The Great Pohole Challenge

Five award-winning chefs share recipes—and oh, how far the humble fern can go!

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pohole tempura

Maui Fresh Streatery

Kyle KawakamiKyle Kawakami, the 2019 ‘Aipono Awards Chef of the Year, grew up in the farming community of Kula, and is a longtime proponent of local small business. You’ll find him at Kumu Farms in Wailuku, and at farmers markets around Maui, sourcing produce for his “Big Red” food truck. If you haven’t tried his fare, make a beeline for his internationally inspired, world-class plate lunches. Get there early; he sells out fast!

When I saw Kyle on social media, proclaiming his love for the delectable pohole, I knew he should be included in our challenge. The chef’s kakiage is home-boy food. Who doesn’t love a crisp, lightly battered shrimp and vegetable tempura? Add a salty dip of shoyu spiked with a squirt of Filipino calamansi lime, and the marriage is complete. I think this recipe is one for the family cookbook that will live in many island kitchens. Maybe yours, too.

Kaua‘i Shrimp & Pohole Kakiage Tempura

Servings: 4
Prep time: 1 hour

  • 8 pc. Kaua‘i shrimp, peeled and deveined, head on
  • 1 lb. Hāna pohole fern, cleaned and cut into 1” lengths
  • 1 Kula sweet onion, julienned
  • 4 c. assorted local vegetables (kabocha, eggplant, zucchini), sliced  thinly
  • 3 c. Japanese tempura batter mix*
  • 2 c. ice water
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying

Dipping sauce:

  • 1 calamansi lime, halved and seeded
  • ¼ c. soy sauce
  • Kaua‘i sea salt

Heat deep skillet or saucepan with 2” vegetable oil to 375°F. Gently mix 2 cups batter mix with ice water, taking care not to over mix. Place 1 cup of dry tempura mix in a bowl. Toss pohole in the dry mix, coating well. Remove to a platter. Dredge other ingredients with dry mix. 

Pour a small amount of wet batter over the pohole, tossing to coat well.  When the oil is hot, gently place half-cup portions of pohole mix into the oil and fry till golden brown. Drain on paper towels. In batches, dip the remaining vegetables in batter, deep fry and drain on paper towels.  Dip shrimp in batter and fry for 2 minutes, or till cooked through. Serve with calamansi-soy dipping sauce and Kaua‘i sea salt on the side.

*Ready-to-mix tempura flour is available at TJ’s Party Pantry in Wailuku, and all Longs Drugs.

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