What is part of every meal in Hawaii? Not pineapple, although it is a common garnish along with flowers. Not bread or potatoes, although it is white. Rice! As the outer roll of sushi or a bed for musubi or the two scoops of a plate lunch, rice is the most popular food in the islands. And now, a festival celebrates this connection.
Rice Fest 2011 is the Second Annual Rice Festival, held this year on Sunday, September 11. Since September is National Rice Month and Hawaii loves rice, the question probably is why it took so long for this celebration to break out. It also suits other local tastes, with celebrity chefs and “riceipe” cooking competitions at the professional and amateur levels. As good as all food is in Hawaii, I’m guessing even the amateur competition will produce some tasty grinds.
Even if you are not as smitted with rice as those of us who live on the islands, this would still be a great way to spend the day. There are musical performances by ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro, a Taiko Drum performance of a style that originated in Okinawa and a zone for children (keiki) sponsored by the Narcissus Queen Pageant of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Where else on earth would you find that combination?
There is also the chance to see a new Guiness World Record created for the largest Spam Musubi. Fortunately, the participants in the later Spam Musubi Eating Contest will be chowing down on regular sized snacks. In line with Hawaii’s concern to care for its own, you have the opportunity to donate rice to Meals on Wheels or the Hawaii Food Bank.
I love all the local festivals of Hawaii, but I can’t think of one that hits as many high notes as this one. Rice, recipes, Spam, children and community – the Rice Fest has it all. It moved to Magic Island (across from Ala Moana Shopping Center) this year to accommodate more people. Drop by between 10 and 6 for a true taste of Hawaii culture and cuisine.