May 24, 2018
It's Tako Time
The octopus holds a special place in Native Hawaiian culture. Known as he'e, octopus were revered as 'aumakua, or guardian spirit, and were seen as good luck.
Early Hawaiians also enjoyed he'e as a delicious food source. To sustainably manage octopus populations and the community's need for food, chiefs placed strict seasonal regulations on the taking of he'e . Pua ke kō, kū mai ka he'e. "When the sugarcane flowers, the octopus appears." In Hawai'i, sugarcane blooms in November, corresponding with the peak abundance of octopus on the reefs.
Today, octopus remains a local favorite across the archipelago. A testament to the diversity of the Hawaiian islands, octopus is most often referred to as tako, the Japanese word for octopus, and prepared as a traditional poke—a mix of sweet onion, scallion, soy sauce, sesame oil, and seafood—but spiced up with kimchi, a spicy, fermented Korean side dish made from salted and fermented vegetables. Post up at any establishment offering fresh poke and you'll find spicy tako poke alongside the ahi poke, pipikaula, and limu poke.
Chef Ono, Nobu Honolulu's head sushi chef, is a big fan of spicy tako poke as well, but he wanted to give it a special twist that only Nobu could pull off, something to set it apart from the tako poke locals can find at just about any poke bar. Not wanting to deviate too far from a traditional poke, Chef Ono turned his attention to the balance of textures when creating his Tako Poke Crispy Quinoa recipe.
Served in Nobu's bar and lounge, the Tako Poke Crispy Quinoa features tako, quinoa, sesame oil, truffle oil, soy, salt, scallion and lemon, tossed together and served in a small bowl. Perfect for sharing and easily paired with other appetizers such as the popular Black Cod with Lettuce (locals call it butter fish for its sweet, buttery flavor and texture), or Spicy Shishito peppers, the Tako Poke Crispy Quinoa is an exquisite balance of texture and flavor. The bouncy octopus is accented by the flash-fried, crispy quinoa. A squeeze of lemon adds a little acidity, while the truffle oil brings all the salty and bright flavors together. The dish is best accompanied by a light and dry beverage, so consider a dry sake, junmai, or dry white wine to please the palate.
Thanks to the vision and expertise of Chef Ono, he has succeed in honoring the cultural heritage of he'e in Hawai'i, while at the same time infusing the local favorite with a touch of originality, quality, and award-winning "New Style" Japanese cuisine that's made Nobu such a mainstay in the culinary world.
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