Pesto Poke


Recipe of the Week: Pesto Poke

Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer, 3 to 4 as an entrée

Sam Choy Pesto Poke

Traditional Italian pesto is made from young basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil. I wanted to make a pesto that used familiar Island flavors, so I substituted green onion and cilantro for the basil, macadamia nuts for the pine nuts, and ginger for the garlic. The pesto is made with a neutral-flavored vegetable oil rather than a more assertive olive oil.

As with so many of my recipes, I start with a traditional concept (the Italian pesto), substitute local ingredients and flavors, and end up with something that is both cross-cultural and utterly delicious. Naturally, my Island pesto tastes divine on raw fish.


  • 2½ pounds sashimi-grade 'ahi, cut into ¾-inch dice 
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • Lettuce for wraps (optional)


  • ½ cup green onion, chopped
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
  • ¼ cup ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Hawaiian chili peppers, trimmed and chopped
  • ½ cup macadamia nuts, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil


Put the 'ahi in a medium-size bowl or container and mix with the coarse salt gently, with your hand.

Put the green onion, cilantro, ginger, chili peppers, macadamia nuts, and vegetable oil into the bowl of a food processor and process into pesto.

When the salt mixed with the 'ahi has completely dissolved, add the pesto. Mix gently but well. Cover the poke and chill for 1 to 2 hours.

If you want to get fancy, wash and trim some lettuce leaves. Wrap a nice bite of poke in a leaf; repeat until you've wrapped up all of the poke.

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