Green Onion/Scallion

Quick Tako Poke

May  2, 2011
3 Ratings
  • Serves 1 if they really love tako, 2 as a light meal, 3 as an appetizer
Author Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 pound cooked tako (I had a good sized arm), thinly sliced, on the bias, into coins
  • 1/3 cup green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 heaping teaspoon gochujang (Korean fermented soy/chili paste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon tamarind paste
  • 2 teaspoons Meyer lemon juice, divided
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon wheat-free tamari (can substitute soy sauce if necessary)
  • 2-3 teaspoons roasted black sesame seeds
  1. In a small bowl, combine gochujang, tamarind paste, and one teaspoon of lemon juice. Stir to combine.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • dymnyno
  • wssmom
  • VanessaS
  • mrslarkin
  • themissingingredient

Recipe by: gingerroot

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.

17 Reviews

dymnyno May 4, 2011
I think that poke is a hard sell, especially to New York and Brooklyn! This looks delicious!
gingerroot May 5, 2011
Thank you, dymnyno! I knew you were a poke fan (was thrilled when I discovered your poke recipe a while back), and would love to hear your thoughts about this if you try it.
wssmom May 4, 2011
As always, lovely and wonderful and fascinating!!!
gingerroot May 5, 2011
Thank you so much, wssmom! I hope you'll give it a try!
VanessaS May 4, 2011
This sounds delicious, and really makes me want to go to Hawaii!
gingerroot May 4, 2011
Thank you, VanessaS! I hope you'll give this a try.
mrslarkin May 4, 2011
Sounds so exotic! Well done, gingerroot! Is the gochujang like miso, only spicy?
gingerroot May 4, 2011
Thanks, mrslarkin! Yes, although I've never thought about it like that before, it has the same texture of miso and fermented flavor, although not as salty, with a dark heat that lingers.
Yes, I have hiked Haleakala. The two volcanos are totally different. West Maui is a verdant paradise complete with a rain forest, rare orchids and wild pigs
and Haleakala is barren, volcanic, cold and usually windy.(but an easy drive)
gingerroot May 3, 2011
I hiked Haleakala when I was five (well, mostly rode on my dad's shoulders) and then again about ten years ago. While I loved the almost other worldly feeling of Haleakala (those silverswords!) the West Maui mountains sound amazing and I am adding them to my list!
We hiked on private property. Our host was the head of Maui Water . You might have to do some research on places to hike up there because so much of it is private .
Midge May 3, 2011
Oh man, this sounds amazing. I love having a window into Hawaiian food culture with your posts.
gingerroot May 3, 2011
Thanks, Midge! The funny thing is I have only started to appreciate poke in the last five or so years of my life. I was never a big raw fish or seafood kind of person (probably because my mom does not like raw fish/seafood and my dad is allergic to shellfish) but started to crave it after my son was born. If you can get your hands on cooked tako, I hope you give this a try!
hardlikearmour May 2, 2011
This sounds beyond fabulous! Maybe I can come to your next dinner party ;)
gingerroot May 3, 2011
Thanks, hardlikearmour! You, my friend, are welcome anytime. : )
Oh! I love Hawaii!! Your poke sounds delicious and if I can find another octopus, I am going to make your version.
gingerroot May 3, 2011
Thanks so much, themissingingredient! I would love to hear your thoughts if you try it. Have you also hiked Haleakala?