When Shawn Camacho and Shawn Naputi first opened Prubechu in 2014, it was the only Guamanian restaurant in San Francisco. Most of their customers had never heard of Chamorro food before. Now, the popular restaurant is a community stronghold, putting food from the Mariana Islands on the map.
Before opening Prubechu, Camacho and Naputi had, for years, cooked their native cuisine for friends. Chamorro refers to an Indigenous people from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. The islands’ historical status as a coveted trading port means that its food—like that of many islands—has global influences. Its most prominent dishes are barbecued meats marinated in an assortment of vinegars and citrus, often balanced by spices such as fresh chili peppers and coconut.
In many ways, Prubechu is a product of community. Traditional Chamorro food is prepared in large batches, often with the help of family and friends. The restaurant, which was initially staffed with friends and family, aims to capture that spirit. They serve family-style and host events, often in partnership with Guamanian-owned breweries.
The fiesta style (family-style) serves 10 dishes over the course of a sitting. First come starters such as Chamorro sweet rolls, lichen birenghenas, and barbequed eggplant marinated in coconut milk, lemon, scallion, and caramelized soy sauce. Then the meats: crispy, sweet-and-sour pork belly and tinaktak, a coconut-braised beef and chicken kelaguen, similar to ceviche, served in a marinade with lemon juice, fresh coconut, green onions, and hot peppers. Meals conclude with dessert, something sweet like buñelos aga, or banana donuts.