I don’t drive out to the North Shore all that often, and whenever I have, I’ve always blown right past all the seemingly copy cat shrimp trucks and shacks that dot the roadside out there, writing them off as tourist trap novelty grub. Until this past Sunday when I deliberately wanted to “play tourist” myself for a change, deciding to try the one that started it all, Giovanni’s original white Shrimp Truck in Kahuku.
Having started in 1993, in 1995 Giovanni’s purchased the property they do business on next to the Old Kahuku Sugar Mill, erecting a permanent pavilion, with their gigantic white bread truck-turned-kitchen parked next to it, so patrons can enjoy their highly acclaimed sauteed garlic & butter shrimp plates come rain or shine.
While popular Kahuku competitors Fumi’s and Romy’s tout using their own locally farm-raised fresh shrimp harvested literally right behind their roadside shacks, Giovanni’s gets their from a trusted purveyor said to get them locally “when possible”, yet they also import them in frozen. Interestingly, Honolulu Magazine did a comparison of these three major contenders and found Giovanni’s shrimp still had the best texture and overall flavor.
Never mind the competition for now. Let’s see what Giovanni’s has to offer, where they still offer the same basic menu they started with. I like that. K.I.S.S.
Knowing exactly what I wanted, within about 5 minutes of placing my order, my number (9) was called. Now to find an open table spot in Giovanni’s spacious Kahuku pavilion…
OK, here it is, Giovanni’s famous Shrimp Scampi, calling my name!…
Giovanni’s most popular dish, the Shrimp Scampi is described on the menu as being marinated in olive oil, fresh chopped garlic and lemon/butter, sauteed in a pan. For $13, it includes a dozen jumbo shrimp, 2 scoops white rice and a lemon wedge. Cold drinks are just $1 extra. I already had an ice cold Kona Deep water on-hand and brought that to drink instead.
Notice by default they also top each scoop of rice with their taste garlic butter mixture. Nice touch! Not shown, they also give you an extra empty paper plate to put all your shells on, plus a heaping stack of high quality, high absorbency paper napkins. Another nice touch!
The fairly large shrimp tails are deveined with the shells kept on to retain moisture and flavor. I didn’t come across one tail that had any yucky “grit” in it. Very clean. And no, my fingers aren’t turning into shrimp tails; that’s red Li Hing powder coloring from the sweet Li Hing Mui seed I was snackin’ on earlier at the beach. Ha ha!
Time to bite some tail! And? Brah, ONO!!! I can definitely taste why many insist Giovanni’s original white shrimp truck is still the best. It’s PACKED with garlic-ee, buttery flavah, flavah, FLAVAH! There’s also a good amount of what tastes like a good quality salt in that mixture, really helping to punch everything out.
Speaking of salt punching everything out, let me stop here for a sec’. Now, traditionally, Shrimp Scampi is supposed to be cooked with White Wine, however there’s no mention of that on their menu description. What’s interesting is, I searched online if anyone had posted a duplicate recipe of Giovanni’s Shrimp Scampi, and found this one from RasaMalaysia.com.
Interestingly, that recipe calls for coating the shrimp in flour mixed with Ceyenne Pepper, then sauteing them in white wine, olive oil, butter and garlic, along with sugar, salt and/or, get this: FISH SAUCE. BRILLIANT!
And I think that recipe might just be THE Giovanni’s Shrimp secret, as I definitely tasted some sort of “umami” factor in there, thinking it was possibly some pungent Parmesan Cheese. However that’s probably it: Fish Sauce! A-HA! Just a tiny drop (teaspoon) of course. Rasa recommends the Thai fish sauce brands, either Red Boat or Magic Chef; both of which are quite common in the oriental section of most supermarkets in the US.
I also agree with the flour coating, as these shrimp tails definitely had some sort of flour-based “crust” thinly coating them, which is why they look almost deep-fried, while affording them a nice extra “crunch”, and helping the garlic butter to better adhere to them.
I’m definitely going to try making this Giovanni’s knock-off “Hawaiian Shrimp Scampi” recipe from RasaMayalasia.com!
Back to Giovanni’s, the only frustrating part was, the buttery chopped garlic was all stuck outside the shells, so when you peeled the shells off, you’re obviously depending more on the flavor of the shrimp tail alone, and not those extra “kickers”. However not to fret, as it wasn’t just a “masked” dining experience, with the shrimp tails itself tasting ever-so-sweet and fresh, fresh, fresh! Dispelling any notion this was previously frozen, if it had been. And they’re cooked to al dente perfection, being neither mushy-raw or rubbery overdone. Jus’ right!
Add to that, the generously-sliced lemon wedge was ripe ‘n juicy, with a hard squeeze pumping out lots of acidic goodness to coat each and very shrimp tail for that added kick. They asked if I wanted hot sauce, to which I declined, being not my thang.
I also appreciated the 2 moderately-sized scoops of white rice, as that was the perfect amount of starch to make this a satisfyingly filling meal. So much so, I couldn’t even finish the last 3 shrimp tails!….
Not to fear, as I never waste any food, taking them last three home for some late night tail bitin’ later!
Oh, one final nice touch, Giovanni’s got all you fancy rollers strolling through the North Shore covered as well, providing a wash tub with running water and soap at the back of the dining pavilion to make sure you get every last drop and piece of shrimp juices, garlic and shells off yourself, and not on your Benz’ fine leather upholstery. I’m a sucker for clean-up stations like this. Very much appreciated!
Summing it up, based on my first experience this past Sunday whackin’ almost an entire plate of Giovanni’s famous Shrimp Scampi, that is DEFINITELY the North Shore plate of shrimp to beat! PACKED with garlic-ee, buttery-sweet flavor, salt-seasoned and sauteed to juicy ‘n al dente perfection. All, with that “secret” touch using what we’ll assume is fish sauce in there, giving their shrimp the added “umami” factor likely all the other “wannabes” don’t have a clue about.
Ultimately, at that moment and time while you’re biting each tail at that table in Kahuku by the old sugar mill, you’re reminded LIFE IS GOOD OUT HERE ON THE NORTH SHORE OF OAHU!
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck (THE ORIGINAL!!!)
56-505 Kamehameha Highway
Kahuku, Hawaii 96731
The Tasty Island rating:
(5) Superb. Worthy of repeat visits or purchases. (Broke Da’ Mout’!) ~ date of visit: 2.28.16
• Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck (Kahuku) – Yelp user reviews
The Tasty Island related links:
• Big T’s Shrimp Truck
• Shrimp Truck Eats: Blue Water Shrimp & Seafood Co.
P.S. More North Shore cruisin’ photos from this past weekend. Enjoy. ;-)
This may not look like much from the street, but it’s actually a beach house, literally ON THE BEACH down at Kualoa. Trust me, the other side of this is pure HEAVEN on EARTH by the sea. When I was just 21, I rented the bottom floor of this beach home from the ranch, along with my room mate Rick and his GF Becky, who were super cool to live with (and pretty crazy-fun!). We’d spend many nights barbecuing in the side yard overlooking the ocean, then afterwards go check out the tide pools and catch neat sea creatures in the reef right in front our house for our salt water aquarium.My bedroom was right behind that white door to the left.
So funny, we had very minimal kitchen cabinets and this tiny mini refrigerator (and it was newly renovated), and my GF at the time would constantly open them to see if some new groceries would magically appear in it. So cute. lol It’s also where I (very much mistakenly) fell DEEPLY in love with her, and to this day when I pass by there, it still brings back bittersweet memories. ;-)
This is Kaa’awa Post Office (on the left side), with Uncle Bobo’s BBQ on the right, just before the Kaa’awa 7-Eleven (the next property over). Back in the day, Uncle Bobo’s was Kaa’awa Country Kitchen, home of DA’ BES’ LOCO MOCO EVAH!