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Sweetened poke quite a challenge for the taste buds


    Sweet pokes made at Da Hub include three flavored with chocolate and Oreo cookie crumbs, top left; peanut butter and guava jelly with bananas, top right; li hing mui, bottom right. Dragon Poke, bottom left, is a combination of all three.


    A bowl of poke candy at Da Hub in Kalihi combines li hing-pineapple, peanut butter-guava jelly and chocolate-Oreo pokes, with Cocoa Puffs and Reese’s Puffs cereals.

Kealoha Fernandez is like a kid in a poke store.

His poke store.

At Da Hub on Middle Street in Kalihi, Fernandez began making unusual poke creations that he calls poke candy.

Chocolate poke, for example. Or peanut butter and jelly poke with Cocoa Puffs.

It started with li hing mui, which he used to make li hing pineapple.

“What would it taste like?” he wondered, if he mixed it with fish.

Not bad, it turned out.

From there Fernandez got more creative, or some would say crazy.

In addition to Fernandez’s poke combinations, Da Hub offers customers a chance to make their own poke from dozens of sauces and ingredients.

Joining traditional ingredient choices such as seaweed, green onions and salt are the candy ingredients, which include Oreo cookies from the convenience store next door.

In theory a mix of sweet, salty, spicy and savory could work, if the flavors balance out.

Da Hub’s poke and lunch and dinner offerings, such as bacon-wrapped scallops, have developed quite a following on social media. His Yelp score is four stars, and, Fernandez said, tourists come directly from the airport to try both his regular and candy pokes.

But really? Chocolate poke? PBJ?

During a recent visit, Fernandez offered a taste and a glimpse into his poke creation process.

First, the peanut butter and jelly poke.

It actually works. The peanut butter is like adding extra inamona to the poke, and the jelly flavor is subtle, just a hint of sweetness. It’s even better with wasabi and Sriracha.

Dominique Times, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s summer intern, tried it but said she preferred eating a regular PBJ sandwich.

Fernandez took that as a challenge.

“We should try,” he said, and brought out some Samoan sweet bread. “I never tried it with bread. … A peanut butter poke sandwich.”

I liked it. The bread is a little bit like rice.

As for the chocolate poke, I’m not a fan.

It’s a little too sweet, as though it can’t make up its mind whether to be a dessert or an entree. Adding wasabi oil and Sriracha helps, the spiciness balancing out the sweet. But it’s not for me.

One customer mixed everything — li hing, chocolate and PBJ. For good measure, Fernandez tossed in Cocoa Puffs and Reese’s Puffs cereals, among the latest ingredients he’s been playing with.

The taste was overwhelming. So many flavors — nutty, tangy, sweet and fish — competing for attention. It took so much effort for my mind to process what I was eating that I couldn’t even think about whether it tasted good or bad.

It was too much for me. But if you don’t like it, you can always come up with a different combination.

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