When it comes to island cuisine, Sam Choy is about as famous it gets. On Saturday, Tacomans can sample Choy’s food when his Seattle-based food truck, Sam Choy’s Poke To The Max, serves at an event at Trident Athletics (more information on that below).
On Saturday’s menu are Hawaiian favorites, but the truck is known for Choy’s specialty – poke. Can’t make it the event Saturday, but still want poke? I’ve got a guide below to three poke dishes I like in Tacoma. But first, a little more about the Poke to the Max truck.
Choy is the Hawaii-based chef, restaurant owner and James Beard award-winning cookbook author who has appeared on several cooking shows. His truck is a collaboration with Seattle chef Max Heigh, who comes from a restaurant family in Seattle. (Tip: Mother and son currently are working on a Columbia City restaurant called Stone House Cafe).
Heigh’s partnership with Choy debuted as a food truck in August. Heigh added a second truck a few months ago. The roving truck offers a menu of Hawaiian favorites, such as a loco moco plate and kalua pork, but specializes in the dish that made Choy famous – poke.
For neophytes, poke is a raw fish dish splashed with shoyu that’s essentially a sashimi salad, usually made with raw tuna or salmon, and served on the Poke to the Max truck with fresh seaweed (something I love to see). The truck also makes a tofu version. The dish is pronounced like “okay,” with a p out front.
So how exactly did Heigh connect with one of the most famous names in island cuisine? Heigh had this to say by phone, “That’s a question people do ask often. He’s actually a family friend of mine. We got talking maybe about two years ago. He kept coming back and forth through Seattle – he’s always loved the Pacific Northwest.” Heigh said he soaks up island cooking lessons when Choy visits about every six weeks or so.
Some of the kitchen tricks he’s learned from Choy notch up the flavor in the island cuisine, such as layering the brown gravy on the loco moco plate (that’s a hamburger patty topped with gravy and an egg) with beef and pork fat to give it a bit of a flavor bump. Heigh’s cuisine, like the food of Hawaii, is a blend of at least a half dozen styles of Asian cooking. For instance, the truck’s shrimp sandwich looks like a Vietnamese banh mi because it’s modeled after one. The truck also is known for producing specials. This weekend, they might be offering their island-themed chili made with pork belly and Portuguese sausage.
Find the truck parked outside Trident Athletics from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday – 5206 South Tacoma Way. Dining at the truck is open to the public while the gym hosts a weightlifting event. For a menu, visit the truck’s website. For more information about Saturday’s event, see the truck’s Facebook page.
Poke in Tacoma
Poke is plentiful in town. Here are three presentations I like at Gari of Sushi, Social Bar & Grill and TwoKoi.