Welcome to the Issue: Ahi Love
All you ever wanted to know about Hawaii's favorite fish.
Photo: Olivier Koning
The end of the year is fast approaching and, if you’re anything like us, the flurry of holiday parties has already begun. Revelers on the Mainland might break out the spiked egg nog and honey ham, but here in Hawaii, more often than not, we’re celebrating with party platters full of ahi sashimi.
Island consumers buy so much yellowfin and bigeye tuna this time of year, in fact, the price of sashimi-grade ahi often spikes to $30 per pound, or more. And still we buy it.
As ahi mania ramps up, we decided to explore the world of ahi. Food and dining editor Martha Cheng brings to life the work and craft that goes into delivering you that tasty poke bowl, from the fishermen who spend weeks at a time at sea, catching as many as 200 ahi on lines that stretch more than 40 miles, to the scientists who are tackling the seemingly impossible challenge of farming ahi. (Turns out one of the hardest parts is just getting the fish not to kill themselves.)
And then, of course, we point out the fish markets and restaurants where you can score the freshest ahi in town. My mouth is watering already.
Also in this issue, a farewell to the International Market Place, which gets cleared out at the end of the month to make way for an extensive new retail and dining development. If you’ve only ever known the Market Place as a cheesy, downmarket tourist trap, you might want to give this feature a read—senior editor David Thompson makes the case that the re-building of the site may well bring it back, in spirit at least, to its glory days of the 1960s. (Minus, unfortunately, the tree-house dining room and radio station that used to hang in the towering banyan tree.)
Last, but not least, I’ve got a personnel transition to note: Tiffany Hill’s feature this month on Obama’s Hawaii vacation habits will be her last as associate editor. She’s moving on to new adventures, after more than five years with HONOLULU Magazine. In that time, Tiffany has been an integral part of the team, bringing to our pages her curiosity and her heart for social justice—we’ll miss her. Best of luck, Tiffany, and thanks.
Catherine “Cat” Black was born in Kenya and raised in Kailua, Oahu. Before returning to the Islands last year, she lived in San Francisco and, most recently, Argentina, where she co-founded and edited a community newspaper and cultural magazine in Buenos Aires. She currently works in the communications department at Punahou School and freelances as a writer/community organizer. Part of a generation that grew up with the live music of Dread Ashanti, she was amazed to learn that the band had regrouped and felt inspired to write about them after attending their Kailua comeback show, which she called “pure magic.” Dive into their resurgence.
Steve Czerniak has always been interested in working behind the lens. He began his photo career by documenting people and their pets, establishing Wag and Snap Photography in 2010. Although his first love is photographing animals, his current passion is food. For this month’s feature on ahi, Czerniak documented everything from the fish auction at dawn to a master sushi chef at Nobu. “There is a specific craft in every stage involving this complex fish, from pricing to preparation,” he says. “A beautifully composed dish at Nobu is only part of a bigger story.” A big story, indeed.
Mari Taketa has covered topics from sumo wrestling to business and plate lunches in print and online media for 15 years, but none in as much raw detail as this month’s feature package on ahi. Her interviews with chefs, fishmongers and scientists were conducted almost exclusively in the presence of gleaming displays of fresh, world-class ahi. “People in Hawaii don’t know how lucky they are,” a sushi chef told her. “Even in Japan you don’t often see [ahi] this fresh.” Weeks after she finished her reporting, Taketa still craves ahi.