Spicy Ahi Poke

Poke (po-kay) is one of the things I look forward to most about my trips to Hawaii, where my dad is from. It is a huge fad around here at the moment, with dozens of ‘poke’ places in and around NYC and Jersey City, but few (if any) have poke that actually tastes anything like what you might find in Hawaii. I ordered a spicy tuna poke bowl from one such place for lunch this week, and was given rice with a scoop of the finely minced tuna that you get in a spicy tuna roll, which was gravely disappointing. To make it right, I made a trip today to Mitsuwa, the only grocery store in my area that I will buy fish from to eat raw, to get stuff to make my own. Mitsuwa, one of my absolute favorite places to buy food, is a Japanese grocery store and food court in a plaza in Edgewater, NJ. My family regularly made the drive up there (when it was Yaohan) from Central Jersey (yes, this exists, don’t even get me started) when I was growing up. We’d eat lunch and stock up on all kinds of Japanese ingredients and treats, then come home and have Japanese feasts for days. I live closer to it now, so I try to go often. Today was the Summer Festival, which included an outdoor fair with street food, games, and performances. Before going shopping, I enjoyed some okonomiyaki, a savory cabbage “pancake” with pork belly, eggs and lots of other delicious things, topped with Japanese mayonnaise, a sweet/tangy brown sauce, and lots of shaved bonito (fish) flakes.


I love many foods at Mitsuwa, but perhaps what I look forward to most is getting fresh, raw ahi (tuna) to make poke. Today, I got two kinds of tuna – akamai, the lean, very red kind that you typically get at sushi places, and chu-toro, a slightly fattier cut – #treatyoself.

To make the poke, I used:

  • A half pound of sushi-grade raw tuna, half akamai and half chu-toro, cut into big bite-sized chunks
  • A drizzle of sesame oil
  • Two heaping tablespoons of mayo
  • About a tablespoon of masago
  • A little less than a tablespoon of tobiko
  •  Two or three teaspoons of hot sauce – the one I used today is Hank’s Camouflage, a great blend of heat and flavor from peppers, wine, cilantro, and garlic
  • A few drops of shoyu (soy sauce)
  • A pinch of a spicy Hawaiian seasoning blend
  • A pinch of alaea salt (this is a red clay sea salt typical in cooking in Hawaii; if you can’t find it you can use whatever kind of coarse sea salt crystals you want)


This made enough for a late lunch for one, but if you are serving it with rice or anything else it would be good for two people. I started by drizzling on some sesame oil, just enough to get a very thin coat on all of the tuna when tossed, then stuck it in the freezer to chill while I mixed up the rest of the ingredients. I folded everything else together, adjusting amounts until it tasted good to me. Then I just pulled the tuna out of the freezer, folded it into with the spicy mix, and ate right away. If you end up having leftovers, don’t eat raw the next day for safety reasons – just fry the tuna up and serve over rice.

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