There Are Other Fish in the Sea … for Poke and Sashimi

Tis the season for parties, potlucks and sky-high ‘ahi prices, but why not try a tasty, less-expensive alternative?


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    • Local I‘a’s Ashley Watts holds ta‘ape (left) and onaga, both sustainable, locally caught alternatives for poke and sashimi. Photo


    Aaron K. Yoshino


Ah, the holidays! ’Tis the season for parties, potlucks and sky-high ‘ahi prices. Which means it’s also a good time to look for tasty alternatives to our favorite poke and sashimi fish. After all, we’re surrounded by some of the best seafood on the planet, so why limit ourselves to Hawai‘i’s usual trifecta of ‘ahi, salmon and hamachi?


We turned to Local I‘a for recommendations. The business buys seasonal, sustainable, locally caught seafood from fishers and sells it to restaurants and the public. Some takeaways: It might surprise you which fish can make for good poke or sashimi if it’s fresh enough, says Local I‘a owner-operator Ashley Watts. If you’re worried about mercury, ask about small specimens of large species. And finally, “Poke just means to chop, so we encourage people to experiment,” Watts says. “We should embrace it as it traditionally is—so tofu, breadfruit, vegetables, whatever you have on hand, chop it and eat it.”


For Poke

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Kajiki shoyu poke. Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino


  • Aku or skipjack tuna: “When very fresh, it can taste like ‘ahi,” Watts says.
  • He‘e or tako
  • Kajiki or blue marlin
  • Kampachi or longfin yellowtail
  • Mahi-mahi
  • Ono or wahoo
  • Opah or moonfish
  • ‘Ōpelu“After so many fishermen telling me to make poke with ‘Ōpelu, I finally tried it. It’s a little bit humbug because you have to pick the bones out of your teeth, but it’s worth it” for the flavor.


For Sashimi

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Mahi-mahi sashimi. Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino


  • Aku
  • He‘e or tako
  • Kajiki
  • Kampachi
  • Lehi or silverjaw snapper: “It’s as if a snapper and a mackerel had a baby,” Watts says. “It’s crisp and fresh and oily at the same time.”
  • Mahi-mahi (if very fresh)
  • Nairagi or striped marlin
  • Opah or moonfish
  • Snappers in general, if fresh: gindai, kalekale, onaga, ‘ōpakapaka, uku