By Emi Suzuki
Earlier this year, Sumida Farm watercress was blessed to be included as the star ingredient for the 10th Annual Art of Healthy-licious Cooking Competition sponsored by Kahala Nui and Kapi‘olani Community College. The goal of the competition was for KCC culinary students to create an ‘ono and nutritious dish featuring watercress as the primary ingredient. Our family has always loved the versatility of watercress and we enjoy coming up with new ways to incorporate watercress into family meals. My in-laws once joked we are the “Bubba Gump '' of watercress—adding it to soups, salads, pasta, stir fry, sushi, and even cocktails. Watercress makes everything better!
When we were approached about this unique opportunity, we were excited to see what the trained KCC culinary students would be able to create with our watercress. For months, these incredible chefs worked tirelessly to ideate and refine innovative watercress recipes to present in a live demo for a panel of judges. I was the lucky one selected to represent Sumida Farm as the hungry and happy 4th judge.
Working on a farm is not glamorous work, but there is nothing more satisfying or fulfilling than helping to nourish the community. Just hours before I was sitting down to devour some of the best bites I’ve enjoyed this past year, I was cleaning toilets and working to clear out a clogged sprinkler filter. The contrast between my early morning and this mid-day event only further emphasized to me how lucky we are to do this hard work and to see the rewards in the form of one perfect watercress dumpling, drizzled with a pickled watercress vinaigrette and chili oil.
I recently came across an old email my Aunty Barbara wrote to a well-known local chef that still holds true to this day:
“I’m sure that if our Grandparents were still around, they would be proud and honored that their humble watercress that started out as something to be tossed into a pot of chicken hekka can today find a place in some of the best modern local cuisine.”
Our family and farm is proud to carry on the legacy of nourishing the community with what we believe is the world’s best watercress; to observe students who represent the future of the culinary world take our humble crop and turn it into the star of a dish, is an honor.
Thank you to the talented and dedicated chef competitors: Laurice Yuen, Von Gapay Cariaga, Christopher Fujimoto, Lisa Hoang, Aimee Chock, Jensyn Mison, Milena Ordonez, and Jacobi Godoy for putting so much aloha and passion into the competition. We can’t wait to see where each of you go in your careers and are honored to have been a part of your culinary education! Mahalo Kahala Nui and Kapi‘olani Community College for allowing us to participate!
Follow our blog for the competition recipes, which are not only ‘ono but also healthy and nourishing.