Since returning from my recent trip to California, where I sampled "poke" for the first time at Bear Flag Fish Company, I've been determined to try to recreate a reasonable facsimile of the dish here in NZ.
My first challenge was tracking down impeccably fresh, sushi grade ahi tuna, but that turned out to be relatively easy. Egmont Seafoods, a wonderful fish supplier based near the port in New Plymouth, has it available for sale each Wednesday.
Next I needed to find a "poke" recipe with which to play around. I was lucky enough to find one that is based on Bear Flag's version, here. I couldn't find toasted sesame oil but had the regular sesame oil also called for, so went with that. The raw tuna is chopped against the grain into cubes, then marinated for two hours in soy sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, chile sauce, white and black sesame seeds and green/spring onions.
Poke, pronounced "poh-kay," is a traditional Hawaiian dish of ahi tuna marinated in soy sauce and sesame oil, or variations thereof. Think of it as the Hawaiian version of ceviche. It's healthy and delicious. In Newport Beach, California Bear Flag serves it with tortilla chips, and most people add guacamole (which maybe isn't quite so healthy!). Poke "bowls" are a bit trendy right now, especially in Australia.
Here's Bear Flag's version:
And here's my first attempt, with tortilla chips and a wee bit of guacamole (avos are still reasonably expensive here at the moment, so I didn't go overboard):
The verdict: it was good, but it wasn't anywhere near as good as Bear Flag poke. This recipe tasted too much of sesame oil vs. Bear Flag. When I make it again I'll most likely eliminate or reduce the sesame oil and increase the Sriracha chile sauce and lime juice. To make matters worse, the avos in my guacamole were bland and watery, and it goes without saying that those sure weren't California tortilla chips. My experiments will continue, but I might just need to accept that an exact recreation of Bear Flag's poke may not be possible. At least not without getting my hands on the recipe!
It also might make sense for me to research how traditional Hawaiian poke is made, to taste and understand the authentic dish and improvise from there. For this I was working with someone's improvisation of someone's interpretation and hoping it would get me to where I wanted to go.