5 We Tried: We Search for the Best Poke at Tamashiro Market

Picking the best poke in Honolulu may require several trips to taste them all.
Outside Tamashiro Market

photos: Robbie Dingeman

 

With tray after tray of seafood poke gleaming below the glass, Tamashiro Market’s counter of plenty creates a happy challenge: how to decide among so many choices.

 

When we head into the classic pink market with that iconic big crab up front, we know we can choose from fresh-caught fish, octopus, crab, just about anything that lives in the ocean. And that makes it tough to leave with only a few selections, especially since we don’t need to pick up platters for potlucks and parties right now.

 

I asked owner Guy Tamashiro to tell me about his family favorites for our feature on the best poke on Oʻahu for our October issue. And I know from decades of talking seafood with him—even when the store fills with people buying holiday sashimi—that he’s always patient and willing to share insights about the industry and changing tastes and trends. Did he make it easier to choose? Not so much. Once he picked out a few favorites, then added a few more, I found myself with a tray of 13 types. I know: tasty problem to have.

 

I tasted: ‘ahi limu, spicy ‘ahi, ‘ahi shoyu, aku limu, ginger kajiki, kajiki onion, ‘ahi onion, madako tako, kim chee tako, scallop, kajiki oka, negi toro and ‘ahi chili poke. Here’s a quick take on five choices:

 

Negi Toro

$19.95 per pound

Containers of poke

Left to right: aku Limu, spicy ʻahi, kajiki onion and negi toro poke.

 

This deceptively simple preparation with green onion and ‘ahi, a sprinkling of black sesame seeds and a Tamashiro secret sauce feels like a mini trip to a sushi bar. Pick it up for lunch with a scoop of rice for a mini escape from your daily routine.

 

Aku Limu

$15.95 per pound

Aku is seasonally available and the limu poke has been a favorite for decades at the family-run market. The aku presents with a deeper red than ‘ahi. Add the crunch of fresh seaweed, chile pepper flakes and this poke tastes like the ocean: fresh, briny and clean.

 

Ginger Kajiki

$9.95 per pound

Poke in a display case

 

This is a straightforward but killer combo: fresh swordfish, with both green and white onions, complemented by a ginger sauce. It’s light, refreshing and easy on the wallet, often weighing in around $9.95 a pound or about half the cost of ‘ahi. If you don’t fancy ginger, kajiki is also offered in onion and oka (with coconut milk, cucumber and tomato) as well as special flavors that the poke chefs dream up.

 

Madako Tako

$19.95 per pound

Tako poke in a case

 

Tamashiro explains that madako tako arrives at the market whole and steamed and needs to be sliced. The octopus in the kim chee and limu poke can be purchased pre-sliced from suppliers. The result is a sweeter taste and a texture more tender than chewy, easily worth the higher price.

 

Spicy ‘Ahi

$19.95 per pound

Yes, you can find spicy ‘ahi at nearly every counter where poke is sold these days. But, while I’m talking to Tamashiro, a customer arrives, orders and then volunteers to me that this is his favorite spicy ‘ahi on the island because the sauce doesn’t overpower the fish. The mayonnaise dresses the ‘ahi but doesn’t drown it, the tobiko—not the cheaper masago some places prefer—provides a crunchy counterpoint to the fresh fish, while green onions and chile sauce round out the flavor.

 

802 N. King St., (808) 841-8047, tamashiromarket.com

 

Which kind of poke ended up among our top 12 picks from across the island? Read more about the poke in our October issue, available soon