut into bite-size pieces or served whole. Poke is now a staple of the island table—walk into the seafood section of just about any grocery store here in Hawai‘i, and in a chilled, glass case sit rows and rows of freshly prepared poke waiting to be picked up by the pound. No family gathering or picnic in Hawai‘i would be complete without servings of this raw delicacy made available for everyone to dig in to.

Several variations of this favorite appetizer exist today. Ingredients can include soy sauce, onions, sesame oil, chili peppers, wasabi (Japanese hot mustard) or limu (seaweed). Poke is commonly prepared with raw ‘ahi (yellowfin tuna), but can also feature other gems from the sea, such as aku (skipjack), smoked octopus and mussels, smoked salmon or even raw crab. It’s the next step in the tasting tier for any seafood lover—and once these novices sample their first piece of poke, they are usually instant converts.