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Lifestyle :: Around Town :: World Wide Ed :: Poke Paradise - Experiencing the Best Poke Around Hawa...

Poke Paradise - Experiencing the Best Poke Around Hawaii - Part I

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 Part I  | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

I gotta admit... One of the perks of working on these "best of" pieces is the eating. I'm lucky enough to grind some of the most onolicious foods Hawaii's got to offer and live to write about it. This month, I'm covering one of my all-time favorite snack/food/pupu/whatever-you-wanna-call-it: Poke! Aurite!

According to Wikipedia, poke (pronounced poh-kay) is "a raw fish salad served as an appetizer or main course in Hawaiian cuisine. Poke is Hawaiian for 'section' or 'to slice or cut'."

The expert in local kine poke is local kine chef Sam Choy. In his new book, simply named "Poke" he shares some history: "In the old days, the whole slice would be eaten, skin, bones, and all. Inedible portions were picked or spat out. When the raw fish was 'prepared,' it meant the fish was mashed (lomi), or other ingredients were added to it, mostly salt and savories like 'opihi, lobster, sea urchin roe, kukui nut relish, and different kinds of limu (seaweed) - manauea, lipe`epe`e, kohu, lipoa, etc."


Buy This Book from Amazon.com

Growing up as a second generation Japanese-American, raw fish and seafood has always been a part of my life, so poke was a natural and, frankly, easy transition for my taste buds. In high school, I worked in the seafood department at my neighborhood market and became somewhat known for my poke concoctions. I remember customers asking if I made the poke that day, and, if I said, "No, I just came in," they would frown and walk away. I took that as a great compliment.

My goal with this article is simple: Give props to the local establishments, big and small, who are doing poke right, right here in Hawaii. I'm proud to be from Hawaii, and feel that it's almost my duty as a local boy to spread the word about those who are doing their part to perpetuate the rich culture that is poke.

Yama's Fish Market
Yama's is a small fish market I used to frequent during my old school UH days, back when they were near Poha Lane. Now, they're right down the road on Young Street and is almost always a pumpin'!

Yama's Fish Market Sign
Yama's Fish Market Sign

Though their Hawaiian plate lunches are pretty mean, my main focus whenever I go to Yama's is their Ahi Masago Poke. It's to die for! Trust.

Ahi Masago Poke - just made for me! - $11.95/pound
Ahi Masago Poke - just made for me! - $11.95/pound

Masago is already an escape from the norm of "standard" poke ingredients, but furikake on top of that? Combine that with green onions, sesame seeds (which may be part of the furikake), shoyu maybe?, and choke sesame seed oil, and you getcho self one winnah!

Yama's Ahi Masago Poke up close
Yama's Ahi Masago Poke up close

I've been trying to reach Yama's Fish Market's President Brian Yamamoto for a soundbite, but da buggah is hard to reach. If you're out there Brian, holla, and I'll add your quote here.

(UPDATE! Mr. Yamamoto emailed me, thanking me for the plug. Mahaloz!)

Until then, go give the Ahi Masago Poke from Yama's a try, but be sure to save some for me kay? :)

Yama's Fish Market
2332 Young Street
Honolulu, HI 96826 (map)
(808) 941-9994
Mon-Sat: 9am-7pm
Sun: 9am-5pm
(Holiday Hours)


Golden Mart
Not too many people know about this hidden gem in Mililani, but it's quickly become one of my all-time favorite places to get my poke fix on (like Donkey Kong).

Outside Golden Mart in Mililani
Outside Golden Mart in Mililani

Located in a small strip mall on the Mililani Golf Course side of Kamehameha Highway (across Mililani Shopping Center), Golden Mart sells what you'd traditionally find at a local mini mart like snacks, beer and cigarettes. How they separate themselves from the pack however, is their mouth-watering selection of hot foods, boiled peanuts, and poke.

Three popular pokes from Golden Mart: Creamy Wasabi Ahi, Spicy Tuna and the Golden Mart Special
Three popular pokes from Golden Mart: Creamy Wasabi Ahi, Spicy Tuna and the Golden Mart Special

Employee Cori, and owner Julie Miyatake, who doubles as a USPS employee, both agree that Fridays are the best days to come if you're looking for poke as the entire display case is filled with the different varieties they carry. My personal favorites are the Creamy Wasabi Ahi Poke...

Creamy Wasabi Ahi Poke in the display case
Creamy Wasabi Ahi Poke in the display case

Creamy Wasabi Ahi Poke up close - $10.99/pound
Creamy Wasabi Ahi Poke up close - $10.99/pound

... and the Golden Mart Special.

Golden Mart Special with the special sauce on the side -$9.99/pound
Golden Mart Special with the special sauce on the side -$9.99/pound

Golden Mart Special with the special sauce inside
Golden Mart Special with the special sauce inside

Although, I'm not a fan of wasabi (I don't even use it on my sashimi/sushi), the Creamy Wasabi Ahi Poke brok' da mout'!  How they make it is still a mystery, but if I had to guess, I'd say the tobiko-like topping (they're green!) is filled with (or marinated in?) wasabi flavoring, while the rest of the poke is mixed with mayo (and wasabi?) in a creamy ahi sorta way. :P

The Golden Mart Special's lure is the Golden Mart special sauce, hands down. Filled with a concoction of liquids including shoyu, sesame seed oil and other mysterious ingredients that I'd pay to know :P , this sauce is what keeps 'em comin' back. You can't even get the special sauce (other than paying for it separately) if you don't order the Golden Mart Special!

For good measure (and since I've got the photo ;) ), here's also a shot of Golden Mart's Spicy Tuna poke for kicks... another winnah!

Spicy Tuna Poke
Spicy Tuna Poke

Golden Mart
95-119 Kamehameha Highway
Mililani, HI, 96789 (map)
(808) 625-2442‎

 

While, we're in the Mililani area, let's visit the place that Diners, Drive-ins and Dives' Guy Fieri recently visited: Poke Stop.

Poke Stop
Chef Elmer Guzman, a graduate of the Kapiolani Community College Culinary Arts program, has trained under Alan Wong, worked as a sous chef under Emeril Lagasse, and was the Executive Chef at Sam Choy's Diamond Head Restaurant before opening his two Poke Stop locations (one in Waipahu and one in Mililani Mauka).

In addition to serving up "gourmet food at plate lunch prices" (their catch phrase), Guzman and company offer a bevy of poke to live up to their namesake. Some of their "must tries" are the Sweet Onion Ahi poke, the Blackened Ahi poke, the Furikake Salmon poke, the Ginger Scallion Shrimp poke, "Da Works" Oio poke, and my personal favorite, the Spicy Creamy Ahi poke.

Spicy Creamy Ahi Poke - $10.95/pound
Spicy Creamy Ahi Poke - $10.95/pound

Poke Stop - Waipahu
94-050 Farrington Highway, E-4
Waipahu, HI, 96797 (map)
(808) 676-8100

Poke Stop - Mililani Mauka
95-1840 Meheula Parkway
Mililani, HI, 96789 (link on Google maps is inaccurate. Should be here.)
(808) 626-3400

And, to my neighbor island bruthas and sistahs, no worries. I gotcho back! Here's a little Honolulu love to The Fish Express in Lihue, Kauai.

 

The Fish Express
Very conveniently located on Kuhio Highway in Lihue, Kauai...

Outside The Fish Express in Lihue, Kauai
Outside The Fish Express in Lihue, Kauai

... I like to pick up a quarter pound or so on my way to Hamura's Saimin. The cold saltiness of the fish matches perfectly with the hot saltiness of the saimin.

(Previously Frozen) Ahi Limu Poke from The Fish Express - $6.99/pound
(Previously Frozen) Ahi Limu Poke from The Fish Express - $6.99/pound

The Fish Express (Kauai)
3343 Kuhio Hwy. # 10
Lihue, HI 96766 (map)
(808) 245-9918
Mon-Sat: 10am-6pm
Sun: 10am-4pm

Alas, I've been tasked to make my poke for a New Year's family gathering, so here's a lil' step by step action that will 1) help you if/when you make your own batch and 2) help to refresh my memory! LOL! Enjoy!

Diced/Cubed Ahi blocks with Hawaiian salt and green onions added (props to Ryan Moriguchi for reeling in the fish!)
Diced/Cubed Ahi blocks with Hawaiian salt and green onions added (props to Ryan Moriguchi for reeling in the fish!)

Inamona (kukui nut) added
Inamona (kukui nut) added

Limu Kohu/Ogo (seaweed) added
Limu Kohu/Ogo (seaweed) added

Close up of each portion greeting each other
Close up of each portion greeting each other

Everything mixed together with sesame seed oil and shoyu
Everything mixed together with sesame seed oil and shoyu

Though, I'd love to continue, I don't think my stomach can take any more of this torture (it's lunch time as I write this :P )! Besides, I need to save some poke shots for parts 2 and 3 (and 4?)! :P

Here's a sneak peek at what I've got in store: Tokkuri-tei, Tamashiro Market Inc., JJ's Seafood, Pa`ina Café, Off the Wall, Safeway, Costco, and Sam's Club. My "To Do" list includes: Ruger Market, Ono's (Kapahulu), Fresh Catch, Masa & Joyce, Alicia's, Tamura's, and Tanioka's.

If you have any hook-ups/connections to any of the places above, holla! I'd love to interview them! If you have any poke (dish) suggestions for the above as well, or new locations altogether, feel free to let me know in the comment area below!

Happy New Year y'all! Shoots!

---

For more, please visit: www.world-wide-ed.com!

 Part I  | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

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Comments

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par4 — Sunday, January 3, 2010
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I ate at a restaurant this guy raved about in a previous article...Bangkok Chef...absolutely the worst Thai food I have ever had...maybe one star out of five...so caveat emptor.


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worldwideed — Sunday, January 3, 2010
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Caveat emptor for sure par4. That's the beauty of our varying taste buds here in Hawaii. Mahalo for your feedback. Just out of curiosity, where would you recommend for "fast food" type Thai food?


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Russkar — Wednesday, May 19, 2010
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Par 4= I'm not an expert on Thai Food but my Thai friend is for obvious reasons and loves Bangkok Chef. She feels that Bangkok Chef is very authentic and your reference to Phuket Thai just shows your Americanized tastes.


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worldwideed — Thursday, May 20, 2010
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I agree with you Russkar, but Par4 has a right to his own opinion I guess. Personally, I like both Bangkok Chef AND Phucket Thai, but what do I know? LOL! This conversation has gone far off of the subject of poke, but that's cool. Here's the URL of the article we're talking about for those who were wondering (just copy and paste it): http://www.aroundhawaii.com/lifestyle/around_town/2009-05-bangkok-chef-the-little-thai-restaurant-that-could.html


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lolanda — Monday, January 4, 2010
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I guess you never tried the poke and rice from Kahuku Superette located across Kahuku HIgh School


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worldwideed — Tuesday, January 5, 2010
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Nope, not yet, but good suggestion! Mahaloz lolanda!


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par4 — Tuesday, January 5, 2010
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Thai "fast food" is almost guaranteed to be of poor quality. For inexpensive, good Thai food, try Blue Ocean Thai Restaurant on Keawe... buffet on Wed. and Sun. For very good Thai food try Siam Garden Cafe on Nimitz near Costco. A rule of thumb... if there are no Thai people eating in the restaurant, it probably is not very good. Of course, the same is true for almost any ethnic cuisine, e.g., the absence of Chinese diners at a Chinese restaurant is not a good sign. By the way, no Thai people were observed eating at Bankok Chef.


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worldwideed — Tuesday, January 5, 2010
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"Thai "fast food" is almost guaranteed to be of poor quality." - Probably why you didn't enjoy Bangkok Chef no? Either way, thanks for tips par4. Gonna go check those out... If you have time, I'm curious to know what you think of Phuket Thai...


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par4 — Tuesday, January 5, 2010
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No, I went with an open mind and ordered 4 dishes. All were terrible. The two curries were glutinous and starchy, the tom yum goong soup was tasteless and the pad thai was lifeless and tasted like it had been sitting all day. I like Phuket Thai in the McCully shopping plaza...the dishes are light and bright and they use real herbs and spices. I think you will like the places I recommended, especially Siam Garden Cafe. Bon appetit!


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worldwideed — Thursday, January 7, 2010
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Sorry to hear about your experiences at Bangkok Chef par4. That's unfortunate. It's usually pretty good when I go. I also like Phuket Thai, as you mentioned. Will try the others you suggested. Mahaloz for the tips!


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1200high — Wednesday, January 6, 2010
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Hey, When you're on Kauai , you got to check out Ishihara Market in Waimea. Man, their ahi poke is slammin. Then there are all the differrent varieties of othe rtype of poke. Check it out man.


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worldwideed — Thursday, January 7, 2010
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Cool, thanks for the tip 1200high! I looove Kauai! Will be sure to check out Ishihara Market next time!


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Alman — Thursday, January 7, 2010
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Hey Tough Ed! You need to try the Limu Poke at 21 Mart on School Street. They prepare it for you when you order it. I didn't expect it to be so good but it rates up there with my ATF Alicia's on Mokauea Street. You can't write about Poke without checking out Alicia's.


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worldwideed — Thursday, January 7, 2010
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LOL! Thanks for the cool nickname "Alman"! And yes, I will definitely be making it out to Alicia's. 21 Mart sounds interesting as well. Perhaps I should call you when I go for some expertise? ;)


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Ume — Wednesday, January 13, 2010
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Ed, you are making me seriously hungry! Also, I would prefer to not include poke made from gassed fish. It is techincally safe if kept frozen, but we all know it doesn't taste or feel the same. It's like comparing Coke to Diet Coke...it's kind of the same but not the same. Keep 'em coming. I can't wait for the continuation of this article string.


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worldwideed — Wednesday, January 13, 2010
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"Gassed" Ume? Hehe, yeah, I personally don't like frozen poke either, but that was the only neighbor island poke I had in my record books. I think they do sell fresh too though, but not when I was there... :(


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pokemonster — Wednesday, January 13, 2010
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ho bruddah..another must try is Ruger Market (by KCC Diamondhead).


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worldwideed — Thursday, January 14, 2010
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LOL! Love the nickname pokemonster! Yup yup, Ruger is on my list of To-Dos! Mahaloz for da feedback!


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boogah — Wednesday, January 20, 2010
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Ruger Market and 21 Mart for sure. How come you get to rate em? You should have me go. i do em for free. So long as can sample!


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worldwideed — Wednesday, January 20, 2010
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LOL! We go! Just geev me one call next time boogah. I'll include you in the next one! :)



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