story by Curt Sanburn
photos by Linny Morris
For seafood-loving locals, Tamashiro Market is a Honolulu landmark. Located on the ground floor of a vintage apartment building on North King Street, just west of downtown and the harbor, the pink-painted emporium purveys fresh fish at just-off-the-boat prices—moi, ‘opakapaka, , spiny Hawaiian lobster, octopus, squid and, of course, ‘ahi steaks in all their glory: from pale tombo to luscious slabs of blood-red yellowtail to the sublimely pink bluefin, considered by many to be the finest sashimi-grade tuna of all.
Across a narrow aisle from the fish, the store has a whole case full of fresh seaweed—that is, limu in Hawaiian, ogo in Japanese—packaged in plastic one-pound bags. On a day last fall when I visited, the harvested “Moloka‘i ogo”
was on special for $4.49 per pound, while the “cultured limu” was selling for $3.98 per pound.
Firm, finely branched and clean as fresh-cut grass, the glistening fronds of copper-colored Gracilaria parvispora snap when you break off a piece. Pop one in your mouth—the taste is salty/savory like the sea, but crunchy like a strand of onion.
Tamashiro Market knows its customers, so
it’s no accident that the ‘ahi and the limu are across the aisle from each other. Cube a slab of raw ‘ahi, add a handful of chopped fresh limu, mix in some shoyu, green onions and chili paste, and you’ve got ‘ahi poke, Hawai‘i’s favorite pupu.
Come to think of it, poke, with its native Hawaiian origins (it’s pronounced po-KAY
and means “to slice or chop”), might just be Hawai‘i’s favorite homegrown food, period. Whether shoveled from a plastic Foodland tub at a Waimanalo baby lu‘au, served with cocktails at a dinner party, or exalted during the annual, three-day Poke Festival at the posh Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel on the Big Island, poke passion rules the Islands.
There’s something about the crunch of the seaweed.