Source: Hawaii Magazine

Meet Alan Wong and Get a Taste for Some of His Mouth-Watering Hawaiian-Fusion Inspired Recipes

When you think of successful celebrity chefs, there are a few names that come to mind, Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver, Wolfgang Puck.

But there is one under-appreciated and relatively unknown character in the world of famous culinary experts who have achieved much more than most of us realise.

Alan Wong made his fortune in the early nineties and was one of the initial proponents of the paddock-to-plate trend that took hold of the world of food and influenced some of the afore-mentioned, more well-known celebrity chefs.

The Hawaiian native has owned some of the world’s most exclusive and delicious eateries in Hawaii, Tokyo and Shanghai.

While probably not a billionaire as many claim, the top chef has amassed a fortune to be envied through his cookbooks, restaurants and positions on committees and culinary bodies worldwide.

He has been the recipient of many of the most prestigious awards for cooking and food and is actively involved in charities and organisations that fight for the rights of farmers and producers.

His recipes are nothing short of inspired, one of the most famous being his Singapore-Style Coconut Kim Chee Curry Seafood Stew.

For this delicious dish, Chef Wong has been inspired by the history of Singapore, where Chinese men arrived to work on the railroads of the island nation and married Malay women, an intriguing parallel to Hawaiian history.

These men longed for Chinese food but their wives only knew how to cook in the local Malay-style, so they started cooking coconut-based curry-stew, the ingredients locally sourced seafood and island produce.

The type of cuisine that evolved from this Malay-Chinese influence is called Peranakan cuisine and Chef Wong has given this recipe his own unique touch.

His flagship restaurant in Honolulu, Alan Wong’s, was reputedly a favourite of another famous Hawaiian native, Barack Obama, who liked the food so much he invited Wong to cook a traditional luau feast at the annual White House Congressional picnic in 2009.

Of President Obama, Wong is quoted as saying, “It’s not the first time I’ve cooked for the President. But every time, it’s a chicken-skin moment.”

Wong was born in Tokyo in 1956 to his Japanese mother and half-Hawaiian, half-Chinese father, he spent his first few years on a military base before moving to Hawaii aged five.

He got his start in the culinary industry on a Pineapple Plantation aged 15, subsequently attending the Kapi’olani Community College Culinary Arts program in Honolulu.

From there he went on to apprentice at Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia, before moving to New York to work under the great Chef Andre Soltner at Lutèce.

Chef Wong attributes his talents to the tutelage of Andre Soltner a classically trained Fresh chef who made his name at Lutèce, referred to as, “[one of] the last bastions of grand luxe dining in New York.”

After honing his skills in New York, Wong, along with eleven other chefs created the culinary organisation, Hawaii Regional Cuisine.

Launched years before the farm-to-table explosion of the mid-nineties, this body helped create a new regional American cuisine with a strong focus on the provenance of ingredients and a multitude of ethnic dishes that could be created from those ingredients.

Awards and accolades followed from here with Wong quickly becoming one of the most successful chefs on the planet in the mid-nineties.

Alan Wong’s restaurants were at the top of their game for 25 years but unfortunately in recent years started a gradual decline accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sadly all his eateries have now closed, but there is still a way to try his sumptuous cuisine by securing a copy of one of his cookbooks.

“New Wave Luau” released in 1999 to much acclaim and “The Blue Tomato: The Inspirations Behind the Cuisine of Alan Wong” contains some of his best recipes and some simply delicious-looking pictures of his food. 

There is his minute poke with the traditional Hawaiian garnishes of seaweed and kukui nuts.

Or his foie gras with green apples, macadamia nuts and Israeli couscous.

These cookbooks are packed to the brim with Alan Wong’s unique take on Hawaiian-Fusion foods and encourage the home cook to make use of the best ingredients to create true culinary masterpieces.

So open up the pantry and dust off the old spatula, if you haven’t tried Alan Wong’s unique brand of versatile, healthy and of course, delicious food, now is the time to start!

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