In the last few years, the love of all things poke propelled to new heights as the ongoing American culinary revolution catalyzed its wide acceptance among foodies from across the United States. The sudden spate of poke eateries throughout the country is now comprised of upwards of 40 establishments in New York alone, with Yelp reporting 80 in Atlanta and 89 in Denver.
To better appreciate poke in the wake of this trending wave is to understand the role of ohana in Hawaiian daily life. Ohana means family and for Hawaiians, everyone is family. Children often refer to their parent’s friends or coworkers as uncle or aunty, embracing them as if they were blood relatives. And since the family is a core value, locals place great emphasis on dining together. Whether it be on the beach, at the park, on in one’s home, poke may be part of a casual meal, but it is almost always included in a special occasion. Sharing a bowl of raw fish salad bears its significance to communal dining along the lines of the metaphorical breaking of bread.
While poke as it is known today has been around only since the 1970’s, the varieties of poke have expanded from the namesake cross-sectioned cubes of ahi mixed traditionally with sea salt, limu, and inamona to encompass different proteins, such as octopus, hamachi, salmon, bonito, nairagi, clams, and shrimp—as well as vegetables, all seasoned with flavors reflective of the Hawaiian immigrant cultures, including kim chee, soy sauce, wasabi, miso, sesame oil, and even Sriracha mayonnaise. Poke is readily available throughout the islands in all types of food outlets from fine dining establishments to convenience stores.
At Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, the origin of poke and its transformations are being celebrated every night at a select made-to-order poke station. At The Buffet at Hyatt, diners are discovering the finest and freshest cuts of ahi, shrimp, tako and Hamachi dressed with different seasonings, which are all customizable to the preference of the guest. Executive Chef Jeff Szombaty, in collaboration with Kuuipo Kumukahi, the resort’s Manager of Hawaiian Culture and Community Relations, has crafted a multi-cultural culinary journey that exemplifies the diversity found within the people and mana of Hawaii. The dishes are inspired by the Pua ilima, the beautiful flower of Oahu, and the pure rain waters of the Koolau Mountain Range.
So whether you savor a classic Hawaiian style ahi-limu poke, a spicy wasabi, or sesame-miso garlic poke, you will soon discover why this dish has transcended beyond the small island chain in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean to the global milieu. Back in Hawaii, the indigenous ingredients infused with the ethnic flavors of the islands will nourish you with fond memories of special gatherings with your ohana while sharing a bowl of poke that is both sustaining to the environment and the soul.
The Buffet at Hyatt
Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa