Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Poke

Health Benefits of Ahi Tuna Poke and How to Make It

Poke Bowl
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If you like sashimi or ceviche, you'll love poke, a traditional Hawaiian way of preparing raw fish. The word 'poke' (rhymes with 'okay') refers to the fish that is cut into small cubes. Traditional poke is seasoned with Hawaiian salt, seaweed and ground roasted kukui nuts that re made into inamona.

History of Poke

According to food historian Rachel Lauden in her book The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii's Culinary Heritage, it's not clear when poke became a real fish dish.

Although Hawaiians have enjoyed raw fish combined with salt and other seasonings for a very long time, the first mention of poke in a cookbook occurred in the mid-1970s.

Health Benefits of Poke

While you might find cooked octopus or other types of fish, ahi tuna is the most common fish used for poke. Tuna is an excellent addition to a healthy diet because it's a great source of protein and is low in total fat, but high in omega-3 fatty acids that are good for your heart and brain. It's low in calories too. Each ounce of fresh raw tuna has about 30 calories.

How to Make a Simple Poke at Home

You can find poke in restaurants that feature Pacific Asian foods, or you can make poke at home.

What you'll need:

Start with fresh sushi grade tuna. You may need to go to a specialty store or Asian market if your grocery store doesn't carry it. Don't use regular raw tuna steaks. Traditional poke is made with Hawaiian salt and kukui nuts that are roasted and ground, at which point they're called inamona.

These ingredients are difficult to find outside of Hawaii, but regular sea salt and finely ground macadamia nuts make good substitutes.

In addition, you'll need a Maui onion if you can find one (or a regular onion if you can't find a Maui onion), some green onions, sesame oil, and soy sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh ahi tuna
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup sliced onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped Macadamia nuts
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)

Cut the fish into small bite-sized cubes, about 1 inch square. Add the fish to a large bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients and lightly toss so the tuna is coated. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for 2 hours or more. Then, you can eat it just as it is, add extra toppings like toasted sesame seeds, chili peppers, or seaweed, or use your poke to make a poke bowl.

So What's a Poke Bowl?

Something as delicious as poke is bound to spread beyond its origins and most large cities in the United States have restaurants that serve poke bowls, which combine the fish with rice and additional toppings. Look for restaurants that specialize in Hawaiian or Asian food, and in some cities, you'll find whole restaurants dedicated just to poke bowls.

Poke bowls that you find in restaurants may be similar to the original Hawaiian poke bowl or completely different. You can find poke bowls with cooked fish, shrimp, crab or tofu and they may be topped with avocado, edamame, or spicy mayo, similar to what you might find in a sushi restaurant.

Most poke bowls include white rice, like sushi rice, but you may also find thinly sliced zucchini or quinoa at the bottom instead.

For the most part, poke bowls are quite healthy and not too high in calories. But, if you stray from the traditional dish and add globs of spicy mayo or extra pieces of avocado the calorie count can jump.

How to Make a Poke Bowl at Home

You'll need the poke you made earlier. Or you can swap out the tuna and try sushi-grade salmon, cooked octopus or another type of cooked fish. If you want to go for a less-traditional poke bowl, you can use tofu chunks, crab meat, or use pieces of cooked shrimp, chicken, or pork.

Of course, you'll also need rice. Sushi rice is an excellent choice, but short or medium grain white rice will do. Or add in a bit of fiber and use brown rice. Additional ingredients could include avocado, seaweed, cucumber slices, shredded carrots,  shredded cabbage, edamame, cherry tomatoes or sesame seeds. If you'd like a spicier poke bowl, add chili peppers or a little sriracha sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of the poke (use the recipe above or one of the many recipes you can find online)
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced or cubed into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage

Divide the cooked rice evenly into four bowls. Add 1/4 of the poke to each bowl and top with even amounts of avocado and shredded cabbage. Serves four.

Each serving has about 285 calories, 31 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrates, and 3 grams fiber.

More Ideas for Poke Bowls

There are a number of ways to make poke bowls at home, including California Roll poke bowls and ahi tuna and quinoa poke bowls. As long as you choose ingredients you like, the end result should be delicious. 

Do you prefer to work with recipes rather than strike out on your own? Then here are some more amazing recipes to get you started:

Sources:

ChooseMyPlate.gov. "Supertracker: My Recipe." 

Laudan, Rachel. The Food of Paradise: Exploring Hawaii's Culinary Heritage. Honolulu: U of Hawai'i Press, 1996. Print.

United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28.

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