Even though you can’t travel to Hawaii’s untamed Big Island during the coronavirus quarantine, you still can get a taste of the tropical paradise.
To help you savor the flavors of the largest island in the archipelago, we turned to Thomas Bellec, executive chef of Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. Bellec hails from France, but being raised in the coastal town of Concarneau in Brittany prepared him for the seafood bounty found in the Big Island.
When visiting the hotel in November for Chef Fest — an exclusive annual food festival that draws top names in the food world, like Mashama Bailey of The Grey in Savannah and Charles Phan of the Slanted Door in San Francisco — we attended a beach cookout and relished Bellec’s poke (pronounced “poh-kay”). Meaning “to cut crosswise into pieces” in the Hawaiian language, poke is a light, flavorful raw fish salad.
“Ahi poke is the quintessential Hawaiian dish and one of our best-sellers at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai,” Bellec says. “We serve poke at the resort in a few ways: as an appetizer with housemade taro chips and as an entrée served over rice. What I love about this dish is traditionally Hawaiians would make poke with the leftover cuts of fish and seasonings they had on hand. Guests always ask me for this recipe, and I remind them that substitutions and additions are not just allowed, they are welcome!”
Bellec’s delicious rendition featured cubes of pink yellowfin ahi, shaved Maui onion, inamona (chopped kukui nut), green onion, sesame oil, ogo seaweed and Hawaiian chili paste. It sounds intimidating for those with meager culinary skills, but there’s no cooking required. He adapted his traditional Hawaiian ahi poke bowl recipe so that you can add some aloha to your days in lockdown:
Poke Bowl Ingredients
8 ounces ahi tuna, medium dice (if you do have access to sushi-grade tuna, you can substitute cubed tofu)
0.5 Maui onion or any sweet onion, diced
1 ounce diced avocado
2 scallions, sliced crosswise
1 tablespoon kukui nuts, roasted and chopped (or substitute with macadamia nuts)
1 tablespoon ogo fresh seaweed (substitute with crushed seaweed snack sheets or omit)
2 tablespoon sesame oil (or to taste)
1 tablespoon sambal (or any hot sauce)
2 tablespoon soy sauce
Sea or kosher salt
Black pepper (optional)
In a chilled bowl over ice, mix all ingredients together and adjust seasoning to your liking. Divide into 4 portions and serve immediately over rice, shredded cabbage, salad greens, avocado and/or mango.
Notes: Use only sashimi-grade fish to make poke. Feel free to adjust ingredients with the season or to match your dinner theme. Poke will hold for a day or maybe two; you can then sear it off in hot pan and eat as an appetizer or put it in a tortilla wrap with papaya and greens.
Since everyone is staying at home, we will be bringing you recipes from our hotels and restaurants to give you a taste of a destination. If you have a dish or drink you want broken down, email us at email@example.com.