The Garlic Shrimp Truck That Has Taken Over Oahu’s North Shore — Dining on a Dime
We’re on the Kamehameka Highway in northern Oahu, we’re headed towards Kahuku where there is a shrimp truck that has become sort of legendary. Food trucks weren’t really that popular in Hawaii up until very recently, I mean even in other places in the States, the food truck hasn’t really been a thing for much longer than 10 years, say. The trucks have really proliferated, there’s dozens of trucks all over the North Shore. Giovanni’s is the king. They sort of hold court over the rest of them, but they specialize in this very simple preparation of tiger shrimp. They do lemon butter, they do is scampi which is with butter and garlic, and they also do a super fiery hot spicy shrimp. Giovanni’s, which started over 20 years ago, really sort of set the bar for other food trucks. What hey’ve done with their land is that they allow other vendors to set up shop there, so it sort of creates the atmosphere of a lot of different food trucks, a lot of different vendors all around. We’re gonna head there right now, we’re going to brave the crowds — these places can get really packed — and try some of these delicious juicy shrimp that I’ve heard a lot about, and see what the shrimp truck phenomenon is all about. Tell me a little story about the history of the truck and when you got involved with the business. “The truck’s been in business for about 23 years now. We started in 1993, my brother’s had it since ’97 and we’ve been doing that ever since.” So where you from originally? “Pennsylvania.” How did you end up purchasing the truck? “While my brother was stationed over here in the Army, my mom happened to be over here visiting and overheard that the original owners wanted to move back to the mainland, so she went back and told my brother and here we are.” I’ll buy that truck! “That’s right.” It’s a shrimp truck, there’s a giant shrimp with a surfboard on there obviously, but how do you prepare the shrimp? “Basically we just mix up the oil and put it all in a batch, we call them cases, with a whole bunch of shrimp and the sauces and let it sit for like 8 to 12 hours. We cook it up inside the truck and serve it up. We have three flavors on our our menu, it’s the garlic shrimp that we’re most famous for, the hot and spicy shrimp which is on the hotter side — we don’t actually give refunds for that.” Really? People come back and are there like I can’t eat this? “They try but it’s right there on our menu. Then we have a lemon butter which is just kind of more of our plain lemon butter type of shrimp.” Now tell me about how on the North Shore especially shrimp trucks are big. “We were actually the very first shrimp truck on the island, so we basically started it all. I would assume just because of the popularity it just kept becoming more and more popular so more and more shrimp trucks started popping up.” Obviously it’s like you guys are really cranking, I mean there’s a lot of business. What is it you think you guys are doing in your truck that has made it so popular like over 20 years? “I think it’s just the sauce.” I wanted to try a little bit of like each one of the shrimps, we can get a half plate, can I get a half plate of each one? The shrimp looks super good. Tiger shrimp, they grow to be pretty long, the females especially, really long ,the male’s not so long. They are the second most cultivated shrimp species on the planet next only to the white leg shrimp species. Tiger shrimp are native to the Indo-Pacific and are actually an invasive species in the southern Atlantic in the Gulf of Mexico. We’ll start with the simpler one which is the lemon butter. So now that we’ve lemoned these suckers up, what to do but dip them in melted butter. What Sean recommended, he said suck on the shrimp and then peel and eat, that’s what I’m going to do. By sucking you get that briny liquid out. Let’s try this baby. Butter and seafood go so well together. It’s because the meat is so delicate and sweet, it goes really well with the lemon, with that sharp acid tang of the lemon. Goes so nicely with the fatty butter flavor, just pure fat, but combined with that sweet white shrimp meat and powerful acid tang — just a very perfect combination lemon and butter. It doesn’t get simpler but better than this. Now the spicy is interesting because they had to specifically put sign on the menu that says no refunds so I’m anticipating something hot. Oh god just licking my fingers, my tongue is on fire, but I’m gonna do it anyway. I’m gonna do it for the content. Oh yeah that is like I have a Tabasco sauce factory in my mouth. Holy ****, ok, pretty good, very spicy. This has a lot of Tabasco in it. Tabasco is different than like Tapatio and Cholula because the Tabasco is so much more vinegary and that is what this is: a powerful combination of spices and vinegar. You can alreadt see I’m starting to sweat. Let’s move on to the scampi, this is the most popular one and this is what I think is really going to be awesome. Because you see that garlic. Who doesnt love garlic? If you love garlic, smash that like button. Thank you. They even put a big dollop of chopped fried garlic right on the ricem big chunk of garlic right here. The best. This looks so good. The garlic tastes so good. It’s like a nutty acerbic pleasant backrub, like it’s so bad it’s good, one of those things. Get a big mouthful of garlic, the lemon is so good. Like with the plain lemon and butter shrimp, scampi is the best. I knew, I knew it would be. Giovanni’s, it’s cool, it’s a family operation, been owned by this family for the majority of its time in existence, and certainly has propelled it to the success story that it is today, which is just just like popping off. But the shrimp is really good, the flavors are simple, they do it simply, it’s not an extensive menu, and it just goes to show you that to have a really successful food business, you just have to do one thing and do it really well. That was some fantastic shrimp from Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck in Kahuku in the northern part of Oahu in Hawaii.