Guam hot tips: Local takes on pepper tastes

by Stripes Guam
Stripes Guam

Demise of true 'donne'

There are two main types of hot “donne,” or peppers, native to Guam: “Donne’sali” with small, bright red and very pungent fruit and “donne’ ti’au” a long, red and pungent pepper, according to Mari Marutani, a professor at the University of Guam’s College of Natural and Applied Sciences.

“They belong to different genera. Donne’sali has long been harvested from the wild, it is also called the bonnie pepper. And donne’ ti’au is mainly grown in the backyard garden,” said Marutani. The first has been labeled “Guam super hot,” while the second is “Guam regular hot.”

“Guam super hot is very pungent, having Scoville heat unit of 4000-4250, while ‘Guam regular hot’ was reported to have an average of 3450,” said Marutani. “However, unfortunately original specimens of both Guam super hot’ and Guam regular hot have been lost and we will not be able to examine these specimens any longer.”

Purebred native peppers may be hard to come by, but the varieties sold in markets and by roadside vendors on Guam today are rich and varied – with a “pika” (hot) punch that’s all their own. It’s a good thing, because according to Marutani folks around here need their peppers.

“Pacific islanders consider Capsicum spp. (species of hot peppers) as a must ingredient to add pungency to island cuisine,” she said. “While we have many diseases and pests, hot Capsicum spp. can be grown year-round.”

'Pika' Power!

When it comes to spiciness Guam doesn't mess around

Guam has perfected “pika” – Chamorro for that spicy red-hot kick. So prevalent is the penchant for pika here that the word can be found everywhere from Pika’s Café (famed for its Chamorro-fusion food) to Pika Magazine (“A guide to spice up your life”) to myriad of local recipes like “monnok kadon pika,” or spicy chicken stew.

This island delights in “donne,” or peppers, so much that it boasts its own indigenous boonie pepper, has more local dishes that use them than you can shake a stick at, and hosts an annual festival in honor of the almighty pepper. What’s more, Guam has been the pride and proving grounds of a couple of big-name pika peddlers.  In short, when it comes to spice, Guam is hot.

The real proof, however, lies in the aftertaste test, and the common condiment for Guamanians comes with a kick. You can find hot sauces in every home, on every table, at every barbeque and in local restaurants, lunch boxes and even a purse or two. The island’s signature dipping sauce – “finadene” (pronounced fin-ah-den-ee) – is a spicy homemade staple.

Just how much do Guamanians love hot spicy foods? Consider this: Guam placed No. 1 for per capita consumption of Tabasco hot sauce out of more than 165 countries at the 2013 Tabasco Brand Sales and Marketing Conference for the Asia-Pacific Region in Phuket, Thailand.

On average, Guamanians consume almost two 2-ounce bottles of Tabasco per person annually, according to Michelle Bengco, a sales director for Market Wholesale Distributors, Inc. which distributes the product on Guam. Mmainland America placed a distant second with a consumption per capita of just 0.75 ounces per person – five times less than Guam.

“If you ask anyone in Guam why they love tabasco the common answer is because it gives a kick on spice and flavor in any meal,” said Bengco. “It is very common for Guamanians to carry along a small bottle of tabasco in their purses and have an emergency bottle in their cars.

“Chamorro’s love hot and spicy flavors that are added on before eating, not during the process of cooking,” he added. “Guam’s fixation with Tabasco is believed to have started during Word War II when the Americans brought it over to Guam as a flavor kicker.”

Guam’s love of the world-renowned hot sauce may be rivalled only by its taste for Spam. It’s something Tabasco and Spam took into account when they united to create a line of Hot & Spicy Spam products that bear the logos of both companies. Now sold worldwide, the product debuted right here, “where America’s day begins” and came with a recipe for Spam fried rice from Guam-based Shirley’s Coffee Shop, according to Bengco.

What's your favorite 'donne' delicacy?

“My favorite way to eat donne is with younger local mango, salt and donne. It’s good. You got to try it. Young mango is not sweet and you add salt and donne, they all work together in the same way.”

– Ray Perez, Mangilao

“Donne candy. I tried it at the last Donne Festival and it was pretty good. It is pepper and chocolate.”

- Ed Tosco, Mangilao

“My favorite is lemon finadenne sauce poured over chicken “kadu” (soup). The flavor just picks up the soup to a whole other level! My second favorite is mixed in with the fish kelaguen. This dish is similar to ceviche’ only even tastier. Once you start, you cannot stop. Especially if you have nice ice cold beer to wash it down with! That is island-style, right there!”

– Rueben Olivas, Santa Rita

“Finadenne, “kadun pika” (chicken braised in a soy sauce, coconut milk with red pepper), Chamorro empanada (with rice, chicken and lots of pepper). But I eat donne with everything. But I would say finadenne is my favorite.”

- Jane Munoz, Mangilao

Tabasco Talk

How Guamanians like their hot sauce

Market Wholesale Distributors, Inc. took a survey of some of the most popular ways on island to consume America’s favorite hot sauce. Here’s what they came up with:

  • Tabasco fried rice – You can’t make the perfect fried rice without the dynamic duo: Hot and Spicy Spam and Tabasco.
  • As an ingredient in barbecue marinade – used to marinate everything including chicken, beef, fish, sausage, pork, oysters, and more. (The basic marinade is soy sauce and lemon or vinegar with tons of onions, garlic, and black pepper. From there, everyone adds their own special ingredients and tabasco tops the list.)
  • As an ingredient in kelaguen - A popular dish at fiestas and elsewhere that consist of meat, fish or seafood cooked entirely or in part in lemon or other citric juice.
  • Tabasco with (canned) corned beef and Cabbage – a much-lived local dish of corned beef stir fried with cabbage and a dash of Tabasco.

And why not …



  • Chicken breasts, cut into thin strips 3 ea.
  • Soy sauce (or fish sauce) 2-3 Tbsp.
  • Olive oil 2 Tbsp.
  • Onion, chopped 1 ea.
  • Garlic clove, finely chopped 2 ea.
  • Egg, lightly beaten 1 ea.
  • Sugar 1 Tbsp.
  • TABASCO® brand Garlic Pepper Sauce 1 tsp.
  • Rice, cooked 3 cups
  • Frozen green peas, thawed 1 cup
  • Scallions, chopped 4 ea.


  1. Place chicken in a small bowl and toss with soy (or fish) sauce.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and then the onions and cook 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
  3. Add chicken, reserving the soy (or fish) sauce. Let the chicken cook until just starting to brown; then add the egg and cook for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the reserved soy (or fish) sauce, sugar, TABASCO® Garlic Pepper Sauce and rice. Stir in the green peas and cook for 1 minute until the peas are heated through.
  5. Stir in the scallions and serve with additional soy sauce.

- Tabasco Foodservice

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