The festivities have come to an end at this year’s Sam Choy’s Poke Contest and a new rising star has entered the hallowed halls of poke highness. Held mid-March each year at the Sheraton Keauhou Resort and Spa along the Kona Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, chefs from all over the island gather to slice, chop and mix their way into poke prizes.

John Derrick
Published on: 08-13-2019
Published by: John C. Derrick

This year was no different. The festival is an eclectic mix of cultural heritage and cuisine that makes for an enjoyable and genuine island experience. With the admission being less than case of beer, this festival is one that brings out the locals and island visitors to enjoy cultural pomp and protocol along with an opportunity to meet Hawaii’s celebrity Chef Sam Choy who has altered the price of premium tuna world-wide and forever.

This years contest was the usual success with educational and cultural activities, a poke making demo by Sam Choy himself, entertainment, celebrity poke-off and the featured event the poke competition.

This year, the overall winner was a congenial boy from Puna who is a plumber by trade but looks like he could be a running back in the NFL and admits to be a weekend poke hound. Nakoa Pabre took home two huge awards this year.  The Best Overall 2013 winner and the winner in the Professional Division with Soy Sauce.

Overall winner was his delightful Lemon-Lime poke that includes Hawaii’s local Aloha Shoyu, kaffir lime, Maui onions and more. His other award winner was his unique Poke Bombs. Served in an inari sushi wrapper, the recipe includes rice and exotic island ingredients.

The best news is that Nakoa Pabre’s poke can be found at his newly opened shop located a block upslope from Alii Drive in the very heart of Kailua-Kona.

Umekes is located along Hualalai Road across the street from the library. Nakoa says that his lemon-lime poke goes quickly and the poke bombs are gone by noon. The small shop has a small parking lot and a couple of shaded picnic tables outside but the poke experience lends itself best to take-out to be enjoyed with a cold beer at an ocean view spot for your choice.

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