Over Labor Day weekend, we were fortunate enough to be invited to attend the third annual Kā‘anapali Fresh festival. And, lucky me, this year I managed to get myself over to Maui before the media welcome dinner or any other festivities got under way!

The media welcome dinner was held at Japengo at the Hyatt where their sushi master, Chef Il Yuk “Kaz” Kim, did a little demo (he offers a sushi class on Sundays) and offered us a selection of sushi which included—much to my delight—seared aku (skipjack tuna or bonito).

Seared aku (skipjack or bonito) at Japengo at the Hyatt Maui. © 2014 Sugar + Shake

I haven’t had aku in ages. When I was a kid, my mom used to make fried aku bone for us all the time. When I moved in with Shake, I made it for him. It was an inexpensive cut (basically the “waste” after fillets are cut off the fish) and easy to make. But for probably about a decade, I haven’t seen it in the market. I searched for it when shooting a cookbook for work and had to substitute the darkest, ugliest ‘ahi I could find for the shot because I just could not turn up any aku.

So I got super excited when I asked Chef Kaz what kind of fish the seared item was. “Skeepjahk,” he said. (He has an accent.) Skipjaaa…oh! Aku! I snapped up several pieces, went back to the table and excitedly poked Shake, “They have seared aku!” Off he went. This was not a particularly popular item with the visiting media. The rest of the sushi disappeared pretty much instantaneously while there were quite a few pieces of aku left. It’s generally described as “assertively flavored,” so if you’re the kind of person who sticks to mahi mahi…well, aku’s probably not for you. Score for us! We went back for another round. Who needs spicy ‘ahi when you can have this stuff?!

Any other aku lovers out there?

Disclosure: Sugar + Shake were hosted by the Maui Visitors Bureau, Kā‘anapali Beach Resort Association, Kā‘anapali Fresh and the Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival. Travel, accommodations and access to events were provided by the hosts, but no compensation was received for this post, and the opinions expressed are strictly my own.