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Vote for your favorite appetizer in the Maui Onion Challenge

By Staff | Apr 28, 2011

Pulehu, an Italian Grill at The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort has prepared a Maui Onion Strudel for the challenge. Photo by Sumithra Balraj.

KAANAPALI — What magnificent, imaginative chefs we have here on Maui!

On Saturday, May 7, Whalers Village will host the 22nd annual Maui Onion Festival. New this year is the Maui Onion Challenge, with eight Kaanapali restaurants in a friendly competition to see who has the best Maui Onion appetizer! Try the appetizers and vote through May 6.

After sampling eight marvelous creations, the judges will indeed have a tough decision picking the winner. Each chef deserves to win!

We started with Executive Sous Chef Conrad Aquino of Sheraton’s Black Rock Steak & Seafood Restaurant featuring his Kula Onion Phyllo Wrap — an amazing creation with caramelized Kula onions, hearts of palm and roasted eggplant grilled to perfection, encased in a phyllo wrap resembling a miniature gift box, topped with a shrimp and tied with a bow. What a beautiful presentation!

Next, we went to the Tiki Terrace Restaurant at Kaanapali Beach Hotel, with Executive Sous Chef Chris Napoleon presenting a spicy Maui Onion-Stuffed Pasta topped with Maderia Demi Sauce over Rainbow Beets — OH, so clever and creative.

“The idea for the dish is pure and simple,” stated Chef Napoleon. “I want people to experience the Maui Onion — the juice, the flavor, the essence, without having to eat the whole onion. I want people to understand that a Maui Onion is more than just an onion.”

The pale red circle on the dish is Maui Onion mixed with crushed beets. The onion foam cream topping the beets is Maui Onion juice mixed with heavy cream.

Chef Kaipo Nakata of Cane & Taro located in Whalers Village presented two intriguing appetizers. The one for the contest is a large, succulent Kauai Shrimp & Kona Cold Lobster Cake — firm and crusty with spicy fennel and Maui Onion Slaw, topped with a perky Prawn and Lobster Sauce an absolutely perfect cake.

The second one for his booth at the festival is Kochujang Swordfish Tacos, brimming over with Maui kim chee, spicy kalbi sauce, crispy Maui Onion rings and succulent swordfish.

At Tropica Restaurant & Bar at The Westin Maui, Chef de Cuisine Ikaika Manaku featured Kim Chee Kula Onion Chow Fun with Tempura-Braised Pork Belly.

“The Maui Onion is delicately cut into long and curled strips and marinated with kim chee spices,” said Chef Manaku. “The pork belly is dipped into tempura batter and lightly fried to retain its moistness. Combined with the stir-fried chow fun and Maui Onion, you will find the dish bursting with delightful flavors.”

This unusual combination was certainly a savory appetizer and pleasing to the eye.

Pulehu, an Italian Grill located at The Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas presented an attractive dessert: the Maui Onion Strudel. The strudel includes layers of light puff pastry filled with Italian pancetta and sautéed Maui Onions, served on lemon butter sauce with spicy chili oil and garnished with micro greens.

The three-tiered level presentation reflects the ingenuity of the three chefs, with Executive Chef Francois Milliet creating the tallest tier on the dish, Sous Chef Raymond Nicasio the mid-height tier Sous Chef Saipin Kumlor the small tier.

The unique flavor of this dessert was robust and certainly satisfying.

C.J. Jorgenson of CJ’s Deli & Diner in the Kaanapali Fairway Shops presented a beautifully created Maui Onion & Prawn Quiche with Kula Greens. With “tons of Maui Onions,” pancetta, prawns, eight eggs, grated Romano cheese, Danish blue cheese and heavy whipping cream — just to mention a few of the enticing ingredients — it’s a winning quiche for sure!

Executive Chef Bernardo Salazar of the Royal Lahaina Resort’s Ocean Terrace presented huge — make that MASSIVE — delectable Maui Onion Jalapeno Rings (with just a hint of jalapeno).

“We diced jalapenos and rendered it to extract the oils,” said Chef Salazar. “We paired it with fresh Pistachio and Cilantro Aioli and Hawaiian Cane-Ginger Syrup.”

The enormous rings resembled cinnamon donuts! You could taste the onion’s sweetness in the crunch — an appealing onion appetizer!

Executive Chef Kevin Boyle of the Umalu ocean front restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Maui created a unique Caramelized Maui Onion Flatbread with Surfing Goat Chevre & Pork Belly Lardon. It’s an attractive and piquant appetizer resembling a small pizza.

An array of culinary talent will gather to create such splendid appetizers on May 7 at the Maui Onion Festival. This is an event you do not want to miss. See you there!

Pau for now…