Buck Sam Kong’s Kung Fu legacy in America is one of the most enduring in the 21st century. And he remains one of the world’s leading Hung Gar grandmasters. A direct lineage descendent from the legendary Wong Fei Hung, via Lam Sai Wing and Lam Jo, Buck Sam Kong was one of the earliest pioneers of Kung Fu in the USA, and one of the first to teach to non-Chinese.

Today his students are scattered across America and Europe, carrying on his legacy with various Siu Lum Pai Kung Fu Association branches; he has written instructional books that have become classics. He continues to keep his art lively and alive in his airy, modest studio in Los Angeles, CA.

Hung Gar Master Buck Sam Kong

Kung Fu Kitchen Hung Gar Master Buck Sam Kong

Buck Sam Kong began studying Hung Gar as a child in Hong Kong with his sifu, Lam Jo, when he was eight years old. By the time he was a teenager he had mastered the essential sets and weapons of the style, from the Lau Gar Kuen to the Gung Gee Fook Fu and Fu Hok. As a teen, he also became interested in studying Choy Li Fut.

When he moved to Hawaii in 1956 with his parents he encountered a veritable martial arts melting pot, and he enjoyed the exposure to other styles like karate, aikido and judo. Becoming a U.S. citizen, Kong was drafted into the army in 1961 where he taught hand-to-hand combat in Korea.  Returning to Hawaii in 1963 he opened his first school, where he quickly became one of the island’s most renowned masters.

Kung Fu Kitchen Hung Gar Master Buck Sam Kong

When other traditional Chinese sifus objected to Kong’s teaching non-Chinese of different races, and came to challenge him at his school, the Hung Gar master says, “We showed them our good hands, and they never showed their faces again.”

Kong’s Honolulu school grew on into the 1970s, until he decided to move to the mainland with his family so his three children would have more college opportunities. He opened another popular school in Hollywood where he taught a devoted community of diverse students, led a lion dance troupe, made dit dar herbal medicine in the Hong Kong tradition, and put out his iconic books, about one every decade.

Buck Sam Kong Kung Fu Kitchen

Kung Fu Kitchen Hung Gar Master Buck Sam Kong

For those lucky enough to spend time with Kong, they quickly learn that he loves to eat, and he makes a mean barbeque. He savors a hearty yum cha (the Cantonese term for a dim sum meal), and roast goose is a favored traditional Chinese specialty. Kong’s Hawaiian roots stay strong, and one of his favorite dishes to make in his Kung Fu kitchen at home is classic Hawaiian poke, an iconic taste of the Aloha state.

In Honolulu his go-to spot for premier poke is the incredible Tamashiro Market, near Chinatown on King St., which offers many varieties of the dish concocted with the freshest local fish.

Kung Fu Kitchen Hung Gar Master Buck Sam Kong
Buck Sam Kong with his Sifu, Lam Jo, in Lam Jo’s kwoon in Mongkok, Hong Kong, in the 1990s.
Photo Credit: Martha Burr

Poke was originally a fisherman’s dish that’s now ubiquitous everywhere in Hawaii, and often considered an unofficial national dish. Authentic, traditional Hawaiian poke includes limu, a Hawaiian seaweed, and kukui nut (aka candlenut, also popular in Southeast Asia), both of which are difficult to find outside the island. However, hijiki, wakame and macadamia nuts make an excellent substitute, if desired.

At home in Los Angeles Kong makes his own delicious tuna poke. While poke has become something of a craze in California lately, Kong has been making it since moving there in the 70s! Way ahead of the curve. Poke, essentially a marinated raw fish salad, is a great dish for before or after training, being high in protein and low in fat. Seaweed such as hijiki or wakame also adds excellent nutrients.

Buck Sam Kong’s Hawaiian Poke Recipe in His Kung Fu Kitchen

Kung Fu Kitchen Hung Gar Master Buck Sam Kong

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. fresh ahi tuna (ask for sushi grade)
  • 1/2 cup shoyu, or soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup green onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon wakame or hijiki seaweed (or both)
  • 1 Tablespoon crushed macadamia nut, optional
  • 1 sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes, optional

Directions:

  1. Soak dried hijiki or wakame in warm water for a few minutes to rehydrate, then rinse and chop fine.
  2. Cut the tuna into half-inch cubes.
  3. Mix tuna gently with seaweed and all other ingredients.
  4. Let stand for 20 minutes, or chill until serving.

Note: You can also substitute salmon, yellowtail, or albacore. A good hack is utilizing furikake, the dried seasoning that includes sesame seeds and wakame, for quicker prep, or spice it up with crushed red pepper depending on your taste. Natural shoyu will give a cleaner taste, and is healthier, but regular soy sauce is fine also.

Serve as an appetizer, main dish, or create a healthy poke bowl meal with rice and veggies.

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