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Hawaii-style I Love Poke fests come to California. Where to go + prize-winning poke recipes!

i_love_poke_festival_2010Californians who’ve had a taste of Hawaii-style poke love it as much as Hawaii residents do. And they've got two—count ‘em, two—upcoming festivals that prove that amore.

In April, San Diego and Huntington Beach are hosting I Love Poke Festivals, showcasing more than 15 different styles of the favorite Hawaii snack-appetizer-lunch-dinner-whatever mainstay.

Poke— pronounced “poh-KAY”—is the Hawaiian word describing the action of slicing, or cutting crosswise into pieces. And that pretty much describes the dish, most commonly made with raw ahi (tuna), cut into square cubes and seasoned with spices such as soy sauce, Hawaiian sea salt and sesame oil, and accented with limu (seaweed), crushed kukui nut, green onion and other ingredients. You can, literally, find poke everywhere in Hawaii—from small roadside grocery stores to large supermarkets to fish markets and upscale restaurants.

i_love_poke_festival_2010If you live in either San Diego or Huntington, we suggest you check out the fests.

The Huntington Beach I Love Poke Festival happens April 12, at 6 p.m., at Don the Beachcomber restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway. Hawaii-born actress and singer Tia Carrere will emcee the event. San Diego’s I Love Poke Festival (pictured, left)— the city’s second annual edition—happens a week later on April 20, at 6 p.m., at Bali Hai Restaurant on San Diego’s Shelter Island.

What will happen at both fests?

First off, chefs from area restaurants will compete in two categories — “Best Poke” and “Surprise Me Poke.” They’ll be judged. Then everyone gets to eat some great poke.

The fest is a great way for far-flung connoisseurs to get their poke fix, or introduce poke to first-timers.

i_love_poke_festival_2010“We’re stoked to be bringing the I Love Poke Festival to Orange County this year and keep California connected to Hawaii,” says Nino “Neens” Camilo, founder of Musubi Map, California’s guide to all things Hawaii. “Hawaii-lovers that live on the Mainland, like myself, can indulge in this essential Hawaiian dish as well as many other island favorites.”

Tickets to both events are $50 presale, $65 at the door, with $5 of each ticket sale benefiting a local nonprofit. Tickets can be purchased at www.ilovemusubi.com. (Yes, the website really is iloveMUSUBI.com.)

Want to whip up the winning poke from 2010’s I Love Poke Festival categories? We’ve got the recipes right here. Just click on to the next page.

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