When I set off for my week as a New Media Artist in Residence on the Hawaiian island of Lana’i, one food goal superceded all others: eat as much Hawaiian poke – fish salad prepared with raw seafood and marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, seaweed and other condiments – as possible.
Our feasting started the first night when we checked into the Four Seasons Resort at Manele Bay. I squealed when I saw ahi (tuna) poke on the menu at the Oceanside Grill. “We gotta get that!” I told my husband, Don. He had never tasted poke (pronounced poke-ay), but he loves sushi and sashimi so he was down to try it. Paired with taro chips, the chunks of ahi tuna tasted fresh and delicious – like sushi on steriods.
After that, we were hooked. We asked everyone we met about poke – which proved to be a great conversation starter. In general, Hawaiians love talking about their native foods, and the locals lit up when we told them we were fans. And then one of them let us in on a secret that would end up dominating our lunches: the Lana’i Ohana Poke Market, in a colorful building with a tin roof located on a side street near tiny Lana’i’ City’s old jail, served the best fish in town.
The Lana’i Ohana Poke Market is about as authentic Hawaiian as you can get. Run as a family business, it’s open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. four days a week. But it often closes long before that, because the lunch business is so bustling that the food is often gone by early afternoon. As you can see above, the choices go beyond your basic ahi – there’s mussel poke, squid poke, and seaweed salad, as well as several preparations of tuna.
The poke bowls at Lana’i Ohana cost $5.95 for a sizable amount of seafood on a bed of rice, making it one of the cheapest food options on the island. I loved the kim chee shrimp above!
Even if you don’t like seafood, you should stop by Lana’i Ohana, just to see what’s cooking as the plate lunch. On one of our afternoon stops, Ciso was behind the grill frying up some mochiko garlic chicken. Juicy and flavorful (and served with yummy macaroni salad), it reminded us that the best meals are usually found off the beaten path, no matter how small the city may be.