On the east side of Oahu in a small town called Kahuku, not far from the North Shore is a small country market from which locals believe comes the best shoyu poke (a local appetizer of fresh tuna pronounced po-kay) on the island.
The small store, called the Kahuku Superette has been in business since 1990, but the secret poke sauce recipe has been in the owner’s family for five generations. Originating with her great, great grandfather in Korea, the dish says Tina, the owner, was a family favorite that was refined time after time at family functions. When Tina move to Hawaii in the mid 1970s she was looking for a “better life,” she says. Her mothered followed about 10 years later and brought the recipe with her and began selling the “secret sauce” at outdoor Korean markets says Tina.
Tina opened the shop later on, and decided to mix the sauce with local fresh fish called ahi (tuna), but would keep the sauce recipe a secret. Today, it’s a sought after recipe and loyal followers of the poke come back time after time to enjoy it. The small superette even has a wide following of customers from the continental U.S., who seek out the dish on every Hawaiian vacation.
So you may be asking, what’s so great about poke? Well, in general the popular local dish is a mix of fresh tuna chunks, soy sauce, onion, and whatever else the chef wants to throw in. In the case of Tina’s family, the secret sauce contains the usuals, along with sesame oil, chili paste, and a “secret paste” that Tina says her mother always used to make from scratch. She also points out that “no one will ever figure it out.”
At the Kahuku Superette the poke is most often served over white rice, and enjoyed straight from the plastic container on the go. While the poke is an absolute must try for fish lovers and other travelers who like to enjoy local dishes while in other places, the superette also has the usual mini market finds. You’ll find soda, juice, and beer at more affordable prices than other places on the near by North Shore along with snacks, candy, chips, and other local Asian dishes like spicy Korean beef, opae (local shrimp, and other unique things to try.
When entering Kahuku Town on Kamehameha Highway, look for the small yellow superette on the ocean side of the road. Make sure to try the shoyu poke, and don’t be afraid to try another local dish.