Poke (POE-keh), meaning to “slice or cut crosswise into pieces” in Hawaiian, is a raw fish or seafood appetizer that is a local staple. Once, when planning an event at my old job, I was told that one way to rate the success of a local gathering in Hawai`i is by the quality and quantity of the poke. Thank goodness, I had already ordered a few pounds of ahi poke for the event! It is true; poke is ubiquitous at parties in Hawai`i, and available in a dizzying variety that reflects the multiple cultures that have come to call Hawai`i home (especially Asian). Utilizing every possible fish (tuna, octopus, shrimp, salmon, and then some - tofu) as the main ingredient, poke is typically seasoned with shoyu (soy sauce), limu (seaweed), sea salt, inamona (roasted kukui nut paste) and chili. However, the basic gist is a savory combination of salty and spicy to contrast the raw fish, so the choices for flavor/ingredient combinations are endless.
The only way I have ever eaten octopus, or tako, is in poke, and like with shrimp poke, the tako is always cooked. Here is my version. It is soft and pleasantly chewy, with a bright sour burst from the tamarind and lemon, warm earthy notes from the sesame and a whisper of heat from the gochujang. Enjoy it alone as an appetizer or with hot rice as a meal. Any variety of poke goes really well with your favorite frosty brew.
Note: At the Japanese market where I bought my tako (which came from Japan), it was already cooked. If I am able to find it fresh frozen, I will report on the cooking of it. Otherwise, check your Japanese/Asian markets for already cooked tako and making this is a snap! - gingerroot
Test Kitchen Notes
After reading about cooking octopus, I was more than a little intimidated. Luckily gingerroot's version of tako poke eliminates the need by using precooked octopus -- no 20 minute octopus massage required! The flavorful sauce comes together quickly, and while it is cooling you can slice the octopus and green onions. I wasn't sure if I would like the texture of the octopus, but I agree with gingerroot's assessment of it as pleasantly chewy. It makes a great canvas for the well-balanced flavors of the sauce. This recipe is a great introduction to octopus for the somewhat timid, and delicious enough to please any tako lover. - hardlikearmour —hardlikearmour
1 if they really love tako, 2 as a light meal, 3 as an appetizer
cooked tako (I had a good sized arm), thinly sliced, on the bias, into coins
wheat-free tamari (can substitute soy sauce if necessary)
roasted black sesame seeds
In This Recipe
In a small bowl, combine gochujang, tamarind paste, and one teaspoon of lemon juice. Stir to combine.
Meanwhile, heat oils in a small skillet. Add gochujang mixture and using a heatproof spoon, combine with oils to make a sauce. Let the mixture bubble for a moment or two, before adding tamari. Stir to incorporate and remove skillet from heat. Let sauce cool for five minutes.
Place sliced tako in a bowl. Add sliced green onions, cooled sauce, and reserved teaspoon of lemon juice. Stir to combine. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator at least an hour and up to overnight. Stir in black sesame seeds before serving. Enjoy with that cold beer, if so inclined.
My most vivid childhood memories have to do with family and food. As a kid, I had the good fortune of having a mom who always encouraged trying new things, and two grandmothers who invited me into their kitchens at a young age. I enjoy cooking for the joy it brings me - sharing food with loved ones - and as a stress release. I turn to it equally during good times and bad. Now that I have two young children, I try to be conscientious about what we cook and eat. Right about the time I joined food52, I planted my first raised bed garden and joined a CSA; between the two I try to cook as sustainably and organically as I can. Although I'm usually cooking alone, my children are my favorite kitchen companions and I love cooking with them. I hope when they are grown they will look back fondly at our time spent in the kitchen, as they teach their loved ones about food-love.
Best of all, after years on the mainland for college and graduate school, I get to eat and cook and raise my children in my hometown of Honolulu, HI. When I'm not cooking, I am helping others grow their own organic food or teaching schoolchildren about art.