Flying red banners announcing "Kung Hee Fat Choy" or Happy New Year in Chinese; Taiko Drums; Lion Dances; a children's Chinese costume contest; traditional Chinese dancers performing on stage; craft booths; a food court and much more kicked off the 6th Annual Chinese New Year's Festival celebration at Kalakaua Park in downtown Hilo this past Saturday, February 15th.
The food court consistedÂ of a series of tents set up forming an inverted U or horseshoe where you could find everything from hot dogs and flavored shave iceÂ to Thai, traditional Hawaiian, stuffed Chinese steamed buns, Mexican tacos and Pakistani food.
Chef Alan Okuda, directorÂ and Chef Sandy Barr, instructor atÂ the Hawaii Community college School of culinary Arts of Hilo.
At the opposite end of the park there were food and cooking demonstrations held by the students of the Hawaii Community College School of Culinary ArtsÂ of Hilo.
Chef Alan Okuda and Chef Sandy Barr, of the HCC Culinary program led some of their first year students in the demonstration and preparation of Baked Manapua.Â Manapua is the Hawaiian slang for Cha siu bao or pork-filled bun, which is traditionally steamed.Â The filling this timeÂ included Hawaiian cultivated Hamakua Heritage Mushrooms.Â The students also prepared a chicken salad composed of a mixture of locally grown lettuces, cabbage, carrots and pulled chicken.Â The salad was served with a plum dressing made with plum sauce, anise, garlic, ginger, sesame oil and sesame seeds.
Chef Alan Okuda assisting some of the culinary school students in making veggie flowers for garnishes
Some of the students also assisted in the preparation and cooking of several dishes presented by Dr. Leon Letoto, L.AcÂ of Oahu, a practitioner of healing arts at the Hawaiian Healing Garden who wasÂ demonstrating Chinese cookery with seasonal ingredients and Chinese medicinal herbs.
His Chinese Dietary Therapy cooking demonstration was well attended and it was at times hard for me to be able to take photos.Â I regret to say that I was not able to even taste the food, which I understand were a specially healthy stir fry, a soup and a stew.
We did get to eat a delicious amd zippy Thai Sweet and Sour Chicken loaded with tomato wedges, red bell pepper strips, pineapple chunks and very flavorful pumpkin type squash served over rice.Â For festival food, this was first class!
As we left the park,Â the banners and flags being sold from one both were set to dance in the breeze.
For more on the 6th Annual Chinese New Year Festival, please visit my blog site Sonia Tastes Hawaii
Sonia Martinez, Gather Food Correspondent
Sonia's column, 'Tropical Taste' is a regular twice-monthly feature of Gather Essentials: Food.
Sonia is a cookbook author and freelance food writer for several publications in Hawaii, and is also a Hawaii Island Journal restaurant reviewer in partnership with her son Anthony Mathis. Â She lives in a beautiful rural rainforest area on the Big Island of Hawaii.
You can keep up with Sonia's adventures and ongoing love affair with Hawaii by joining her network, or visiting her food & garden blog at Sonia Tastes Hawaii.