POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Dec 01, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 02:15 a.m. HST, Dec 01, 2010
Alan Wong's new cookbook, "The Blue Tomato," is based on the philosophy of Why Not? As in, anything is possible. As in, sure, you could make blue ketchup.
'The Blue Tomato'Alan Wong's new cookbook is not yet available in stores. Order through www.thebluetomato.net or call
Watermark Publishing, toll-free, (866) 900-BOOK. Books are also available at Wong's King Street restaurant or at these book signings with the chef:
» Downtown Holiday Book Fair: 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday, Cades Schutte Building lanai, corner of Bishop and King streets
» KCC Farmers Market: Dec. 11, Kuahiwi Beef tent, with cooking demonstration at 8 a.m.
» Alan Wong's Holiday Market: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 12, Alan Wong's restaurant, 1857 South King St.
Includes tasting, guest vendors. Valet parking, $3.
He held up a red tomato and told them that's what ketchup came from. The kids latched onto this, looking at yellow and green tomatoes and asking if they could be used to make yellow and green ketchup. Wong said yes.
"The next kid raises his hand and says, 'Can you make blue ketchup?' and I said, 'Get me a blue tomato and I can make blue ketchup.'"
Long story short, this exchange was a light-bulb moment, illuminating the idea that the world may be full of givens, but it's also full of possibilities. "I think that's all linked to imagination and creativity," Wong said.
Two years later, that moment has become a cookbook that lays out the Keaukaha story and the philosophy for cooking and life it has inspired.
"Why does lumpia have to be that shape?" Wong asks. "Why can't it be round like a pingpong ball?" Why can't you use a Spam musubi mold to make something else? Why does a bun have to be bread?
In "Blue Tomato" Wong offers recipes for a round, ahi-filled lumpia; for a poke and tuna pate loaf pressed in a musubi mold; for a ground duck meatball cut in half to form a "bun" slotted with lup cheong sausage, lettuce and tomato.
Wong's visit to Keaukaha School came about through another man's inspiration - Big Island farmer Richard Ha learned that the students never took field trips because they couldn't afford buses. "Their idea of an excursion," Wong said, "was they walk down to the beach. Walk back."
Ha created an adoption program where for $600 a group or individual could fund a field trip. Wong and his staff sponsored two, and the chef made the trip to Keaukaha, preparing food for the students outdoors in a small garden where they had just planted taro.
Lehua Veincent, principal of the 360-student school on Hawaiian Homelands, said his students were unaccustomed to such celebrity, so Wong's visit made an impression.
"They got a grasp of the importance of growing your own food, of taking care of your own garden" - all things that they'd been told before, but Wong drove it home.
Those sixth-graders are now high school freshmen, and Veincent said they still talk about Wong's visit. Their garden is now planted with sweet potatoes and yams as well, and current students harvest and cook the crops.
As for Wong, he's since determined that the culinary definition of ketchup is simply that it is a condiment usually made with vinegar, but not always tomatoes. It originated, in fact, in China, as a fermented fish-based concoction, "ke-tsiap." He's made ketchups with mango and pineapple, even a white ketchup with goat cheese.
He hasn't found a blue tomato yet, but he believes there's one in his future.
"Forget the rules," he said. "Just do it." Or, to quote his friend Ha: "Not no can! Can!"