Firehouse food truck: food from Guam and Texas
From left: chicken kelaguan tacos, Firehouse truck (photo courtesy of Firehouse)
"Guam is a lot like Texas—everyone's grilling all the time," says Jeff Sampson, owner of the Firehouse food truck, which flies flags from Guam and Texas, and now serves as the kitchen of Aloha Beer Co. Sampson grew up in Texas, spent 18 years in Guam and ran restaurants there for 15 years. And hence his truck, which serves food from Guam as well as slow-cooked pork and brisket, tributes to his Texas home.
He started the truck a little less than a year ago, his partner Eddie Mafnas cooking the foods of Chamorro people, indigenous to the Mariana Islands, which include Guam. When Firehouse was parked on Kapahulu, someone from Guam told me I had to try the only Chamorro food on the island: kelaguen, red rice, empanadas, finadene sauce. I had never heard of Chamorro food nor kelaguan and she was so excited that I went right away. Sort of. By the time I tracked the truck down, it had moved to Aloha Beer Co. When Sam Choy's Breakfast, Lunch and Crab closed recently, Aloha Beer was left without a kitchen, so Firehouse pulled right up.
The food seems more beer hall-ish now, and there was only one Chamorro dish when I went—chicken kelaguan. Kelaguan is Guam's version of ceviche, with lime juice, coconut and chili. (Apparently, Chamorro love spice. Guam has the the highest per capita consumption of Tabasco sauce. That Hot and Spicy Spam with Tabasco you see on shelves? That debuted in Guam.) Firehouse's kelaguan is like a minced chicken ceviche with lots of fresh shredded coconut and lime. I loved it. The red rice, colored with achiote, was fluffy, though it didn't have much flavor. You might want to ask for a side of finadene, a condiment made with shoyu, vinegar, lemon, chilies and onion. Firehouse bottles their own and uses it as a finishing sauce on ribs.
Sampson emphasizes, "We're not just a Guam truck," although Firehouse has a big Guam following, including the Chamorro Club from Chaminade (who knew?!). Since he flies the Texas flag, as well, he says he gets a lot of Texans and military, who come for his pulled pork. I had the pork, too, and it was moist and juicy, but really, I just wanted more kelaguan.
When I talked to Sampson, he was eager to talk about his other bar food—truffle fries, pulled pork nachos with bacon, bulgolgi taco. I wanted to know if he was going to add more food from Guam. "Probably," he said. I hope so.