Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sam Choy's Keauhou Poke Contest

The Big Island got its poke on this weekend at Sam Choy's Keauhou Poke Contest held at the Sheraton Kona. Poke (poh-KAY) is the "soul food of Hawaii," according to Choy, and is traditionally prepared with raw fish, sea salt, seaweed, spices, and kukui nuts. 

Contestants put their "braggin' in the bowl" in many creative ways, stretching the concept of traditional poke into several other categories including spicy, cooked, with soy sauce, sushi style, and non-seafood  entries. Professionals and amateurs were both invited to compete. 

My Mexican-themed table display

Creative table displays accompanied the contest entries as poke chefs presented their work to the judges. Winners were announced after poke tastings were offered to the public for a small fee that  benefited the $1 million Equip the Kitchens Campaign for the future Hawai‘i Community College-Palamanui. A complete list of winners can be found here: Poke Contest Results.

The event also included live music, Hawaiian cultural demonstrations, and an island marketplace featuring locally made products.

Guacamole Poke (photo by Fern Gavelek)

Did I enter? You know it! My Guacamole Poke grabbed 2nd place in the amateur cooked category, see recipe below. I was especially impressed with the other amateur entries this year including a beautiful traditional recipe featuring opelu and opihi by Aunty Margie Hanselman, a fancy lobster entry by high schooler Alexis Fujikawa, and a very special venison recipe by hunter Ryan Koyanagi.

Poke has deep roots in Hawaiian culture. I love that. I also love that poke has evolved over the decades to incorporate the many cultures that have found a home on the islands, too. It is at once a revered cultural dish as well as a representation of the cultural mixture that makes up Hawaii today. I hope you get the chance to enjoy some soon.

Guacamole Poke
Makes about 2 lbs of poke

1 lb Kona Kampachi filets (introduced to me by the late Guy Toyama, please support a cause Guy would have been proud of here: Memorial Fund info)
2 TBL Hawaiian mac nut oil
2 TBL Mexican dry rub (salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, cumin, lime zest)
1 large Big Island avocado
1 Waimea tomato
1 Big Island grown green onion
½ cup Big Island grown cilantro
¼ cup Big Island lime juice
salt to taste
2 cloves garlic
1 Big Island jalapeno
taco chips to serve

Rub Kampachi filets with the Mexican dry rub. In a very hot pan, add mac nut oil. Sear both sides of the filets rare (about 1 minute each side). Cook times will vary depending on the thickness of the filets.

While fish cools, chop the avocado, tomato, onion, green onion, garlic, cilantro and jalapeno. Toss very gently with lime juice and some salt.

Cut fish into chunks and very gently toss into the vegetable mixture.

Serve with taco chips. Enjoy!

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