Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, September 19, 2004

Islands the envy of Mainland fans of canned fish from Samoa

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

There must be a wide Wahoo web stretching across the United States, because the buzz has reached the most unlikely places.

When a Hawai'i food distribution company secured the exclusive rights to supply the coveted canned 'ono from the Samoa Packing Co., the long-established rules of procurement changed.

It used to be that the Wahoo was available only in Samoa. People would come back from visits with cans and cans and cans of the stuff shoved in their suitcases. Whole wardrobes were left behind to make room.

Some people claim that you had to bring back the cans of fish stashes in your suitcase and NOT in a box marked "wahoo" because if the contents were so obvious, the shipment might very well mysteriously "disappear" in transit.

Van Camp's Chunk Style Wahoo canned fish from Samoa is now available at many of the state's supermarkets.

Advertiser library photo

Those precious cans of imported 'ono would be kept on high shelves in family kitchens, saved for special occasions or the favored few.

If you were lucky, you could sometimes find canned Wahoo for sale at one of the Samoan specialty markets on O'ahu, but it wasn't just on the regular tuna fish shelf; the Wahoo was kept in the back under the counter with the cigarettes and expensive liquor.

But in 2003, Family Food Company Hawai'i started importing the happy yellow-labeled cans to Hawai'i. Fish fans on the Mainland have been consumed with envy ever since.

Families on the West Coast have written to express their utter disbelief that Hawai'i shoppers can now find Van Camp's canned Wahoo on supermarket shelves — and often on special. Imagine!

People in the South e-mailed to ask if, by chance, there was any online Wahoo ordering form.

(Not yet.)

One family in New York already has a well-established Wahoo hook-up in Samoa, but wanted to know exactly where the stuff could be purchased in Hawai'i ... just in case, as a backup plan.

(FYI, Foodland, Longs, Daiei, Times, Wal-Mart and soon, Costco and Sam's Club.)

Edward Nakano, the man at Family Food responsible for bringing this beloved delicacy to Hawai'i supermarkets, is working on plans for an online market. He also has something special planned for Christmas gift-giving:

"For the holidays, we're going to be coming up with a 12-can gift pack," Nakano says. "We're working with the box manufacturer now. We think we're going to have an American flag, waving on the front, with Samoan words on it. Given the fact that it's a very steady seller, it's a gift that people would like to receive."

People across the continent would undoubtedly agree. Wrote one West Coast Wahoo connoisseur:

"In fact, whenever a family member is greeted upon returning from the islands, the first question is usually, ' Did you bring any Wahoo back?'"

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.