Google alum and Hawaii poke expert dishes on how to make it at home

So how does a Silicon Valley ex-pat — a Google alum, but — wind up in Hawaii as a meals author, former Honolulu Journal meals editor and writer of the brand new “Poke Cookbook” (Clarkson Potter, $17)?

A pc science diploma from Wellesley introduced San Francisco native Martha Cheng to Google. “A boy,” she says, took her to the islands. She’s been there ever since, parlaying her experiences in restaurant and bakery kitchens, meals vans and pop-ups into life as a Honolulu foodie, author and surfer.

Her new guide takes poke, the extremely common Hawaiian uncooked fish dish tossed with soy sauce, sesame oil and seasonings, and presents forty five twists on the theme, from basic to very trendy certainly. A brilliantly fuchsia beet and macadamia “poke,” for instance, was impressed by a dish at Honolulu’s Mud Hen Water. And there are non-poke dishes, as nicely, together with luau-favorites reminiscent of Kalua Pig, Lomi Salmon and Butter Mochi.

Naturally, we had questions.

Q: I know your Beet and Macadamia Poke was inspired by a dish at Honolulu’s Mud Hen Water. Some of these variations seem like great options for people who don’t necessarily like raw fish, yes?

A: Yes! You can apply those (typical poke) flavors to so many things — fried tofu or cooked shrimp or tomatoes are great in those kinds of dressings.

Q: What are some of your favorite poke places in Hawaii?

A: In Honolulu, all the best spots are holes-in-the-wall. Ahi Assassins ( — the name of it cracks me up. It’s run by a fisherman and they have lots of varieties of fish. Ono Seafood ( is another, if people like poke tossed to order. Maguro Brothers ( is another good one. They make an ume shiso (poke) that inspired one in the book. It’s herby and fresh.

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