Poke, poke, poke! For the first time this weekend, we’ll find out what qualifies as the best poke in the islands. Amateurs and professional chefs will slice, dice and spice the favorite Hawaii food for the first annual Keauhou Poke Contest this Sunday.

You’ll probably see a dish similar to this poke variation on Sunday.

Typically raw or cooked fish seasoned with Hawaiian sea salt, spices and sesame oil, the poke of today also embraces many exotic forms and flavors. With this in mind, chefs get creative when entering one of four poke categories: traditional, spicy, cooked and with soy sauce. Visitors eager to try perhaps one of the most important island flavors can do so at this event, as the public puts their taste buds to the test. Maui News dining editor Carla Tracy and Hulihee Palace curator Fanny Au Hoy will be judging, along with a panel of 10 others.

For visitors curious as to how the cubed fish dish is prepared, there will be a celebrity poke cook-off featuring surprise guests and a demonstration by local chef Sam Choy. As a television host and cookbook author, Sam helped to put poke on the culinary map. He has a restaurant on Oahu and the Big Island, recently making the international connection with a restaurant in Guam. He has always been dedicated to poke, founding the Poke Festival and Recipe Contest and writing a cookbook on it a few years ago.

Poke mango salsa, anyone? A unique blend of flavors when land meets the sea.

An all-day market of foods produced in Hawaii will give attendees the chance to extend their taste buds beyond poke. If agriculture is your thing, then local farmers and purveyors will be on hand to answer any questions. If you’re interested in hearing local music, then the entertainment lineup won’t disappoint. They may not be singing about poke, but they will include slack key guitar melodies by local Hawaiian group ROOKI (Royal Order of Kamehameha I).

If you’re on the Big Island this weekend, then consider filing your bellies with the delicious local staple. You’ll not only eat poke but learn about it as well, so jump into the Hawaiian culture, with your taste buds first.

FIRST ANNUAL POKE CONTEST • Public poke tasting, entertainment, local foods market, poke cook-off and demo by Sam Choy • Sunday, March 18 10am-3pm • Sheraton Bay Resort & Spa’s Convention Center • $3 (older than 12) • Free shuttle from Keauhou Shopping Center to contest

Photo Credit: Douglas Peebles


  1. Thanks for the heads up I will be there for sure. Trying to learn some new recipes, I seem to be stuck in a rut of the same poke I make every time, spicy ahi.

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