As I creep into my late twenties — and my fourth year living in DC — people from California have begun asking a question that I wholeheartedly despise: So, when do you think you’re moving back to California?
And then the next thing that happens, well, is usually some sort of accusation of being a crazy person. Eye roll.
While I do love California and all of the wonderful things it has to offer, I love my life on the East Coast. So, this is my proclamation: I am pretty damn sure I’m staying on this coast. And I’ve done a pretty good job of convincing West Coasters to move east.
On the other hand, I will never hesitate to admit that California is a wonderful place — the weather’s nice (in L.A., anyway) and the food is just on its own spectrum.
I waited tables at a restaurant in Calabasas in college, when I spent a year or so living at my parents’ place. It was a seafood restaurant, so my knowledge of edible marine life really peaked at age twenty-one. It’s been dwindling since then.
ANYWAY, one of my favorite dishes at that restaurant was an Ahi Poke (pronounced like “pokey”) salad — a Hawaiian dish that I had never encountered before I started working there. I didn’t cook much back then, because, surprise surprise, I was a work-a-holic, but I do remember asking the sushi chef for the recipe for the day when I would no longer be working at King’s. But, alas, I never managed to get that recipe.
So, I set off on my research and tasting spree. The Ahi poke salad at King’s was so spicy that I’d pretty much cry every time I inhaled the soy sauce and wasabi aroma.
After inspecting at least fifteen ahi poke recipes online, I set my mind to ingredients and taste-tested in my kitchen until I was on the verge of wishing I was still waiting tables at King’s. But just the verge.
Naturally, these measurements are estimates — if you decide to make this dish on your own, taste the sauce as you go, and add elements to get to the level of spice that you’re comfortable with. These measurements will give you a moderate amount… but if you want to be crying as you eat it, just pile on the chile oil and wasabi paste.
Ahi Poke Salad, from my memories of waiting tables at King’s Fish House
3/4 to 1 lb. Ahi (Yellowfin) tuna steak
3 to 4 green onions, finely chopped
1 small Japanese cucumber, sliced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
2 tablespoons black (or white) sesame seeds
1 tablespoon wasabi paste
handful of macadamia nuts — do not skip these. They really make the salad.
Dried seaweed crumbles for garnish
Using a very sharp knife, slice your Ahi steak into half-inch cubes. Set aside in a glass bowl, cover with saran wrap, and refrigerate.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the green onions, soy sauce, sesame oil, chili sauce, sesame seeds, and wasabi paste. Whisk together until the chili sauce and the wasabi are evenly mixed into the sauce. TASTE AS YOU GO, and adjust the levels of wasabi and chili sauce accordingly.
Dice your avocado into half-inch cubes as well, and then add the avocado, macadamia nuts, cucumber, and diced tuna to the Poke sauce. Toss until everything is covered in the Poke sauce, and serve with forks or chopsticks.