Cook the World Project – Recipe 2: Hawaiian Poke


This is our second post, as my six-year old daughter and I begin our journey to cook our way around the world.

Salmon poke recipeApproximately once a week, Grace will pick a country and we’ll research the food of that nation and pick a traditional dish that we want to try. We’ll shop and cook together, and maybe even work in a side trip to an ethnic market or food-truck, once in a while.

We’ll post our processes, notes, and maybe a brief anecdote, but mostly it’s going to be about the recipes.

Last week, we cooked up a delicious pot of “osh” from Uzbekistan.

Hawaiian RecipesThis week Gracie picked one of our families favorite places in the world…The Hawaiian Islands.

Grace has only been there once, and she was still hanging out inside mom’s tum, so she’s really looking forward to seeing more of the sights our next trip.

Oh, and despite the fact that it’s not exactly it’s own country, I’m going to side with the justification that it once was, and stick with that story…my blog, my rules.

As soon as she picked Hawaii, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. As good as my kalua pork is, I had to go with my very favorite dish. Luckily, the kiddo concurred… poke. (don’t worry, I can promise you, there will be more than one recipe from the islands, Spam Musubi comes immediately to mine.)

Salmon Poke

Poke (poke-a) is a raw fish salad served as an appetizer in Hawaiian cuisine. Pokē is the Hawaiian verb for “to slice or cut”. Native Hawaiians have always eaten poke, and it should not be confused with raw fish dishes such as ceviche which use vinegar or citrus juice to “cure” the fish.

For centuries, Hawaiian fishermen cut their catch of raw fish into cubes and seasoned it with whatever ingredients they had. Modern versions make use of seasonings brought by the many different cultures of the Islands, such as soy sauce, onions, tomatoes, and chilies. Poke is so common in the Hawaiian culture, that you can stop at a local grocery store and choose from several freshly made varieties.

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Now, I’m from Oregon and I’m a fisherman…so I love my salmon. Fresh and firm, in poke it plays perfectly against the crunch of the raw onions. The combination of the furikake seasoning and the shoyu (soy) sauce gives a perfect contrast of sweet, salty, and savory…my favorite combination. Add in just enough red pepper flakes to command your respect without overwhelming the delicate flavor of the salmon, and…well, it’s worth a plane ticket to Oahu!

Things we learned about Hawaii:

  1. Hawaii is the only state that grows coffee.
  2. The largest contiguous ranch, in the United States, is in Hawaii. The Parker Ranch near Kamuela has about 480,000 acres of land.
  3. The big island of Hawaii is the worldwide leader in harvesting macadamia nuts and orchids.
  4. Sea salt was the most common seasoning in ancient Hawaii. It was often mixed together with roasted and mashed kukui nuts and seaweed and was called inamona.
  5. Hawaii residents consume the most Spam per capita in the United States. Spam is so popular in Hawaii that it is sometimes referred to as “The Hawaiian Steak.”

Furikake Salmon Pokē

  • 1 pound sushi grade salmon fillet
  • 1/4 cup diced yellow onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 Tbs sea salt
  • 1 Tbs crushed red chili flakes (opt)
  • 2 Tbs furikake rice seasoning
  • 2 oz soy sauce
  • 4 oz sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Salmon Poke

Remove pin bones from salmon fillet. See detailed instructions in this post.

removing pin bones from salmon

Cut salmon fillet into sections, and, sliding a very sharp knife along the bottom of the steak, remove the skin, and cube the meat.

Removing skin from salmon

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Salmon poke recipe

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

So awesome!


You can get Furikake seasoning at most any Asian market, or try your hand at making your own.

Homemade Furikake Seasoning

  • 1/2 cup raw sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon sea salt, to taste
  • 3 sheets nori (that stuff you wrap around sushi rolls)
  • 3 heaping tablespoons bonito flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Heat a dry, heavy-bottomed skillet to medium high.

Pour in the sesame seeds and shake to distribute evenly over the surface of the skillet.

Toast, shaking occasionally, until the seeds are fragrant. Immediately pour the seeds into a dry, clean bowl to cool and stir in the sea salt. Allow to cool completely before proceeding.

Use kitchen shears cut the nori into 1-inch strips. Stack the strips and cut cross-wise into very thin strips over the bowl of sesame seeds.

Use the kitchen shears again to roughly cut up the bonito flakes.

Add the sugar and stir all ingredients together, then transfer to a jar with a tight fitting lid.

This is ready to use immediately but can be stored in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight for up to two months.


Spam Musubi

Spam Musubi

Let’s talk about how to make spam musubi. This would be a great recipe to add as an appetizer or side-dish to a SimplySmartDinnerPlans meal plan!

This is one of my new favorites from our recent trip to Kauai. Had spam musubi and loco-moco at a local cafe with our friend’s the Shores. So good!

Now, I really like Spam, so I might be a little biased, but even if you think you don’t like Spam, don’t prejudge this dish. It has a very unique, mild flavor that is far greater than the sum of its parts.

The musubi we had there wasn’t fried first, nor did it have the furikake seasonings, both of which take this dish to the next level. Thanks to my buddy Dane Shores for the Spam care-package from the Islands…the Black Pepper Spam was, by far, my favorite for musubi…


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpam musubi molds are available cheap from Amazon.com (really, about a buck!), or you can do what I did this time (my order hasn’t arrived yet) and make a redneck musubi mold by cutting out the bottom of your Spam can. Be very careful, these cans are sharp when you cut them!

Spam Musubi

1 can of Black Pepper Spam
4 sheets of nori, cut in half
3 cups of cooked sushi rice (instructions below)
For Rice:
1 1/2 cup sushi rice, dry
2 tbs. rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons furikake seasoning
1 1/2 cups water
1 Tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 C mirin

Rinse your rice and cook according to package directions. Halfway through, add mirin, vinegar, and furikake seasoning. Mix well, and finish cooking. Set aside to cool slightly.

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this recipe, please subscribe to our free newsletter! We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

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Remove your Spam from the can and turn it on it’s side to slice into 8 equal pieces. Heat up a non-stick frying pan on medium-high heat and add your slices of Spam, cooking and turning until your desired level of crispiness.

Spam Musubi Recipe

Optionally, once the Spam is crispy, you can glaze it with a little teriyaki sauce.

Spam Musubi Recipe

Put the Spam on a plate to cool.

Place your half sheet of nori down on a cutting board, shiny side down and put your Spam can or musubi maker in the middle of the sheet. Scoop a generous amount of rice into the mold and pack it down. You want the rice to be compressed.

Spam Musubi Recipe

Add a slice of Spam and another layer of rice, making sure you are packing it down as you go.

Spam Musubi Recipe

Use a spoon (or your musubi handle), press down on the rice and use your other hand to pull the mold up and release the musubi.

Spam Musubi Recipe

Wrap the nori around the rice, sealing the edges with a bit of water.

Spam Musubi Recipe

Spam musubi are “make and eat” kind of snacks, so serve them immediately to enjoy the crunch of the nori.
Repeat until full.

Sushi Rice

Ignore the directions on the bag that the rice came from and rinse the rice only 3-5 times. The water does NOT have to run clear. Place rice to drain in a strainer.

Drain for one hour in the winter, 30 min in the summer. (Sounds strange, but is true). While rice is draining, combine vinegar,sugar, salt and mirin together in a bowl and mix well.

Put water and furikake seasoning in a medium pot, add rice.

Bring quickly to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and DON’T touch it until the end, NO PEEKING. Cook for 15 minutes before removing the pot from the heat but keep the lid CLOSED.

Let rice rest for 10 min and then remove the cover.

Place in a glass dish to cool and lightly fan the rice while adding the vinegar mixture. Mix rice gently, careful not to break it.

Sushi rice is best used at body temperature.