Sunday, January 28, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, January 28, 2001

Presenting specialties of the firehouse

By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Columnist

Ladies, if you are in the market for a husband, here’s a tip: Shop around for a fireman.

Firemen don’t need a wife to clean up the fire station after them. They have to wash the dishes themselves. Most important, they do their own cooking. On a budget.

Chefs are the only other males who slave in the kitchen on a professional basis. Firemen are probably the largest reservoir of male cooks in Hawaii. Each fire station has its legend.

That’s because every fireman is expected to take a turn cooking in the firehouse. It’s sink or swim over the skillet. They don’t have push-button kitchens, either, just battered pots and pans with hardly a lid that fits.

One of Honolulu’s finest said, "If you’re going to have a beach party or a backyard barbecue, invite a fireman. He can cook out of a tin can."

Stern training grounds such as fire stations produce culinary artists. One of them is Kent Kam at the Central Fire Station. Not by his own admission, you understand. The praise comes from his fellow firefighters.

Kent modestly credits the high quality of the profession for his fame. He said, "Firemen are really talented. We have computer experts, electrical engineers, pilots.

"I would say everybody in the department is a good cook. If you’re not, they get on your case."

Maybe so, but his friends put him in a special category. "He can make elaborate dishes with just the stuff in the refrigerator," said Gary Viela. "Last shift, he cooked a salmon dish with some leftover miso and shoyu. It was better than Roy’s."

Kam admitted that the secret is a ginger glaze he puts on the fish before broiling.

"I do another salmon dish mirin," he said, pausing to explain to illiterate journalists that mirin is a sweet rice wine used a lot in Japanese cooking.

"I mix it with lemon, chili pepper and a little bit of shoyu. When it gets thick, spread it over the salmon and put it under the broiler.

"You can serve it on a bed of mixed greens or watercress and tomato salad with Oriental dressing. For a contrast in texture, put on some crispy noodles or won ton chips."

The fire department allows $6.50 a day per person for food. That means buying on sale. Make your own laulau and kalua pig if you want Hawaiian food.

"You can make great kalua pig out of inexpensive pork butt," Kam explained. "Wrap it in ti leaf with Hawaiian salt and liquid smoke. Than make a ball of it in foil. Put it in the oven at 350 degrees for three or four hours until the meat falls from the bone."

Another fireman, fixing sweet-sour spareribs and a rib roast for dinner, said cooking is an effort for him. For Kam it’s second nature.

Then the fire alarm went off and the truck roared off.

Call in your story to Bob Krauss at 525-8073.

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