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My comfort zone has an irregular shape. The boundary extends and shrinks back in places I can’t make sense of—even I am surprised by what jars me sometimes. I can read a first draft aloud to a writing group, but if the grocery store clerk asks what I’m making with the squash noodles, I will overthink my answer. The unanticipated can put me on edge. It’s why I keep a routine, why I plan ahead, why I frequent the same places. It’s why I’ve never been to the fish market.
But damned if I didn’t make my maiden voyage for this recipe. In fact, I went to three fish markets before I found fresh ahi, and by the end of all that, I didn’t feel so out of place. The boundary extends.
Still, this first foray into Hawaiian food has taken me months to attempt, for a different and more deeply-rooted kind of discomfort: I am a fraud Hawaiian.
I don’t feel Hawaiian. I don’t look Hawaiian. I know it’s there but I am separate from it; it exists only in italics for me: Hawaiian. I check Pacific Islander on forms like I’m forging a signature. Even for all the times I’ve visited, tour-guided by my sister who lives on Oahu and knows the best places, I feel outside of it all. Like there is audacity in claiming this part of myself. If there’s a tidy conclusion here, I can’t point to it; unearthing this layer of me is an ongoing process.
What I can do is begin, so I dip my toe in. Anyone can make poke.
It couldn’t be quicker or more straightforward, like something you make when you’re sundrenched and sleepy—if you can chop, you’re most of the way there. It’s bright and gingery in an out-of-doors-eating kind of way (it was snowing here when I made mine, but it’s good inside too), and the dual onions give just enough crunch to balance the smoothness of the tuna.
It’s a simple and unassuming treatment of fish, and I feel my comfort zone extend ever so slightly. It’s a start.
The following is the recipe I used, as found here.
1 lb. fresh ahi steaks, cut into cubed, bite-size pieces
1/4 cup soy sauce (shoyu)
1/4 cup chopped green onions (tops included)
1/4 cup chopped Maui onion (or yellow onion)
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1 chili pepper, cored, seeded and diced (optional)
Sea salt, to taste
2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
2 tsp. finely chopped toasted macadamia nuts (optional, as a substitute for inamona, which is difficult to find outside of Hawaii)
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients, and mix lightly. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.