A few years back on a trip along the Kona coast of Hawaii I made an effort to introduce myself to authentic Hawaiian food. Poke is a preparation of raw fish that represents the best of the traditional, but it’s also friendly to modern influences and flavors. According to my research, poke has been eaten on the Hawaiian Islands longer than any other food. Captain James Cook was even served a simple form of poke during his visits to Hawaii as far back as 1878. Today poke can be found everywhere from high-end resorts to hole-in-the-wall eateries. It comes pre-made at the grocery store, or lovingly prepared by home cooks. It’s a must at island parties and celebrations. No luau would be complete without at least 3 or 4 poke choices. So why not make one of those choices poke pie?
Poke (pronounced POE-kay) is a Hawaiian word meaning “to slice or cut crosswise into pieces as in fish or wood.”
Well, it’s good to have a word that covers both tasks, but eventually, the word became a shorthand phrase for any sort of raw fish that has been gutted, gilled and filleted. Initially, the entire slab of fish was passed around and eaten by everyone in the group each spitting out the inedible parts and bones. But that does not really appeal to me so I am presenting an updated version in the form of tiny little “pies” that can be enjoyed during more mundane dining practices like cocktail parties.
I’m calling this little appetizer poke pie. But it’s not really pie. Instead, it’s a toasted wonton topped with a form of poke that may or may not strike you as traditional. That’s because poke has been evolving for a very long time and there are as many versions as there are fish in the ocean. It may have started as a simple food pulled from the sea and eaten on the spot, but creative chefs have long been innovating traditional poke styles to appease the multi-cultural palates of tourists and locals alike. Even the ancient Hawaiians began gentrifying the preparation to make it more suitable for “polite company” (or in the Hawaiian’s case– royalty). Some of the earliest preparations involved mashing the raw fish using the cook’s fingers. This way even the smallest bones could be detected and removed. But don’t worry my poke pie doesn’t require you to manhandle your meal. GREG
Choosing sustainable seafood can be very confusing. Seafood Watch rates troll, or pole-and-line caught albacore and bigeye tuna as “Best Choice”. I also like Kona kampachi (Seriola rivoliana). Which isn’t really tuna but a type of jack species. It is often sold as Hawaiian Yellowtail and the best of it is sustainably farmed and harvested.
- 12 (4‑inch) wonton wrappers (cut into 48 (2‑inch) squared quarters)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh lemongrass (white inner parts only)
- 1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger
- 1 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
- juice of 2 limes
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoon prepared wasabi
- 1 teaspoon chili oil
- 3–4 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 pinch kosher salt (optional)
- 10 ounce sashimi-grade tuna (well chilled & cut into ⅓‑inch dice)
- 3 tablespoon minced red onion
- 3 tablespoon minced fresh chives
- 3 tablespoon tobiko
- 2 tablespoon black sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoon chopped fresh seaweed ( such as ogo, as garnish, optional)
Place oven rack in center position. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Turn four 12 portion mini-muffin tins upside-down, coat their undersides lightly with cooking spray. You may work in batches if you only have 1 or 2 muffin tins.
Arrange 2‑inch wonton squares on the raised portions of an upside-down muffin tin, so they drape uniformly and are not touching. The shape you are after is not so much a bowl as a slightly sloped plate. Place all 4 tins on a large baking sheet. Bake in the heated oven until crisp and golden, about 7 minutes. Let cool. The wonton crusts may be baked up to 3 days in advance stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
Put lemongrass, ginger, garlic, lime juice, vinegar, wasabi & chili oil into the bowl of a mini-food processor or blender. With machine running slowly pour in vegetable oil. Process until a thick emulsification forms, you might not use all the oil. Add a pinch of salt if needed. You may alternatively use a bowl, whisk and elbow grease if you prefer.
Put diced tuna, red onion, chives, tobiko, and sesame seeds in a large bowl. Fold gently until well incorporated. Add dressing a little at a time, gently folding the ingredients together until fish mixture is coated but not too wet. You might not use all the dressing. Save any extra for another use. Cover and refrigerate poke mixture until chilled, about 20 minutes.
Lay wonton crusts onto a serving plate so that their sloped edges are facing upwards. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of tuna poke onto the center of each. Garnish with a bit of seaweed (if using) and serve while poke is still cool.
That first shot is phenomenal, Greg. You know that I don’t like fish but your pictures make me want to eat this.
What a weird coincidence! I was talking with the caterer (for my upcoming wedding) this morning, and she was suggesting poke. I’ve never had it. But I’ll be having at a tasting in a few weeks.
Wow! This is SO creative. Love the idea of poke in pie. This is one of those dishes I’ve had at restaurants (poke, I mean, not poke pie) but have never made. I gotta — it looks so good. And easy as pie!
Looks and sounds so fresh and delightful. Surprisingly enough Hawaii has never been on my bucket list but this dish (sans chewing and spitting) is making me want to sample it! I adore ceviche so I know I would love this preparation and presentation.
I love poke and think this is brilliant. The funny thing is that eating just poke, I am often left feeling like it needed crunch. Et, voilà, you give me crunch.
I am not crazy about poke but I love your little wonton bites and who knows I might change my mind if I try your poke recipe.
Years ago my son wanted to do a poke tour of Hawaii. Unfortunately he then went travelling, ended up in China, and needless to say it is still on the bucket list. This looks awesome. Can’t wait to try it and one day, I promise, we will cross it off the bucket list.
Looks so delicious. Where do you buy your seafood from?