Did Maui Poke the Big Fish?

He did and he didn’t. According to the legend, Maui, demigod and a hero of Hawaiian folklore, had been mercilessly teased by his older brothers for being a poor fisherman. He kept  begging them to take him fishing, but they steadily refused. In one version of the legend, he hid in their canoe and revealed himself when they were already far into the blue waters of the Pacific.

See the source image

In another one, beautifully rendered by Barbara Ker Wilson and Franc Lessac, he got fed up with bullying and rejection, grabbed his magic hook, and went out on his own. He did poke [po-uk] a huge fish, i.e. hooked it and pulled it out. And what a fish it was! Yet another version calls it a Great Eel, but we’ll stick to kosher fish. Unfortunately – or maybe fortunately! – he didn’t have a chance to POKE [po-kay] it because right in front of his eyes – poof! – it turned into a chain of islands, now known as Hawaii, with the main one called – you guessed it! – Maui.

The word poke means to cut crosswise, or slice, and the national Hawaiian dish is just that: filleted and sliced raw fish marinated in soy sauce, sea salt, sesame oil, scallions, and crushed kukui nuts (candlenuts). It’s a raw fish salad, served as an appetizer, lunch, or even main dish. Poke has become increasingly popular in the U.S. lately, and in various restaurants the basic marinade is enhanced by coconut milk and/or shredded coconut, red pepper flakes, dried or fresh seaweed, and even diced pineapple, for truly Hawaiian flavor.

Slmn poke 1.jpg

Even though original, centuries old Hawaiian recipe calls for Aku (Ahi) tuna, nowadays salmon is also widely used. Take a skinless filet and do what Maui never got to do – poke it. Slice your filet crosswise into bite size pieces.

Slmn poke 2.jpg

I use almost a classic marinade: soy sauce, sea salt, and sesame oil, but substitute sesame seeds for the symbol of Hawaii – kukui nuts.  I have seen suggestions to use macadamia nuts in many recipes that call for candlenuts (they look somewhat alike), and I tried, but didn’t like it. If you want to give it a try, remember, they have to be finely crushed, to the size of sesame seeds. Mix it all up, make sure your fish pieces are immersed, cover, and refrigerate for about twenty minutes; meanwhile you can watch this clip from a delightful Disney movie:

That was just a clip, of course, but Maui was quite a character. He stopped the sun, he raised the sky, and he performed numerous other miracles for humanity. For each miracle, he earned a special animated tattoo, as you see in the movie. And you were wondering why surfers are covered with tattoos!

Slmn poke 3.jpg

The ancient Polynesian and Hawaiian fishermen apparently came up with this idea by simply using bits and pieces of fish left over after deboning and filleting to snack on. We are more sophisticated now, so we want a poke bowl. You can line it with any vegetables you want – you’ll still have a bowl. I prefer paper thin cucumber slices and red onion.

Slmn poke 4

Instead of incorporating scallions as a part of marinade, I use them for garnishing, supported by just a pinch of grated carrots for color. If you are using red pepper flakes, you might want to skip carrots altogether. I hope that while you are enjoying Maui’s fish, you remember his shining example of doing good deeds for humanity!


  • 1 lb salmon, skinless and filleted (alternatively, Ahi tuna)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • Coarsely ground sea salt to taste
  • 3 – 4 scallions
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated carrot
  • Alternatively, red pepper flakes to taste


  • Cut salmon into bite size pieces. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, sea salt. Mix well, cover, refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  • Line salad bowl with thinly sliced cucumber and red onion. Arrange marinated salmon bites.
  • Garnish with scallions, grated carrots and/or red pepper flakes.
  • Serve immediately.


25 Comments Add yours

  1. A story and recipe with a moral

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Maui as the Ugly Duckling. Thank you so much for revisiting my old posts, Derrick.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting story about Maui. and the island named after Maui.
    I am sure Maui did poke the fish.
    Lovely images.
    I enjoyed watching Moana movie.
    Thank you Dolly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for a lovely comment, dear friend.


  3. Gail says:

    Deliciousness, for sure. 🐟💦😋

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sure is! Thank you so much, darling. 😻

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Gail says:

        I just happened to get some sashimi grade tuna. Yippee! 🐟💦

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Dear Gail, I hope your sashimi grade tuna is red, rather than pink. If it is not dark red, it is still fine for poke or searing, but not as good for actual sashimi. Enjoy!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Gail says:

        It’s deep red! Yay!!!! 😍

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Fantastic – enjoy!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Gail says:

        I did but I have a problem….now I want more. 🤣

        Liked by 1 person

      6. This should the only problem in your life, darling!

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Gail says:

        I know, right?!?! Sending love and hugs, Dolly. 💕

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Right back to you! 😻

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Gail says:

        Thaaanks. 🌸🍃

        Liked by 1 person

  4. CarolCooks2 says:

    A lovely fresh and delicious dish dear Dolly my kind of food 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Carol.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A_Boleyn says:

    Thank you for recounting the legend of Maui. Poke is a great dish. I’ve only made it once (ahi tuna is not cheap and finding it of quality to eat raw is chancy) before the current ‘issue’ but it was amazing, either on it’s own as an appetizer or served over rice for a more filling meal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We are lucky to have access to quality Ahi Tuna, but salmon works just as well. Thank you for stopping by, dear friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Tasty looking dish! I would also prefer sesame seeds and oil. They pair so well with soy sauce.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true. Thank you so much, dear Ronit.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. My daughter and I love to sing the Disney song “You’re Welcome!” together 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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