Wichita Says Aloha to Poke
One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Wichita is its food culture. Over the past three years, I’ve been lucky enough to have been exposed to a variety of foods that I hadn’t experienced when I lived on the East Coast. I’ve reveled in the wide variety of Mexican eateries, which I freely admit is my favorite food and possibly an addiction.
However, the biggest surprise to me has been the rise of Hawaiian cuisine and Poke. The Hawaiian delicacy has been appearing on menus all around town, from Newport Grill to Pei Wei, and from brand new eateries such as Poke Mix to the deli counter at Dillons.
What is Poke anyway?
For the uninitiated, Poke is basically raw fish marinated in soy sauce, spices and sesame oil, mixed with chopped onions, topped with sesame seeds and served over rice. As a lover of sashimi, it was only natural that I would fall in love with Poke. But I have to admit, I never thought I would consume this much raw fish in the middle of Kansas. So how did this unique appetizer find its way to Wichita? Chef Akamu Noble at Noble House Hawaiian filled me in.
According to Akamu, Poke has been around for about 250 years and started with fishermen in Hawaii. It was used to provide cheap and plentiful food for field workers. He described it as the “original melting pot” as it has evolved over the years taking in elements of Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese and even American culture. Surprisingly, the current popular version served over rice in most restaurants, including Noble House, isn’t the traditional version.
The original Poke was known as Aku and consisted of Skipjack, basically a cross between a tuna and a mackerel, Ogo, a red and green seaweed, shoyu sauce (soy sauce) and Hawaiian sea salt. Other additions came later such as the Poke being served over rice and condiments such as Ponzu Sauce and spicy mayo. The Albacore Poke that I had was one of the most delightful dishes I’ve ever had with fresh albacore tuna marinated in ponzu sauce, vinegar and a “secret sauce” and tossed with carrots, onions and radish sprouts and served over rice. It was fresh and tart with the carrots and onions providing some crunch and the radish sprouts providing not only a nice visual effect but a slight peppery taste.
Noble House started out as a food truck in Topeka back in 2014 before migrating to Wichita in 2015 to take part in the growing food truck scene. The success of the Food Truck led to the brick and mortar location in the College Hill area, across from the Crown Uptown Theater. It was there that I sat down with Chef Akamu over an amazing plate of Albacore Poke, using Poke that the Chef has flown in from Fiji, and talked about all things Poke.
While the thought of eating raw fish may make some people reluctant to try it, trust me, it’s literally a flavor explosion. A wonderful way to try it is to get a group together and split it as an appetizer while eating your Teriyaki Beef or Hula Hula Chicken. Noble House serves a wide variety of Poke including Ahi (yellowfin tuna) Poke, Albacore (albacore tuna) Poke, Tako (octopus) Poke and California (crab) Poke, so it’s a great place to sample the taste of the Islands. Stop in and say Aloha to great food and Mahalo to the chef!