I have no idea how it all happened, but I wound up handing luau trays of chef-prepared tilapia to a bunch of kids.
A few weeks ago, I volunteered to help isisHawaii, a nonprofit dedicated to getting students excited as bout science and technology, with a food-based sustainability project.
The organization needed help recruiting chefs who would be willing and able to cook up farm-raised tilapia for kids and parents — along with locally grown produce from Mari’s Gardens in Mililani — to teach them how to cook and eat in a sustainable way.
Fresh produce from Mari’s Gardens.
That’s where I came in.
I called in a bunch of favors — to chefs Ed Kenney (@edstown) and Elmer Guzman (@pokestop) — who both agreed to put on demos. And Mel Sumida (@mels808) asked Chris Okuhara from Miso & Ale to help, too.
The crews from Poke Stop and Miso & Ale
The event was called Tasty Tidbits and it was held at two elementary schools — Ala Wai Elementary and Lunalilo Elementary — with dozens of parents and students in attendance.
I gotta say, these chefs turned out gourmet dishes using hot plates and electric frying pans — using tilapia and fresh veggies.
Like Okuhara’s red Thai curry on rice noodles or Guzman’s smoke tilapia.
Here’s the spicy curry with tilapia from Miso & Ale.
And here are the lettuce wraps using Guzman’s smoked tilapia.
The reason for using tilapia: this is a fish often used in aquaponics, where combines aquaculture and hydroponics. The fish waste is used to fertilize the plants, which grow without soil.
“If it’s grown together, it goes together,” said Kenney at a cooking demo at Lunalilo Elementary.
It’s a sustainable product — and aqupaonics uses substantially less water than traditional soil-based agriculture.
Tilapia is one of those fish that make people in Hawaii shudder. A lot of us relate them to the big, black mutant fish found in the Ala Wai Canal.
But those are just that — mutants — and nothing like the fish we ate at these events.
Turns out, tilapia is the second-most important fish in aquaculture in the world, fourth in the United States. It’s farmed in more than 85 countries. And people around the world eat it.
And it’s no surprise.
It’s not a fishy fish; meaning, it’s easy to eat, especially for those who aren’t big fish fans. It’s got big bones that are easy to find and pull out. And the skin, when fried, is its own tasty treat.
These two events really showcased the tilapia and fresh local produce in a way that, I’m sure, inspired the families who turned out.
At least it did me.
CAT: I am not a big tilapia fan as I prefer saltwater fish to freshwater. Same goes for trout. Salmon is an exception but most salmon spend the bulk of their lives in the ocean and only comeback to fresh water to spawn and die. Like trout, without some kind of sauce or seasoning, the flesh is very bland. With the way the seafood is going, aquaculture is the way to the future. The creativity of these new chefs is amazing, they could probably find a delectable way to eat leather! This seems like a great project to get our keiki engaged into the future. Good post.
Good blog! We need to help our children experience Science and technology through different venues. Also our parents. Yes, I’m one of those living by the Ala Wai and see those visitors fishing for the mutants!
The faces of the boys in your first picture say it all. Food makes almost everything fun, and they were lovin’ it.
Sustainable farming and fishing aren’t just an experiment. They’re an imperative, or bad things are going to happen to the 7 billion and climbing people on this planet.
Thanks for all your help, Cat!!!! The chefs were awesome and made learning about sustainability and food security (as well as health and nutrition) more meaningful and relevant. Mahalo!
Given the “quality” of fish Tilapia was fishing in the 60’s at ala moana park canal, I still feel uncomfortable eating it, even if it is now farm raised. I wonder why they call it “Sun Fish” now? Too many people have the yucks about Tilapia?