Some of the dishes prepared in Hawaii today are adapted from Polynesian food favorites. A perfect example of this is Poisson Cru, also called ‘Ota “ika, which originated from Tahiti.
Poisson Cru is similar to ceviche––raw fish marinated with citrus juice. Except, with Poisson Cru, coconut milk is also added to the marinade. Other typical ingredients that are mixed in with the fish are ginger, cucumber, onion and tomato.
In this preparation I use lemon, grapefruit, lemon grass and makrut lime leaves, instead of straight lime juice to create more complexity and brightness. I also use mango ginger instead of common ginger to impart fruitiness rather than spiciness. For spice, I use a few dashes of Sriracha sauce.
For the fish I use Uku, also known as Grey Snapper. You can find Uku locally caught in Hawaii. It is a mild, flaky white fish. I salt the fish before marinating it, which helps tenderize it.
This recipe makes three appetizer size portions. Or, as we call them in Hawaii, pupus.
This dish can be made using any type of fish, so use whatever is fresh and local. The mango ginger can be omitted if you cannot find it. You can also substitute a squeeze of lime juice for the market lime leaves if necessary. *Use local and/or organic ingredients whenever available.
- 1 cup Coconut milk unsweetened
- 1 ea Makrut lime leaf fresh
- 1 inch Lemongrass pounded
- 1 tsp Mango ginger peeled and smashed
- 10 oz Uku (Grey Snapper) large dice
- 2 tsp Sea salt course
- 1/2 cup Sweet onion sliced thin
- 1 ea Lemon
- 6 sprigs Cilantro roughly chopped
- 1 sprig Basil stem removed, sliced
- 1 ea Green onion sliced thin
- 1/2 tsp Sriracha sauce
- 1/4 ea Grapefruit segmented
In a small pot, over medium-low heat, warm the coconut milk, makrut lime leaf, lemongrass and mango ginger until it is hot, making sure not to bring to a boil. Set aside to cool completely.
Toss the diced fish with the sea salt and let sit in the refrigerator for 15 min.
Rinse the fish well, removing all salt. Remove excess water.
Toss the fish with the sweet onion and juice from a half of lemon.
Strain the steeped and cooled coconut milk over the fish. Discard the makrut lime leaf, lemongrass and ginger.
Give the fish a stir in the marinade, and let it sit refrigerated for 1-2 hours.
Fold the cilantro, basil, green onion, Sriracha and grapefruit segments into the fish mixture. Give it a taste. It made need another pinch of salt and/or another squeeze of lemon.
Served immediately, nice and cold.
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and experience host whose writing focuses on cooking, holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made foods.