Poke (pronounced POH-kay) tuna is tuna sashimi marinated in a flavorful blend of sesame oil, ginger, garlic, lime, and soy sauce, topped with scallions, sesame seeds and nuts. I believe kukui nuts or macadamia nuts are the classic nuts to use, but you can substitute peanuts if you haven’t got any of those lying around. Although it seems exotic, this dish is actually very easy. Perhaps this is obvious, but there is no heat involved, so it’s fabulous for summer. It is usually accompanied by seaweed salad, either mixed in with the tuna or on the side.
Even though my mother is from Hawaii, I had never had this dish until I recently tried it in a restaurant. That’s probably because I wasn’t a very big fan of raw fish until my husband and I went to Japan for our honeymoon, where I was determined to try everything as long as it didn’t have eyeballs. It turned out to be easy to overcome my fears, because everything was so fresh and beautifully presented. I returned much braver about sashimi, and now I am totally OK with it. Especially when marinated in super yummy flavors. Yay!
We are lucky enough to live close to a Japanese market that sells sushi-grade tuna. They even give you a bag of ice so you can bring it home safely. I pop it right into the fridge and make it later the same day – no freshness worries! A small 4-ounce piece is about $10 and makes enough for an appetizer for 2 people. I also purchased some seaweed salad and rice crackers to serve alongside.
- ¼ lb. (4 oz.) sushi-grade tuna
- 1 T. dark sesame oil
- ½ tsp. fresh ginger juice (grate a 1-2" piece of fresh ginger over a bowl, then squeeze juice out of the grated ginger with your fingers)
- ¼ tsp. pressed garlic (about 1 small clove)
- 1 tsp. soy sauce
- ½ tsp. fresh lime juice
- 1 green onion, finely chopped (you can slice another green onion for additional garnish, if you like)
- Red pepper flakes to taste
- ¼ c. macadamia nuts or peanuts, finely chopped
- 1 T. sesame seeds, toasted
- Seaweed salad for serving (optional)
- While you are preparing the marinade, put your tuna into the freezer for a few minutes. This will make it easier to slice.
- To make the marinade, mix together the sesame oil, ginger juice, pressed garlic, soy sauce, lime juice, finely chopped green onion, and red pepper flakes to taste (I use a pinch).
- Remove tuna from freezer and slice into ½" cubes. Add to marinade, stir to coat, and let marinate covered in the fridge for 30 minutes. (Don't let it go too much longer than that or the salt in the marinade will cause the tuna to become mushy.)
- To serve, spoon each serving into a small bowl, then top with peanuts and sesame seeds (and more sliced green onion if you like). Serve with seaweed salad and/or rice crackers. Yum!