Fusion foods bridge culinary cultures on Guam

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Guam

The Japanese influence on local food culture goes a lot deeper than hotel chains and restaurant trends on Guam. It can be encountered in virtually every home kitchen, if not tasted on every table.

Foodstuffs common to the Land of the Rising Sun such as “takuan,”pickled daikon radish, and “rakkyo,” a pickled Asian variety of scallion, are also common where America’s day begins. S&B brand curry powder and Kikkoman soy sauce are ubiquitous staples in kitchens on this island as well as that archipelago to the north.

In fact, Kikkoman soy sauce is a key ingredient to that most traditional of Chamorro staples – “finadene,” that salty, spicy, sour all-purpose sauce used for everything from marinating to a dipping condiment. Guamanians use this Kikkoman-based hot sauce for foods ranging from meat to vegetables to rice.

Sapporo Ichiban instant ramen noodles, made by Sanyo Foods, is another popular Japanese food found in homes throughout Guam. Just as the Japanese have made this originally Chinese dish their own, Guamanians have also put their own twist on it: They usually add Spam – another Chamorro favorite.

Spam ramen can be ordered at many airport restaurants throughout Micronesia and the Marshal Islands, as well as in eateries on Okinawa, Hawaii and other locales where the U.S. military has left a culinary footprint in history. On Guam, like Okinawa, Spam is often used with Japanese food.

One popular Japanese-Spam fusion dish is a Spam sushi roll, according to Toshio Akigami a Japanese tour guide who’s worked on Guam for 40 years.

“Sushi rolls are cooked with takuan and sliced Spam in vinegar rice and wrapped with seaweed,” Akigami said. “So, most of Guamanians have “makisu” (bamboo sushi-rolling mat) for making sushi rolls at home.”

One might even say that such fusion dishes are the best of Japanese and Chamorro culinary traditions all rolled into one.

Try these Chamorro-Japanese fusion recipes

Turkey Spam Tempura

  • 1 cup julienne sliced carrots
  • 1 cup julienne sliced potatoes
  • 1 cup julienne sliced green beans
  • 1 cup tempura batter mix OR 1 cup flour + 1 cup cornstarch
  • garlic salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 can (12 oz) SPAM® Oven Roasted Turkey, cut into julienne strips
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup julienne sliced eggplant
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • salt to taste

Bring large pot of boiling water to a boil. Add carrots, potatoes and green beans. Blanch until just crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and shock in ice water. In large bowl, combine tempura batter mix or flour and cornstarch. Season to taste with garlic salt and black pepper. Add water in small amounts until a pancake-like batter consistency is reached. Add SPAM® and vegetables to the batter; coat well. Heat oil to 350F. Using large fork or spoon drop SPAM® and vegetables into hot oil. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Remove from oil, drain well and season with salt, if desired. Serve immediately with favorite dipping sauce.

- Gerald Castro, Guam Diner

Spam Udon

  • 2 qts water
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 2 cans (12 oz) SPAM® Luncheon Meat (Regular or Lite)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbs butter, divided
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1 pkg Udon noodles
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • pickled ginger, optional

In large stock pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1/2 of an onion, chopped, chicken broth, garlic and 1 can of SPAM®, chopped into cubes. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside. Cut remaining can of SPAM® into 1/2-inch julienne strips. Chop remaining half of an onion into medium slices. In skillet, saute SPAM® and onion in 1 Tbs butter; set aside. Beat eggs and fry in remaining butter until lightly browned and cooked through. Cut the egg into 3/4-inch julienne strips. Cook noodles according to the package directions. Place noodles in a bowl. Pour soup into the bowl and garnish with sauted SPAM®, eggs, green onions and ginger. Serve immediately.

- Joan Stole, Guam Diner

Where to get Japanese groceries galore

So, where do food purists and Japanese craving a taste of home shop for a true taste of Japan on Guam? Tokyo Mart in Tamuning Village. Where else?

Actually, there are many more good markets on island where you can shop for Japanese food products, according to Sayumi Ishioka, a homemaker from Japan who has lived on Guam for 14 years.

“As it is very expensive, I would go there (Tokyo Mart) only during holiday seasons,” Ishioka said. “I always buy daikon radishes, mushrooms and tofu at the Oriental Corner of American Grocery in Dededo Village or California Mart.

“As for curry roux, soy sauce and seaweed, I dropped by Pay-Less Supermarkets, a shop located next to Micronesia Mall. They sell Japanese beers too.”

- Takahiro Takiguchi, Stripes Guam

Subscribe to our Stripes Pacific newsletter and receive amazing travel stories, great event info, cultural information, interesting lifestyle articles and more directly in your inbox!

Follow us on social media!

Facebook: Stars and Stripes Pacific
Flipboard: Stars and Stripes Community Sites

Looking to travel while stationed abroad? Check out our other Pacific community sites!
Stripes Japan
Stripes Okinawa
Stripes Korea

Recommended Content