Ahi Poke Salad


6.24.13 by sarah


As I creep into my late twenties — and my fourth year living in DC — people from California have begun asking a question that I wholeheartedly despise: So, when do you think you’re moving back to California?

Uh, never.

And then the next thing that happens, well, is usually some sort of accusation of being a crazy person. Eye roll.

While I do love California and all of the wonderful things it has to offer, I love my life on the East Coast. So, this is my proclamation: I am pretty damn sure I’m staying on this coast. And I’ve done a pretty good job of convincing West Coasters to move east.



On the other hand, I will never hesitate to admit that California is a wonderful place — the weather’s nice (in L.A., anyway) and the food is just on its own spectrum.

I waited tables at a restaurant in Calabasas in college, when I spent a year or so living at my parents’ place. It was a seafood restaurant, so my knowledge of edible marine life really peaked at age twenty-one. It’s been dwindling since then.

ANYWAY, one of my favorite dishes at that restaurant was an Ahi Poke (pronounced like “pokey”) salad — a Hawaiian dish that I had never encountered before I started working there. I didn’t cook much back then, because, surprise surprise, I was a work-a-holic, but I do remember asking the sushi chef for the recipe for the day when I would no longer be working at King’s. But, alas, I never managed to get that recipe.

So, I set off on my research and tasting spree. The Ahi poke salad at King’s was so spicy that I’d pretty much cry every time I inhaled the soy sauce and wasabi aroma.

After inspecting at least fifteen ahi poke recipes online, I set my mind to ingredients and taste-tested in my kitchen until I was on the verge of wishing I was still waiting tables at King’s. But just the verge.

Naturally, these measurements are estimates — if you decide to make this dish on your own, taste the sauce as you go, and add elements to get to the level of spice that you’re comfortable with. These measurements will give you a moderate amount… but if you want to be crying as you eat it, just pile on the chile oil and wasabi paste.



Ahi Poke Salad, from my memories of waiting tables at King’s Fish House

3/4 to 1 lb. Ahi (Yellowfin) tuna steak
3 to 4 green onions, finely chopped
1 small Japanese cucumber, sliced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
2 tablespoons black (or white) sesame seeds
1 tablespoon wasabi paste
1 avocado
handful of macadamia nuts — do not skip these. They really make the salad.
Dried seaweed crumbles for garnish

Using a very sharp knife, slice your Ahi steak into half-inch cubes. Set aside in a glass bowl, cover with saran wrap, and refrigerate.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the green onions, soy sauce, sesame oil, chili sauce, sesame seeds, and wasabi paste. Whisk together until the chili sauce and the wasabi are evenly mixed into the sauce. TASTE AS YOU GO, and adjust the levels of wasabi and chili sauce accordingly.

Dice your avocado into half-inch cubes as well, and then add the avocado, macadamia nuts, cucumber, and diced tuna to the Poke sauce. Toss until everything is covered in the Poke sauce, and serve with forks or chopsticks.


  • Leila

    this is not the poke i grew up eating, and i was born and raised in hawaii. what is this?

    • sarah

      Hi Leila! Like I said in the post, this is just based off of what the restaurant I worked in served. Would love to know your take on poke as someone who grew up eating it!

  • Leila

    love poke. when i’m home (i currently live in california, you’re home state. and just like you, i’m not ever goig back to hawaii. ever.) i eat for dinner with white rice. my dad makes it with salt, green onion, sweet onion, a little chili pepper, and sesame oil. it’s definitely a staple at parties and even holiday dinners. you can even find it in grocery stores pre-made, although it’s better to buy the fresh ahi and make it yourself. i can never get tired of eating it. :)

    • sarah

      Gah, that sounds amazing. I wish Hawaii wasn’t so far away from DC! I love the simplicity of what you described. I’m definitely going to try that. Thanks for sharing, and for reading!

      • Leila

        OMG i just read my comment all over again….and it’s horrible! my apologies! but i gather that you got the gist of it. LOL :) you might want to try soy sauce instead of salt. i prefer soy sauce. salt or soy sauce, it’s great either way! :D

        • sarah

          Absolutely no worries at all — I’m already ecstatic that you’re reading and that you reached out, and it makes me even happier that you shared a more authentic take!! Count on California to make its own version of poke. And seriously. I’m going to try it.

  • Michael

    For a very authentic take on a nice Ahi Poke, go to Amazon and buy some Aloha brand Shoyu sauce (authentic Hawaiian soy sauce), Red Hawaiian Sea Salt, Limu (like seaweed, but actually a purple Hawaiian algae) and mix them with the white and green onions and a dash of sesame oil. This is the most common type of Poke on Hawaii. The ingredients are inexpensive and if you can get some high quality Ahi, you will not regret it! Aloha and Mahalo!

  • Elizabeth

    Love Kings Poke! I appreciate your post. It sounds very close to the original. Can’t wait to make it and compare. Thanks.

  • Sunday Baking | elephantsandwords

    […] So many yummy options to try. For example, this Ahi Poke salad looked so good that I had to overcome my fear of raw fish and now make my own […]

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