Top 10 Most Popular Foods in Guam
Hafa Adai! Have you heard of Guam?
Guam is a US territory located in the Pacific Ocean, a few hours away from Japan and the Philippines. The small island is known for its tight-knit community and hospitality.
Fiestas are held island-wide for any occasion, big or small. And food brings people together, which is why it is such a huge part of the island’s native Chamorro culture.
Oftentimes, traditional recipes in Guam are passed down from generation to generation, shaped by each family’s preferred preparation, which is why there are many variations of the same dish. Keep reading for what to expect at the fiesta table on your next visit to Guam!
1. Red Rice
Every Guamanian knows that the party can’t begin without red rice. Chamorro-style red rice will probably be the first dish at the table that catches your eye with its bright orange-red color. It is the usual white grain rice but prepared with added seasonings such as salt and black pepper.
What give the dish its unique color and taste, is the main ingredient – annatto powder, from the seed locally known as “achiote”. Red rice is everyone’s go-to starch and Guamanians will always choose it over regular white rice.
You can’t have red rice without some barbecued meat. Barbecuing is a huge part of the island’s culture. Aside from enjoying the delicious food, people love to barbecue because of the sense of camaraderie it brings. It is perfectly defined as island-style cooking and is a great activity for a day on Guam’s beautiful beaches.
You will always find a grill at a fiesta, usually surrounded by uncles cooking chicken, ribs, and sausage.
The meat is marinated for a few hours beforehand in soy sauce, vinegar, onions, and garlic, to impart all the delicious flavors, before being grilled. Marinating also results in more tender meat. Once cooked, the perfect finishing touch is a delicious sauce, specifically, fina’denne’.
Fina’denne’ is an absolute staple in Guamanian cuisine. It is a soy sauce-based condiment with vinegar, lemon juice, and chopped onions. Fina’denne’ is made differently across the island’s population according to each person’s liking.
Some people add sliced cherry tomatoes or hot peppers for an extra kick. The tart, salty sauce can be put on just about anything, but it is usually enjoyed on meat or rice.
Every local fiesta and restaurant on Guam is equipped with fina’denne’ for serving with every meal.
4. Tamales Gisu
You can think of tamales gisu as the Chamorro culture’s version of tamales. The small side dish is made with corn meal, corn flour, and added spices.
Each side of the dish is flavored differently. One side is colored and flavored with annatto/achiote powder and chili peppers. The other side remains colorless, so you know that side has no spicy kick.
Most people also like to add small bits of bacon. It is traditionally steamed and served wrapped in banana leaves, but since they are not always available, they can be replaced with aluminum foil.
Chalakiles is a rice-based dish enjoyed across the island. It is a rich, thick soup made of toasted rice or cream of rice, coconut milk, and seasonings to taste. Annatto/achiote powder is, yet again, the main seasoning of this dish for a distinct color and flavor. The dish is completed with chunks of chicken.
Chalakiles can be compared to rice porridge or Filipino arrozcaldo, but with more flavor from the annatto/achiote seed powder. It is a guarantee that the majority of Guamanians will have been taught this recipe by their grandma, or ‘nåna”, at a young age.
Guamanians love their lumpia because of how much delicious flavor the simple finger food holds. Although it is a Filipino dish, it is very common in Guam since Filipinos make up much of the island’s population.
It consists of a rice paper wrapper filled with meat and vegetables then deep fried. The most common meat filling is pork or beef.
There are many different fillings you can use depending on your liking. Most people also like to add clear vermicelli noodles as well. It is delicious on its own, but is commonly served with a small side of dipping sauce, typically a fish sauce with lime juice and sugar.
This staple dish is so irresistible and addictive that people are known to sneak one, or a few, from the fiesta table before the feast has begun.
Kådu translates as broth or soup in the Chamorro language. No matter how hot the island’s weather, Guamanians will never turn down a delicious, warm bowl of Kådu. There are no rules when it comes to making Kådu.
There are so many different variations of the dish, especially since it is the population’s main comfort food. The most common Kådu is prepared with beef shank or oxtail and vegetables. It is commonly served with white rice.
Kelaguen is the most popular side dish on Guam. The dish contains a protein such as chicken, seafood, deer, or even spam, marinated in lemon juice. The raw meat is pickled by the acids of the lemon juice, making it safe and delicious to eat.
There is a huge variety of mix-ins you can add to kelaguen. Most people add hot peppers to make it spicy. Coconut shreds and green onions are also common ingredients.
You can also find this dish typically served with a flour tortilla called titiyas. The pair is the perfect balance of neutral and savory flavors.
Titiyas are Guam-style flour tortillas, with more of a bread-like texture. They are delicious to snack on or as a great side to pair with kelaguen. The dough is made from flour, sugar, baking powder, Crisco vegetable shortening, and coconut milk. It is then rolled into a flat, circular shape and heated in a pan until browned.
This dish can also be made into a sweet snack by adding fresh young coconut and its juice to the dough. Both are served warm and topped with butter. They are even delicious with a spread such as jam, peanut butter, or Nutella.
No gathering on Guam is complete without the staple dessert, latiya. Latiya is a traditional dessert with a layer of custard and cinnamon atop a moist cake. The base layer can be yellow cake, pound cake, or angel food cake.
The custard is made with evaporated milk, eggs, vanilla extract, and butter heated on a stovetop. Once cooled, the custard is poured on top of the base cake. The finishing step is to sprinkle cinnamon over the custard and chill it until ready to enjoy.
There is always room for you at the table! The people of Guam are very welcoming, so you are bound to end up with a fiesta invite the next time you find yourself on the island. Each dish is packed with flavor, uniqueness, and love. No matter what Guamanian dishes you get a taste of, you are bound to fall in love with a few!
Related: 27 Quintessential American Foods