It’s not Polka all you Bohunks and old farts.
And it’s not that crazy but lovable character Pokey and his faithful sidekick Gumby.
It’s Poke, pronounced Poh-Keh. (I think of it as Poe-Kay). It’s fish, usually ahi tuna, that is cubed and sold mainly raw. If you want to cook it when you get home, that’s up to you, but it is traditionally eaten raw. It is mostly mixed with other ingredients to soften the fish flavor, I like the California mix myself. A tangy sauce, some other mystery things I have no idea what it is, and cubed raw fish. When I first got here, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to eat the stuff, comparing it to lutefisk, that dreaded northern staple. But after seeing how many people buy it at the grocery store, I decided to give it a try, and I really like it. My kids don’t even want to look at it. Some of the best places to buy Poke is supermarkets. Here is the display case at my local one, Foodland.
Yup, that cooler is stuffed with raw fish, and a few other strange sea creatures on the left. All Poke is not created equal. There is fresh, and there is fish that has been frozen and gassed with Carbon Monoxide. Frozen to preserve it longer and kill any potential health threats, and gassed to preserve the fresh fish red color. I prefer fresh, but have eaten both kinds and really can’t tell the different the way I dress it up to eat. It’s not cheap though. I bought some today, and here is what I paid.
Yup, $12 bucks a pound. But half a pound is a lot, and about all I can eat even if I am really hungry. As you can see, there are a few other ingredients. That’s because of the mix I get. I started to eat the Hawaiian way, but switched when it got a little to fishy for me. The only thing they put in that is onions, soy, sea salt, and a little bit of seaweed.
No one knows the real origin of Poke, although the Hawaiians claim it. Many cultures around the world eat raw fish, and have for centuries. I think you know by now that fish is good for you. In moderation. I say that because large predator fish like tuna also carry Mercury in their flesh (the part we eat). Although there are no definitive proven Mercury dangers, the recommendation is to only eat tuna 2 or 3 times a week. If you want to eat more fish, eat small fish like sardines or smelt (That’s a fish you don’t hear much about). They don’t have the Mercury issue as much.
I know Poke has moved off the islands an is now very popular on the Mainland (what Hawaiians call the 48 states). It has caused some demand pressures, and that’s why it’s probably spendy as it is. While I am on the subject, fish and chicken are two of the most expensive meats on the island compared to the mainland prices. You can get hamburger at Costco for $3.99, and steak for around $9 a pound for good steak. Salmon can get up to $12 a pound, and chicken close to $6. We are surrounded by water full of fish, and there are loose chickens all over the place. Go figure.
When I have a little left over, that no longer may qualify for “fresh”, I fry the poke up in a pan with some eggs, and it makes a killer scrambled egg dish.
But for now, I’m hungry. It’s Poke time………….