5 We Tried: We Searched for the Best Poke at Kahiau Poke and Provisions
Find fresh poke with a twist in Chinatown.
The first time I ordered lunch from Kahiau Poke & Provisions I almost walked away empty handed when an employee told the customer in front of me they’d just run out of poke. Not to worry! A few seconds later, a man bounded out of the shop, climbed into the bed of the big truck parked outside, tugged open an industrial-size cooler and pulled out an entire ‘ahi. (I had to snap a photo.) Fish that fresh? I waited. And, 10 minutes later, carried my poke bowl (half spicy ‘ahi/half cold ginger ‘ahi, over rice) back to the office.
That was in July 2019, not too long after Hinano and Tiara Delgado had transformed their farmers market popup business into a Chinatown storefront on Smith Street, across from the Smith-Beretania Park. I’d walked over to try the new place because I’d heard it was good but didn’t know much more. I never expected I’d see owner Hinano pull a whole fish off ice to make a fresh batch of poke. Before the pandemic, business was good, but suffered a huge shock and setback when Hinano died suddenly at the end of May. Tiara Delgado took time to mourn the loss of her partner in life, love and business, then reopened. She was determined to stick with the approach that made their reputation: source very fresh fish, take time to make sauces from scratch and rely on fresh local ingredients. “It’s familiar things that we put our own twist to,” she says, adding that she’s grateful for the support from customers and suppliers through this tumultuous year.
Kahiau offers more than raw fish: beef jerky; dried ‘ahi and aku; creamy kalua-smoked fish dip; inari sushi stuffed with poke; and my daughter’s favorite, a hapa poi/pa‘i‘ai dish made from taro, sweet potato and sometimes ʻulu. Mostly, it’s the poke that prompts people to drive across the island. Most ‘ahi is $19.99 per pound including the five we tried.
Think of this as what happens when fresh cubes of ‘ahi get together with the spicy-sweet-sesame sauce that you’d expect would be coating slivers of cuttlefish or squid. The flavors seem familiar but the texture and taste come through a different way.
Cold ginger ‘ahi
The cold ginger ‘ahi combines that bright zing of fresh ginger and green onion that you get when you order cold ginger chicken at a favorite Chinese restaurant but served over fresh ‘ahi. Kahiau isn’t the only place to do a riff on this but its sauce doesn’t overpower the fish for a tasty balance of flavors.
Simple, classic cubes of fresh ‘ahi, green onions, white onion. If you’re not eating it right outside, get the shoyu sauce on the side to add right before you dig in.
This might be the poke you pick when you can’t decide among the others because it’s something of a cross between shoyu and limu poke. Lots of ogo add crunchy texture and a sweet-salty flavor.
Fresh ‘ahi, crunchy tobiko, creamy-spicy mayo, mixed with green and white onion; all the things you crave when ordering poke for the beach, for lunch or picking up relatives from the airport. “People have told us our spicy’s life-changing,” says Delgado with a smile.
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.