Fish and Poi

Fish and Poi

Here in Fish and Poi, a meditation on the local institutions of plate lunch and poi.

fish plate lunch

Hawaiians knew it to be the richest fish of all. Great slabs of aku would slowly redden over beach fires, juices dripping and hissing and popping in the embers. Some things don’t change, nor should they. In an age of ever more artful renditions of poke, dry aku poke derives its inspiration from timeless simplicity. Hand-rubbed in sesame oil, so simple yet so savory… because the fish itself is so damned good. Always has been. If you work in Kalihi, you do not—I repeat, do not– deserve this place! Downtown, where you have to put up with parking and legions of corporate dweebs, there are compensations, such as fine dining. But Kalihi, where parking is ample and people go easy, does not deserve an uptown benefit like this. No matter that this place has cleverly disguised itself as a fish market. Word is still leaking out, and the lines are quickly growing. Plate lunches of nori-wrapped crabmeat-stuffed ahi rolls baked in a pesto crust over a bed of gourmet Nalo greens– or homemade crab cakes with roasted garlic dressing, for that matter— inevitably take a bit longer to assemble than hamburger curry with gravy over everything. My lunch hour does not permit of the extra wait in line. So beat it.


There used to be more than 300 varieties of taro back in the olden days, many with some rather poetic names (“Pele’s Smoke” and “Elepaio”). It’s surprising to realize that ancient Hawaiians on average ate some five pounds of poi a day back then. Now it’ll set you back a ten-spot for a stingy little bag of the stuff at the supermarket, and there are times when you can’t find it at any price–a tragedy, I submit. What’s happened to the Hawaiian diet is a microcosm of what’s happened to the Hawaiian.

fish and poi

E ‘ai i kekāhi, e kāpī kekāhi. – Eat some, salt some. (Said to young people: Eat some now and save some for another time.)

Untold treasures await you in The Great Hawaiian Bazaar!

If you have a taste for history, we invite you to WisdomMaps: The Future of the Past!

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fish and poi