It’s not unreasonable to describe the current state of poke in the US as a “craze.” Poke places are popping up every day all across the country. The popularity of the dish speaks for itself; but what isn’t spoken about enough is where it all started from.
Hawaii is the birthplace of poke. Rachel Laudan, a food historian and the author of The Food of Paradise, states modern poke was originally born in Hawaii in the 1970’s. Its connection to the islands’ rich Japanese cultural heritage is clear enough; it is essentially sashimi, presented differently.
For those unfamiliar, the crudest description of this dish would be a “sashimi salad,” but it could also be a “sashimi rice bowl.” Lots of colors and flavors can get creatively mixed in to excite your palate and often be remarkably nutritious for something so delicious. Pineapple or mango, fresh ahi, and savory sauce all in the same bite? You won’t believe how fantastic it is; seriously. There’s a reason this stuff is so explosively popular. Hawaii is the homeland of poke and the best place on Earth to get it.
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If you’re visiting the most popular island, you’ve got plenty of great options.
One very special spot is Maguro Brothers. If you’re a poke fan, their Instagram will make you drool - and as you’ll see, they also do regular sushi. The original location in Chinatown was started by two brothers and has since expanded to a second location in Waikiki.
Hawaii Magazine readers voted this the best poke in the state. The Chinatown location, located inside the market at 1039 Kekaulike Street, is open Monday through Saturday 9 am to 2:30 pm. Current temporary hours at the Pearl Waikiki Hotel on 415 Nahua Street are 5 pm to 8 pm, Monday through Saturday.
Another great Oahu poke option is Fresh Catch. Featured on TV multiple times, including being paid a visit by Guy Fieri, this is really something of a legendary spot; and the poke is delicious, thanks to renowned head chef Reno Henriques.
Fresh Catch has no less than 3 Oahu locations - visit their website for hours and addresses.
The Big Island
Most in the loop seem to agree that the freshest seafood on The Island Of Hawaii can be found at Suisan Fish Market at 93 Lihiwai Street in Hilo. In addition to being a source for your own cuts of fresh fish, the market also sells takeout poke meals. Not only are they delicious, you will also have an easy time finding a great spot to chow down, since the market is right by the water in Hilo Bay.
The history of Suisan goes way, way back. It was originally founded by two Japanese fisherman and business partners on September 7th, 1907, making this one of the rare local food stops you can visit on the islands that is over a century old.
Suisan has seen and survived much of modern Hawaiian history, including WWII, tsunamis, and fire. This fish market is a testament to the human spirit as much as it is a place to get ridiculously tasty fresh fish. After all these years, they’re still open today - from 9 am to 3 pm every day except Sundays and Wednesdays.
Oftentimes, the best food on the islands is tucked away in an unexpected corner. Such is arguably the case on the island of Maui, since one of the most beloved and locally-recommended poke places is the elusive Takamiya Market.
Located in Happy Valley in Wailuku, this little market is open from 5 am to 6:30 pm every weekday, 5 am to 6 pm Saturdays, and closed Sundays. The catering, which of course includes shockingly delectable poke dishes, is only part of what is available here. It also serves as a charming grocery store and one that you may be surprised to learn has been there since 1946.
The most authentic local food often comes out of the side of a truck.
On the island of Kauai, in the small beach town of Lawai, you’ll find the Kauai Poke Company Food Truck. Here is a source for super fresh and beautifully prepared poke bowls and dishes. Scroll around their Instagram if you want to see some examples for yourself!
The truck is open for business every weekday for lunch, from 11 am to 2 pm. You’ll find it at 3540 Koloa Road.
Visiting the islands is a chance to taste this growingly popular food at its source. Whichever island you’re on, it is well worth your time to visit some of these local establishments and enjoy poke in its truest form.
Have you checked out the Common Ground Kauai Marketplace yet?
They have locally made products that would be great for gift giving.
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Common Ground is building the farm of the future, where do-ers, thinkers and changemakers come together to redesign key elements of our food systems and ignite a global shift toward a regenerative system.