Mixing Up Art And A Spicy Kim Chee Poke

Diana Helfand
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Wednesday - June 24, 2009
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Doug Tolentino with some of his work

Douglas Po’oloa Tolentino is an artist, musician and Hawaiian scholar.

His father, who was raised in Nanakuli, joined the U.S. Marine Corps, married, and raised his family throughout the Pacific, before settling in Oceanside, Calif., where Doug was recognized as a gifted young artist.

Doug went to college to become an attorney, and worked as a paralegal for Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, specializing in genealogy, Hawaiian land documents and cultural research.

In his free time, he continued his childhood love of painting and exploring new art forms.

Doug met his wife, Kellie, while in college. Her family has a long history on the Leeward side of the island as cultural resources, and they encouraged Doug to pursue his artistic talents in art and music and give up the legal career, which changed his life!

In 1990, Aloha Magazine published an article on his art, and because of that he received commissions for his paintings from all over the world, and has been painting for more than 20 years, signing his work with his middle name, Po’oloa. Doug’s art contributions to the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival poster exposed his creations to the masses.

Disney designers discovered his talent, and asked him to be part of the art team for its newest Disney Grand Hawaiian Vacation Resort, slated to open in 2011 at Ko Olina.

It has been very important to the Disney team to be culturally sensitive to the Hawaiian people and has involved many Hawaiians from the Leeward coast in the planning of the resort. Disney is giving the Hawaiians a chance to tell their story through history, legends and chants.

Doug has been honored to be a part of the resort’s concept team; they wanted someone deeply steeped in the Hawaiian culture, especially from the area.

Doug’s genealogy is a direct connection the the land. He has been commissioned to do 12 paintings with figurative Hawaiian themes, to be used throughout the resort. He also is a talented musician and plays at the Halekulani Hotel’s House Without a Key at sundown each Sunday, Monday and Friday.

This column is dedicated to Doug, a talented artist who has pursued his dream.

Poke is a Hawaiian word meaning to slice or cut, and is traditionally bite-sized pieces of raw, fresh fish mixed with seaweed and various seasonings.

Poke can be found in most supermarkets in Hawaii, and is usually served as a snack, appetizer or lunch; homemade poke is usually flavored with salt, seaweed, shoyu and vinegar.

Poke chefs incorporate a host of ingredients, such as Hawaiian fish and different types of seafood, seeds, herbs, spices, nuts, vegetables, fruits and seasonings.

Here is a variation using kim chee, which has a spicy tang - great with a bowl of poi!


* 2 pounds ahi (yellow fin tuna), cubed into bite-sized pieces

* 1 Maui sweet onion, chopped

* 3/4 cup chopped green onion

* 2 cups ogo (seaweed)

* 3 tablespoons kim chee base, or to taste

* 1 teaspoon sesame oil

* 2 tablespoons Hawaiian honey

* 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

* salt, to taste

Mix together ahi, onions, ogo and kim chee base until combined. Combine oil, honey and sugar until mixed completely, and pour over ahi mixture. Toss to combine.

Refrigerate for two to three hours. Makes four servings.

Approximate Nutrition Information Per Serving:

Calories: 390
Fat: 2 grams
Cholesterol 102 milligrams
Sodium: will depend on kim chee base; read label for information and salt added to taste

(Diana Helfand, author of “Hawaii Light and Healthy” and “The Best of Heart-y Cooking,” has taught nutrition in the Kapiolani Community College culinary arts program.)

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