Hokto Kinoko’s Culinary Seminars at the San Diego County Fair – Part 2

The 2010 San Diego County Fair opened last Friday, June 11, with a “Taste the Fun” theme that celebrates food. The main, theme-based attraction is “Tour of Tastes,” an exhibition featuring cooking competitions and demos. Again, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak on behalf of Hokto at the San Diego County Fair on June 22nd, demonstrating the versatility and flavor of Hokto mushrooms. We continue to have a great turnout, with more than 150 people in attendance to observe Chef David prepare three dishes made with all four varieties of Hokto mushrooms –King Trumpet, White Beech, Brown Beech and Maitake.

An “Iron Chef” mini-competition began using two volunteers from the audience! I was selected to participate in the contest to see who could prepare a stir-fry in six minutes or less that tasted fabulous and looked great. A panel of four judges would compare the meals for flavor, eye-appeal.

But wait—there were more rules—the contestants were to follow a designated chef that would instruct the contestants but the chefs were not allowed to directly help, no touching any of the utensils, ingredients or the pans, etc.  And in the heat of the moment if the chefs violated any of the rules, their fate was a 30 to 60 second time out depending on the severity of the “violation”.

It was great fun to compete and work with culinary experts. We used many local ingredients such as local vegetable purees, shrimp, sausage and of course, Hokto mushrooms. Members of the audience participated in the competition, enjoyed the competition as well as the meals the contestants prepared.

The culinary demos continued with the theme of cooking with beer as Chef David prepared sautéed Hokto mushroom dishes. While the chef prepared the beer batter and deep-fried mushroom dish, I had an opportunity to share interesting facts about Hokto mushrooms and highlight some of the special qualities these locally grown Japanese mushrooms have to offer, such as the nutritional value, health benefits and savory flavor. As the White and Brown Beech mushrooms simmered away I answered questions from the audience about different type of oil to use when sautéing or deep-frying mushrooms.

While olive, canola, peanut and sesame oil can be used for stir frying, soybean and canola oil blends are typically used for deep frying because they can be heated to a higher temperature without reaching smoke point. Smoke point is when heated oil starts to break down and gives off an unpleasant, almost burnt, odor and smoke. So cooking in the proper oil can help enhance the success of deep frying mushrooms and the success of your meal. The beer batter mushroom dish was passed around and was enjoyed by everyone.

If you have an opportunity to visit the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar, CA this year, please visit the Activity Center (directly inside the main gate), where a number of culinary competitions are underway for the next two weeks. We’ll be there again on Tuesday, June 29th, with acclaimed chefs preparing Hokto mushrooms for everyone to enjoy.

Stay tuned for more news from the San Diego County Fair!