Anatomy of a Fiesta Table
Like the traditional recipes behind many local foods on Guam, there is also a tradition of where they should be placed or grouped together on one or more fiesta tables. You won’t find it in a manual, sources say, but if you’re local, you just know. From what we’ve learned, this is how it breaks down.
1. Aggon (Starch)
The most important dish in this section is red rice (“hineksa agaga”), which is similar to saffron rice in that it is prepared with water colored from soaking achote seeds, which gives it a deep orange color. This section of the fiesta table is also where you’ll find starchy fruit and vegetable dishes made from such produce as bananas, sweet potatoes and taro. Traditionally, these kinds of dishes are typically reduced in a coconut-milk sauce to make such dishes as “gollai appan suni” (from taro) and “gollai appan dagu” (from yams) according to Jay Blas, manager of Island Cuisine restaurant. Dinner rolls and “tiyas” (tortillas) are also found in this section of the table.
2. Totche (Meat)
Barbecue is a staple of many a fiestas on Guam and this is where you’ll find it. Pork spareribs and marinated chicken flavored with spicy “finadenne” sauce are regular staples, according to Toshio Akigami, as are fried chicken and even roasted ham. “In hunting season, deer meat is also served,” Akigami says. “Locals usually cook dried beef by hanging the meat above a barbecue pit to smoke and dry the meat.” Finadenne sauce made from soy sauce or salt, lemon juice and/or calamansi citrus juice, water, peppers and onions is always placed at the end of this section as a condiment.
3. Guhan (Seafood)
As the name suggest, this section is where such delicacies as fish, prawns and crab are placed. “Eskabeche,” sweet-and-sour fish or seafood cooked with vegetables and ginger, is a must-have for this section of the fiesta table. Stuffed crab may also be found here. Though usually not locally caught, yellowfin tuna is often found here in the form of raw “sashimi” along with such grilled and barbecued local catch as parrot fish and other reef and open-sea fish. “Salt-flavored finadenne sauce is often applied to them,” says Akigami, adding that deep-fried mahi mahi is a seasonal fiesta treat found on this part of the table during spring and summer.
No fiesta, indeed, no meal, on Guam is complete without “kaleguen.” At this section you’ll usually find of variety meat and seafood dishes prepared cerviche style, in which the meat is usually cooked overnight by the acidity of lemon or calamasi juice along with salt (sometimes soy sauce), hot peppers and onions. In the case of chicken kalaguen, the meat is usually lightly grilled first and freshly grated coconut is also added. The dish is served chilled as is, or as a side with tortillas or rice. Dishes such as lumpia spring rolls, pancit noodles and shrimp patties are also placed on this section of the fiesta table.
5. Kadu (Soups)
This section of the fiesta table is not only where soups and stews are placed, you’ll also find a variety of vegetable dishes. Here you’ll find potato and garden salads of every ilk, coleslaw and cucumber dishes such as “diago” cucumber kimchee. In addition to dishes like cucumber salad and spinach with coconut milk, you also find such classic Chamorro soups as spicy chicken “kadun pika,” “chicken chalakiles” made with toasted rice and simple “kadun manuk” chicken soup as well as corn soup.
6 Fina’ Mames (Dessert)
The desert section of the fiesta arrangement is so special that even at small events it often gets a table all to itself. Favorites to be found here include “latiya” custard cake as well as chocolate and red velvet cakes. Other staple sweets include warm “ahu” soup, sweet “apigigi” tamales, “bunelos aga” (banana donuts), “bunelos dagu” (yam donuts) and “bunelos manglo,” or typhoon donuts. At most fiestas, says Sayumi Ishioka, “people usually bring their homemade sweets, such as latiya or fruits, or sweets made from local fruits, such as mango, watermelon, papaya, banana, banana donut.”