Where To Find The Best Poke In Hawaii
Shoyu tuna poke and fried longganisa gyoza | © Kris Awesome/Flickr
has been a longtime innovator in the world of seafood, bringing the sushi craze to the islands well before it swept the rest of the US in the 1990s. Poke, meaning ‘to cut,’ is a simple Hawaiian dish made from cubed pieces of raw fish; it has remained a favorite amongst locals for decades and is available almost everywhere – from local markets and delis to upscale restaurants. The fish – usually ahi tuna, salmon, or octopus (called tako
) – is marinated with soy sauce, green onions, and sesame oil; other variations have included ingredients like bonito fish flakes, kimchi, seaweed, algae, Maui onions, and wasabi. For the six best spots for poke in Hawaii, read on.
Market, Seafood, American
, an unassuming family-owned market in Kalihi, is a favorite amongst locals – and with a reputation that has sparked a buzz amongst tourists, Alicia’s has become the go-to spot for seafood enthusiasts and lovers of this traditional Hawaiian dish. For first-timers, go for the ahi limu poke – a classic Hawaiian recipe of fresh ahi, crunchy ogo (seaweed), salty algae, and green onions; or kick it up a notch and opt for Da Ultimate Poke Bowl with spicy ahi, roasted pork, and steamed rice.
Tanioka’s Seafoods and Catering
Tanioka’s may not look like much from the outside, but this joint has been a veteran on the poke scene since the late 1970s. The go-to spot for ahi limu poke, Tanioka’s has expanded to include all kinds of variations (such as wasabi miso tako and spicy marlin); seafood enthusiasts can also get their hands on poke salads and fresh shellfish. For a unique spin on the traditional, go for the spicy ahi tempura bowl with eel sauce and masago mayo, and be sure to grab a musubi, a traditional Hawaiian snack, for the road.
Tanioka’s Seafoods and Catering, 94-903 Farrington Highway, Waipahu, HI, USA, +1 808 671 3779
At Tamashiro Market
, poke is king. Along the back wall, find an impressive display of 30 different varieties, all made from the freshest, local fish – quality is never a concern. Plus, this seafood shop has been a reputable fish market and pioneer in the world of poke since the 1970s. Novices can sample things like spicy scallop poke, ginger shrimp poke, or seven different types of ahi before making a decision; the most fan favorite is the bento box, served with two kinds of poke (your choice), steamed rice, seaweed salad, and pickled ginger.
Just off the H2 in Mililani, find Poke Stop – a little, hidden treasure dishing out prime poke in a whole spectrum of flavors, including blackened ahi, sweet onion ahi, and creamy, spicy salmon. Go for the wasabi tako – raw octopus packing a punch – or the Cali bowl, creamy ahi served on a bed of steamed rice, with avocado, masago, and crispy wonton strips. Plus, first-timers can make their own poke bowl, or opt from a list of rotating hot items like burgers, Korean-style kalbi, or the tempura fried spicy poke roll.
Poke Stop, 95-1840 Meheula Pkwy (behind McDonalds), Mililani, HI, USA, +1 808 626 3400
Yama’s Fish Market
Deli, Market, Seafood, American, $$$
Yama’s Fish Market
, a compact, deli-style shop in the heart of Moiliili, is where locals go for traditional Hawaiian plates (think kalua pig and lau lau), a star lineup of poke, and island sides – such as kimchi, musubi, and seaweed salad. Order from the counter, pick your poke (go for the spicy wasabi ahi poke or Maui-style tako), and be prepared to wait in line. With such a small space and minimal tables, Yama’s is best taken to-go, but don’t forget a house-made dessert.
Da Poke Shack
Da Poke Shack has become a Hawaiian craze. Opening up shop in Kailua-Kona in an unpretentious tiny storefront below an apartment complex, this little joint has had such success that it has expanded to other locations, including Captain Cook and Honolulu. The original location, nestled just north of Pahoehoe Beach, is still a prime spot for first-class poke. Choose between a bowl (two choices of poke) or a plate (four choices of poke), pick your fish (the kimchi tako poke, creamy ahi poke, and dynamite poke with avocado aioli are recommended), and dig in. You won’t regret it.
Da Poke Shack, 76-6246 Alii Dr, Kailua-Kona, HI, USA, +1 808 329 7653