It’s only been a few weeks since my return from my Hawaii vacation, but the islands are still on my mind – especially last night when I went to a Taste Hawaii Tour event at San Francisco’s Japanese Cultural Center.
The tasting tour is led by celebrated Chef Alan Wong, the dean of Hawaiian regional cuisine. The chef made several appearances in the Bay Area this past weekend along with Arnold Hiura, a Hawaii historian and writer. And while Wong’s tour is primarily a promotion of his new cookbook, “Blue Tomato,” he serves as an ambassador of Hawaii’s local sustainability movement.
In fact, his cookbook is more than just recipes but a look at the local farmers whom he sources for his restaurants, the fine-dining Alan Wong’s Hawaii and the casual Pineapple Room. The beautiful photographs showcase local ingredients presented in refined, creative dishes in Wong’s signature style.
As for last night, people who attended were treated to a Hawaii-style dinner, courtesy of Hukilau Restaurant, a group of restaurants from Hawaii that has one location in San Francisco. Hukilau’s food is more local-style than Chef Wong’s refined plates, and it’s what writer Hiura described as Hawaiian comfort food. There were trays of Asian chicken salad, kalua pig, Hukilau chicken (a version of mochiko fried chicken), teriyaki beef, and ahi poke (pronounced po-kay).
Wong, who did a brief demo earlier in the evening, treated guests to two dishes – a seafood salad on top of a soy panna cotta and a miniature saimin bowl that was an homage to Hamura’s saimin, an extremely popular saimin (the Hawaiian version of ramen) joint on Kauai.
Even though this was called a “tasting,” like any food event in Hawaii there were lots of food and everyone gathered around tables to “talk story.” They ate dishes that have a variety of origins but are all very familiar in one place, Hawaii.
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