Breadfruit: What to do? What to do? Photo courtesy Sonia Martinez.

An upcoming recipe competition on the Big Island will celebrate Hawai’i’s largely unappreciated one-time staple, ulu or breadfruit (see details below).

Breadfruit, starchy, bland but filling, wasn’t Hawaiians’ favorite; they preferred kalo (taro) and ‘uala (sweet potatoes), but it was an important staple especially in famine times, and a food of symbolic importance, as well.
I’ll never forget walking out my front door when I lived in a little house on Punchbowl hill with a breadfruit tree in the front yard. There was a Samoan man up my tree. He looked at me. I looked at him. He smiled abashedly. I smiled invitingly and gestured, “Take, take.” He took. I realized then that I’d been babying a stubborn mountain apple in the back yard (they need CHOKE water; never got it to fruit) and forgotten the breadfruit altogether. I realized, writing this, that I’ve never done a story on breadfruit, nor have any breadfruit recipes been included in any of my cookbooks. I don’t even have a breadfruit photo in my archives. Astonishing!
Recently, at a Samoan family party, the matriarch shared breadfruit recipes with me. All of them seemed to involve immense quantities of butter or some other form of fat (corned beef juices from the Palm can).
Best way I’ve ever had breadfruit was direct from a wood fire, charred and smoky-flavored. Butter was involved but not in heart-stopping quantities. Got any breadfruit ideas for me? Or breadfruit stories?
Here, from my friend Sonia Martinez, “the Cuban Wahine,” on the Big Island, details on the recipe competition in March. You have to be there and bring in your dish but it might be an enjoyable excursion.
As a veteran of judging many such contests, my advice is: Remember to let the focused-upon ingredient star. Don’t cover it up so much with other goodies — this will be a particular challenge with breadfruit — that its character is lost. More unasked-for advice: Taste reins supreme but presentation goes a LONG way. Practice at home several times. In this case, it is vital to choose a recipe that can be prepared in advance and not lose appeal. Take twice as much of everything as you think you need. Be early or at least on time. Don’t expect anyone to baby you because you forgot something or didn’t read the rules carefully.

Ho’oulu Ka ‘Ulu – Revitalizing Breadfruit Festival

Benefiting Kua O Ka La Charter School, Pu’ala’a, Hawai’i Island11 a.m. Saturday, March 3rd, 2012 (judging from 11 a.m. but entries must be in between 8 and 10 a.m.).

Categories: Appetizer, Main Dish/Entrée, Dessert. One entry per person per category. Breadfruit must be MAIN ingredient, not garnish. Criteria: Best use of breadfruit. Taste. Appearance/Presentation. Originality. Healthy ingredients

Entry form deadline: Feb. 26.  The Entry and Recipe Forms will be made available soon at the Kua O Ka La School website, at the Hawai’i HomeGrown Food Network site and at the site.

Prizes: First, Second and Third Place per category, plus Best of Show and Healthiest Choice (the latter chosen from among the first-place winners).

Questions: Sonia R. Martinez, 963-6860 or e-mail