Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
May 3, 2008 12:31 PM

Does Guam have a unique cuisine? (moved from GT)

Guam being in the US news today (it's holding its caucus), I suddenly became curious about Guamian (? Guammo?) cuisine. Unless my personal search engine is faulty, very little comes up on the boards, except in reference to a restaurant in Arizona, of all places. A Google search suggests Filipino cuisine might be a close cousin (which is to say, I'm thinking it's probably quite the mishmash of foreign influences both Asian and Western).

Anyone have any personal experience?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Both islands were occupied by Spain. So a lot of dishes are Spanish influenced. I can't say what's necessarily unique as Guam cuisine. I grew up there, but I'm of Filipino heritage and ate mainly Filipino dishes. I do know more of the common dishes you'd find at a fiesta. Main starch on the island is steamed Rice. Red Rice at fiestas or other parties, cooked with achiote and onions. There's usually grilled meats that have been marinated overnight in a soy based solution. Since the bbq is often used daily at one's home, chicken is simply grilled the night before, chopped up and mixed with lemon, onion and local Thai Bird chilies to make Chicken Kelaguen. It's almost like a spicy gilled chicken ceviche. It's my favorite. We eat shrimp fritters that we just call shrimp patties since it comes out flatter than a fritter. The more Filipino or Asian influence is seen in pancit (fried noodles) and lumpia (fried eggrolls). The ultimate condiment found in any local household for daily use is finadene. It's usually soy, lemon, onion and chile peppers. I like tomatoes in my finadene. But I've also eaten one with small salted fish, lime and peppers. Each family has there special blend. My favorite local dessert is latiya, sponge cake with custard on top, sprinkled with cinnamon. Now I'm hungry and miss Guam even more.

    3 Replies
    1. re: rumgum

      Wow, thanks! That chicken dish sounds great!

      1. re: rumgum

        I used to travel to Manila alot, and always would spend a long weekend in Guam on the way there (Thanks, Continental Airlines!) for some diving and relaxing. I even got to go to a couple of fiestas on my visits. I loved the Chicken Kelaguen! It reminds me of Thai "Larb" a bit.

        Also, I met a guy there that made these fantastic crispy chocolate chip and coconut cookies that were a popular souvenir called "Chamorro Chip Cookies".

        1. re: rumgum

          mmmm Kelaguen is amazing! Shrimp and beef are my favorite. I bought a ton of the chilies to make it out here! I had good lumpia but I had the most killer mango pie at the Agat Mango Festival this summer!

        2. Wow, I imagine my surprise to double take Guam in my email. I live on Guam (for many years), you don't very often spot Guam anywhere! Plus, the Chamorro Chip Cookie guy is my neighbor and very good friend. Chamorro Chip Cookies are ALWAYS the request from people who live "in the states". I love Chamarro food but never make it. Guam is such a mish mash of people and food, Thai, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese all excellent. But bakeries not so good. We don't have a Starbucks believe it or not. I cook a lot -Italian, mexican always depends on what I can find in the grocery store. Once you've had finadene or Guam bbq chicken you can't live without it. After reading all this now I'm craving red rice and finadene.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ltpt

            What's finadene?

            Thanks to rumgum I found and made a recipe for kelaguen. Loved it, although I ended up adding a little coconut milk, fish sauce and curry to the mixture as it sat. Probably that sounds horrible to those used to the real thing but I liked it...

            1. re: tatamagouche

              Actually, I've had versions where there's grated coconut in the mix. Freshly grated coconut. So, I think anything goes. Philippines has a similar marinated dish using a variety of meats and fish called Kilawin.

          2. My mother was born and raised in Guam. I am half Chamorro (that's the technical term, although we also use the word "Guamanian") and spent much of my childhood on the island. And, to answer your question: YES, Guam DOES have a unique cuisine--one that I've been dying to find here in Los Angeles, but to no avail. While there are strong Filipino and Spanish influences, I've come to realize that there are also many dishes that are truly unique to the territory. Some have already been mentioned (kelaquen, latiya, finadene) but some have not. Some things I miss dearly: poto (sweet, white doughy balls with a hint of coconut flavor), pigigi (mild tapioca patties wrapped in banana leaves) and tamales, which are different from the typical Mexican varieties (they are divided in half: the white half is mild, and the red half is spicy.) I also love kelaguen, latiya and finadene but don't miss them for the sole reason that my mother will make them when I go home to Hawaii. The key ingredient here is coconut, whether in sweet or savory dishes. They key tool is a kanju, which is a special stool fit with a blade specially designed to grate fresh coconut.

            Hope this helps, and PS: I'm sure I've misspelled some things. Please forgive me; it's been a while...

            2 Replies
            1. re: recovering_vegetarian

              Cool, thanks! Those half-and-half tamales sound great.

              1. re: tatamagouche

                I'm sure you can google the recipe. The dish is called tamales gisu. The flavors maybe unlike the mexican variety. But it is still a base of masa harina (the white part) and the spicy meat filling (the red part). Instead of the mixtures layered on top of each other or mixed together, the mixtures are side by side. The texture is also smoother and less chunky. It's less messy and a lot prettier when you unwrap the package of goodness. You can eat a ton of the stuff. The package is also wrapped in banana leaf or plain foil (as seen in most cases) as opposed to corn husks.

            2. The original comment has been removed
              1. I am surprised nobody mentioned this... look up Chamorro Recipes. There you will find alot of guam food from appetizers, main dishes, to desserts. Out of curiosity... have you ever thought of going to guam? You should think about it. Not only to try some food but to know about our culture.

                1 Reply
                1. re: bgcmrstanley

                  Guam has some of the best food in the world. The Chamoru people have an open mind when it comes to food and you'll find "un-dumbed down" food from around Asia. The best Thai, Vietnamese, Japanes and Korean food that I've seen outside of those countries. As mentioned in earlier posts, there is a great deal of Spanish influence on the local cuisine, but it has been adapted to a preference for spicy hot. People have mentioned chicken kelaguen, but the beef and shrimp are also excellent. I love the peng nut ayuyu (coconut crab) prepared with coconut and breadfruit (lemai). A link to a variety of recipes - both older and new is here: