In Hawaii, roadfood consists of two main things----Poke and Plate Lunches. Over the years, I've hunted down a few providers of each here in the Los Angeles/Orange County area. I've even made my own poke a few times, buying the ingredients from my favorite Asian Market, Marukai. There was no better way to get my mouth salivating though then to attend the I Love Poke Festival
in Huntington Beach. I was going to Hawaii------by car!
The event, located at Don the Beachcomber's Restaurant in Huntington Beach, brought several local restaurants, catering companies and Chef's together for a sampling of Hawaii's best.
Don the Beachcomber started off as a small Tiki Bar in Hollywood in the 30's and the present reincarnation in Huntington Beach certainly maintains that fun look. In between then and now, Don invented a bunch of rum drinks and escaped to Waikiki Beach. As a stop on Pacific Coast Highway, it certainly fits the atmosphere of the area, with surfboard shops, tattoo parlors, swimsuit and dive stores, shell shops and other beachy places in the surrounding area. Tiki torches told me that I was now on Island time.
The first place I headed was the the musabi room. There. We sampled Spam Musabi, an Island staple, along with a variation using Japanese Chicken Katsu. Hawaii's roadfood legacy combines many foods from different ethnic cultures.
They do love their Spam in Hawaii--especially when you combine it with rice and seaweed! I also had a chance to sample some of the other Pupu appetizers---including lobster meatballs. There was this awesome appetizer with roast pork on it.
Noh, a Hawaiian distributor, was even selling packs of Poke mix which included the seaweed, chili and Hawaiian salt. All you needed was the fish. They sampled coconut pudding, Hawaiian iced tea, ands some tofu with a seaweed topping on it.
I wandered around, trying to decide what to try next. Another room beckoned, with some of the plate lunch delights in it. By this point I had already given up trying to remember who had what. It all looked so good! I had pork ribs and saimin noodles, white rice and King's Hawaiian Bread.
Primo Hawaiian Beer was available as well as plenty of rum drinks. I got my first poke sample from Santa Monica Seafood. Then it was time to get serious.
The poke was divided between two huge rooms. In there, they had the 15 poke competitors sampling different types-----some with as many as two or three different types of poke at their tables. Poke has a lot of different interpretations. Some places did the traditional type------cubed ahi or yellowfin \tuna, a seaweed called limu, soy sauce, chili pepper and sesame oil. Some had various additions to it-----Maui onion, candlenut, tomato, Sriracha sauce, jicama and other items. Some used yellowtail, octopus, flying fish eggs or salmon in place of the tuna. One delicious one used bigeye tuna for a slightly different texture. At this point, I'm not going to try to explain what is what-------the photos should give enough of an idea of the variety.
With the variety, it was pretty much this----go get poke from two table------return to your own table-----eat poke----repeat with next table. My favorites were from the House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer and RA Sushi and Da Kine Hawaiian Grinds and Royal Hawaiian and...........I thought they were all delicious so I gave up trying to keep track. The portions were generous so I was absolutely stuffed by the last few poke tables.
I barely had enough room for the fresh fruit samples and the capper-----Hawaiian Shaved Ice. The shaved ice looked so good, it wasn't until I got halfway through it that I remembered to take a photo.
Judging was done by a table in the main room. The judges included the Kalbama Brothers, a Hawaiian Band, who also provided music later. Maori Dancers also provided entertainment. The purpose of the Festival (besides all the good food) was a benefit for the Rell Sunn Educational Foundation.
For all you roadfooders near San Diego, they are doing this in SD on Wed. April 20th
. Let's see, Hodad's for lunch and Poke for dinner.......
I Love Poke Festival
San Diego April 20th www.ilovemusubi.com
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