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Dueling long and sharp knives wielded by two Asian celebrity chefs cut through raw fish, as each chef proclaimed his country was the first in the world of culinary history. Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and equally famous Chef Ming Tsai competed on stage in the 2nd Annual Hawaiian Food and Wine Festival in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Chef Tsai watches Chef Morimoto dry the fish

Chef Tsai watches Chef Morimoto dry the fish

Chef Morimot filets the fish

Chef Morimoto filets the fish

The festival, started by co-founders and notable Hawaiian chefs, Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong, showcased creative abilities by using locally grown products in superb cooking. The festival stressed the need for the islands to become more independent from the mainland with their food sources and to create their own sustainability.

Japanese Chef Morimoto, reserved in demeanor, continued to meticulously filet the fish while personable Chinese Chef Ming Tsai provided running commentary and told the audience his country was the leader in cooking fish. He then added that the Japanese came along, served raw fish and charged twice the price, bringing an appreciative laugh from food-loving people. The lighthearted comparison of different cultural cooking techniques entertained the audience, as well as provided education about showcasing local ingredients.

Chef Tsai making hot curry oil

Chef Tsai making hot curry oil

Chef Morimoto, known for his precise knife skills, peeled a daikon radish and sheared it in one long strip and then intricately cut a second piece of the daikon into a fine fishnet. I asked Chef Morimoto what type of knife he used; he said it was a Japanese one-sided blade — and that most important, it had to be sharp.  Meticulously, the chef cleaned his cutting surface and knife after each use, a welcome sight.

Chef Tsai told a story about a woman who was hesitant to eat raw fish in an upscale New York restaurant, so the chef prepared it by heating olive oil and drizzling it on the fish and voila, she had flashed-cooked fish.   Chef Tsai then demonstrated how to make a heated curry olive oil to bring out the fragrance of the curry, and soon the room was redolent with the scent of the spice.

Prepared dish of sashimi, diced vegetables and cheese

Prepared dish of sashimi, diced vegetables and cheese

Generous tastings of the prepared dishes were provided, and as Chef Morimoto completed his fish entree with diced raw vegetables and vinaigrette dressing, he dusted salt on top and exclaimed “Bam,” which got a loud laugh from the crowd. Chef Tsai’s dish of kampachi fish with curry oil was presented with sliced cucumbers accompanied with a fusion mixture of flavors.  Each chef proved to be a master of incorporating different east-west disciplines and developing exquisite food flavors, textures and designs.

These two chefs, dedicated to their culinary methods, successfully spread the message that Hawaii has much to offer with home-grown island foods and sustainability.

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