Friday, September 23, 2011

Ahi Poke

If you look towards the right side of the island, you'll notice the landing strip for Bandaneira, the main island in Central Maluku.  Landing on the strip in a twin engine prop is a exhilarating experience.  As you approach the island you notice how the strip bisects the island where it narrows.  It seems impossible that the plane will stop before the strip ends and you find yourself in the sea, but it does.  At least it did when I flew there in the late 80s.

Bandaneira is an island that doesn't attract too many foreign visitors although some of the best snorkeling in Indonesia can be found there and at other nearby islands.  It was here that the Dutch East Indies Company shifted from being simply a commercial force to a colonizing power.  Nutmeg is indigenous to the Banda islands, and the Dutch so wanted to maintain absolute control over the production of the spice that they traded Manhattan to the British for one of the islands.

I traveled there by myself, staying in a guesthouse for a few dollars a day.  The only other tourists at the time were a handful of young Germans who had the charming habit of dipping tobacco and were intent on getting some good underwater pictures of sharks.  The apparent leader of the group seemed to be the heaviest user of the dip, and as he spoke he would intermittently pause and dribble some dark saliva into a cup he carried.

They had a great wealth of underwater cameras, lights, and gear for filming their snorkeling excursions.  We all hiked up the adjacent volcano one day before snorkeling in a beautiful cove.  Because he wanted to get some good close-ups of sharks if possible, the dipper thought it would be a good idea to tie a mesh bag filled with fish heads around his waist while he snorkeled.  I swam away from the group.

It was during this trip I first had raw ahi.  A sport fishing boat that was connected to the hotel in town had caught some yellowfin.  I happened to be at the hotel when they arrived and proceeded to fillet the fish and serve up some pieces with some wasabi and soy sauce.  That began my appreciation for raw ahi.

Poke is a Hawaiian dish of ahi and onion with a simple dressing of soy sauce, sesame oil and a few other ingredients.  As with any recipe for raw ahi, the most important thing is to make sure you use only the best, freshest sashimi grade ahi.  The recipe is adapted from HAWAI'I Magazine.

1/2 lb. fresh ahi cubed into 1/4 inch pieces
1 TBS Ponzu sauce
1 TBS soy sauce
2 green onions, chopped, including green tops
2 TBS chopped Maui onion (or sweet yellow onion)
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp Lingham's Hot Sauce with Garlic
Sea salt, to taste
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp roasted kemiri (candlenut) ground with 1/2 tsp sea salt

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.  Refrigerate for two hours before serving.

Tjing and I make a meal of this with rice and wakame (a kind of seaweed), but it also makes a nice appetizer served with fried won ton skins.

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