May 12, 2023
Every Spring, our Timbers Kauaʻi ʻOhana ask when the Poisson Cru will be back on the menu at Hualani’s. Wild Pacific Skipjack tuna is tossed with Hawaiian sea salt, the juice of Tahitian limes from the Farm at Hōkūala, coarsely chopped local vegetables, and freshly squeezed coconut cream. This delicious and highly in-demand appetizer of raw tuna marinated in lime juice and coconut cream, is served in a half coconut shell and kept cool on a bed of ice. When available, freshly harvested coconuts from Hōkūala are used for the presentation.
Poisson Cru, or eʻia ota as it is called in Tahiti, means raw fish. It is considered the national dish of Tahiti and bears a resemblance to Latin American ceviche or Hawaiian poke, but there are significant differences. The fish is not chemically cooked in the citrus as much as allowed to marinate for a short period of time. The veggies should be a large dice and not minced. Finally, the coconut cream adds a smooth mouth feel with a silky, tropical edge.
Skipjack tuna is commonly called aku in Hawaiian. In Pacific Island cultures and in Hawaiʻi and Japan, aku is an extremely important source of food. Aku has the most pronounced taste of all of Hawaiʻi’s tunas and is preferable for many ethnic dishes such as poke (Hawaiian-style raw fish), tataki (Japanese-style seared fish), and sashimi. All Hawaiian Skipjack tuna are line-caught, and peak season is from April through September. Hawaiian Skipjack tuna are fished sustainably and are an excellent source of lean protein, magnesium, and omega-3s.
Chef Alex at Hualani’s likes to add a little signature heat with a garnish of sliced red Fresno chile peppers. Sometimes mistaken for red jalapeños, Fresno peppers are wider at the base and hotter in flavor. The red ones are sweeter than the green variety and work perfectly to add some spice to the dish.
Chef Alex recommends that the coconut cream and vegetables for the Poisson Cru be prepared first. The cubes of fish should be briefly tossed in the Tahitian lime juice and Hawaiian sea salt only when ready to be served and only long enough to obtain the citrus flavor. Strain the lime juice from the fish, stir in the coconut cream and vegetables, and just as they do in Tahiti…serve immediately! If coconut shells are not readily available in your kitchen cabinets, serve in a small bowl or on a fresh banana leaf and let the flavors of this beloved dish transport you to the tropical sun-drenched islands of French Polynesia.
- 2 pounds of sashimi grade Skipjack tuna
- 2-3 Tahitian limes
- 1 cup fresh coconut cream
- 1 small red onion diced
- ¼ cucumber, seeded and sliced
- 1 carrot, julienned
- 1 red Fresno chile pepper sliced
- Hawaiian sea salt to taste
- Peel, deseed and dice cucumber, dice onion, julienne carrots, slice red Fresno pepper and Tahitian limes
- For the freshest coconut cream, grate the white meat of a mature coconut, add the coconut water to the grated meat and squeeze the coconut milk out through a cloth (or pantyhose works well!) See here for more information on how to make Homemade Coconut Cream.
- Toss the fish briefly in freshly squeezed Tahitian lime juice and Hawaiian sea salt and drain
- Mix in the coconut cream and vegetables
- Garnish with carrots and red Fresno chile
- Serve in a freshly cracked coconut or coconut bowl on a bed of ice