One of the best ways to learn about a culture is through its food. Soon, Tucson will be able to experience the food of Guam by way of the Hungry Kepuha food truck.
Guam is a U.S. unincorporated and organized territory in the West Pacific, about 1,500 miles from the Philippines. Their population is less than half of Tucson’s, but their indigenous Chamorro people inhabited the island about 4,000 years ago.
“Fast forward” to March 6, 1521 and Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan enters the scene. Over the next several centuries, Guam was occupied by Spain, the United States, and Japan.
For a more passionate account of Guam’s history, chat with Hungry Kepuha owner Anthony Ooka. His 12 years in Guam and history degree help him go into further detail.
Hungry Kepuha was named after Chief Kepuha, Guam’s first Catholic chief. Kepuha was a polarizing figure but also a catalyst for ending wars with the Spanish, Ooka said.
Ooka was a cook during his time in the military and is a veteran himself, so his compassion for veterans runs deep. For the past two years, he’s worked with the American Red Cross to help the homeless and veteran find jobs.
“I want them to know there’s more for them in life after the military,” Ooka said.
While Ooka was also working on getting a master’s degree for social work, he found himself still daydreaming about cooking. After some encouragement from his wife, he put all his marbles on the table to start up Hungry Kepuha. He’s still working with the Red Cross, by the way.
Hungry Kepuha Tentative Menu
Includes meat of choice, red rice, cucumber salad, chicken kelaguen, and finadene
- Chicken Plate
- Pork Spare Ribs Plate
- Kephua Combo Plate (chicken and ribs)
Neni Plates (Children’s Size Portion)
- Neni Chicken
- Neni Ribs
- Red Rice
- Cucumber Salad
- Chicken Kelaguen
Guam’s cuisine features a predominant combination of Micronesian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Japanese flavors.
Meats are seasoned with a soy sauce and vinegar-based marinade. The chicken of choice is boneless, skinless chicken thighs, grilled with a prominent char. The pork spare ribs are also grilled, so the meat has a juicy firmness similar to a pork chop.
The side of finadene sauce features soy sauce, vinegar, onion, and chopped peppers. Similar to the Vietnamese nuoc cham, it offers a savory tang to complement meats and rice with little bursts of pepper heat.
Red rice gets its color from achiote and is seasoned with onion. The photo above from the soft opening features white instead of red rice, due to a one-off issue from trying a new brand of achiote, but look forward to red rice instead on future visits.
The cucumber salad resembles the kind in Japanese restaurants with a mild vinegar tang, but the addition of sliced onions add pungeancy.
Chicken kelaguen features chunks of grilled chicken with lemon, green onion, red peppers, and coconut. Imagine a cooked chicken ceviche with the added sweet richness of coconut.
Prices, menu adjustments, and a location schedule are still in the works, but Ooka wants to make sure everyone has access to a hearty meal. He’s not a fan of dainty portions.
“If I’m spending $10, I better get full,” Ooka said.
Keep up with Hungry Kepuha on Facebook.