Poke, how do I love thee…let me count the ways. Sweetie, Hottie, Spicy, Stunna … you perfect tender cubes of raw ahi tuna tossed with threads of briny seaweed, green onions, soy sauce, sesame seeds and kukui nuts or macadamia nuts. Add some heat or a creamy avocado, scoop the rice and a side of the local fiddleneck fern called ho’io, and it’s a love fest for under $12. You can pick up what famous island chef Sam Choy calls, “Hawaii’s soul food” at supermarkets, fish markets, high end restaurants and corner dives just about anywhere on the islands. We had melt-in-your-mouth fancy at the Four Seasons ‘Ulu Ocean Grill on the Big Island and downhome at Umeke’s and Da Poke Shack in Kona. When we wanted to take some back to our hotel along with some rum and P-O-G (passion, orange and guava juice, the perfect cocktail mixer in a carton), we stopped at a KTA Supermarket to pack some poke for a midnight snack.
Here are six of my favorite poke stops on the Big Island:
1. Umekes – Kona – Casual and loved by locals, the Avo Poke with (no surprise!) creamy avocado and a little kick is the fan favorite here.
2. Da Poke Shack – A popular hole-in-the-wall in the Kona-Kailua area with a changing array of poke styles, but always with rice
and your choice of a side, like seaweed salad, ho’io or kimchee.
3. KTA Supermarkets – All of its five locations on the Big Island have poke by the pound in a variety of delicious flavors.
4. Suisan in Hilo is a fish market with a poke counter, so the poke at this place still practically wiggles it’s so fresh.
5. Kamuela Provision Company – A cliff top restaurant at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, this poke is particularly velvety…plus you can wander through the tropical Disneyesque grounds on your way back to your car.
6. ‘Ulu Ocean Grill at the Four Seasons dresses its tender ahi with sweet Maui onions, ogo seaweed and white shoyu. Doesn’t hurt that you sit outside with the moon on the water and tiki torches casting their light on the palm trees nearby.