The Great Waikoloa Poke Contest

Beautiful amateur contestant poke display

Fish and seafood of all kinds were celebrated at The Great Waikoloa Poke Contest, part of the Hawaii Island Festival, September 7, 2013. Amateurs and professionals competed for top honors in traditional, limu (seaweed), soy sauce, and cooked poke categories. Meaning “to slice,” poke can be made with any fish or seafood the cook dreams up, although this contest made a point to only include locally sourced seafood.

Packed house for poke tasting

Aloha was in the air as contestants gathered early Saturday morning to assemble their dramatic display tables and plate their poke entries for the blind judging. The awards were based 100% on taste, with the exception of one award for presentation, judged separately.

Amateur presentation winner

Hosted by the Waikoloa Beach Marriott, the event also included a poke making demonstration, an appearance by the Royal Court, and of course a tasting for the public.

The chefs from Waikoloa Beach Marriott swept the professional division, including the presentation award. Amateur winners were Jason Wood (shoyu), Anthony Carvalho (cooked), Doug Wang (traditional) and Grady (Pono) Bintliff (limu).

My “diner” themed display for the BLT poke. Get it?

My BLT poke entry didn’t make the cut, but it was hard not to be impressed by all of the wonderful and creative entries. Overall, this was a fun event overflowing with aloha and I’d love to compete again next year. If you’d like to try my BLT poke, the recipe is below. Mahalo to When Pigs Fly Island Charcuterie for making the awesome bacon.

BLT poke

BLT Poke
Makes about 2 pounds
1 lb ahi
2 TBL shoyu
5 slices thick-cut bacon
1 French baguette loaf, if desired
2 TBL butter, if desired
1/2 lb Waimea tomatoes
3 TBL mayonnaise
2 TBL fresh lemon juice
2 green onions, chopped and divided
3 cups Manoa lettuce leaves, if desired
salt to taste (if needed)
Pre-heat oven to 375. Cut ahi into bite-sized pieces, toss with shoyu in a medium bowl and allow to marinate in fridge.
Line a baking sheet with foil and place bacon slices on top. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until small bubbles form on the bacon. When done, place bacon on paper towel to drain, then chop into small pieces when cooled.
While the bacon is cooking, slice the baguette into very thin slices, about ¼ inch thick.  Melt butter and brush both sides of bread using a pastry brush. Place on a baking sheet and toast in oven about 10-12 minutes, flipping bread once, until both sides are golden brown. [This step is only if desired, can be served without bread, butter and lettuce]
Chop tomatoes and place in a large bowl with the chopped bacon. Drain excess shoyu from ahi and add fish to bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk mayonnaise, lemon juice, and one chopped green onion. Add mayo mixture to large bowl and toss lightly to coat. Taste, add salt if desired.
[This step is only if desired, can be served without bread, butter and lettuce] To serve, place one small piece of lettuce on each piece of toast. Top with a spoonful of poke and garnish with chopped green onion. Enjoy!

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