Grilling on Guam a big part of island's culture

Grilling on Guam a big part of island's culture

Stripes Guam

The tropical island of Guam is a barbequing paradise. Year round in parks, beaches and backyards across the island, Guamanians fire up the grill to barbeque with family and friends.

Guamanians love to barbecue so much they simply regard it as “just another way of cooking,” said Rueben Olivas, a barbecue fanatic who authors the blog BBQGuam.

“Barbecuing has been happening on Guam ‘since ever since’ as the island saying goes,” said Olivas. “Guam is known for its hospitality and friendly people. That’s island-style. That is because the people of Guam are always getting together and having parties and fiestas.”

Olivas said that barbeque can mean something different to each person. But regardless of a person’s definition of barbeque, he said, a good barbeque is the condition of the finished product.

“The meat must look good, taste good and be tender and juicy,” said Olivas. “And you also got to have a good time while you’re doing it. That is what we all ultimately strive for at the end of the day … good friends, food and fun!1”

Marinating meat is one of the keys to making meat juicy and tender, according to Olivas.

“Brining, marinating or buying good quality meats are your best bets for tender meat,” said Olivas. “An island favorite is marinating your meat in the popular island soy-based marinade.

“The typical marinade is one cup soy sauce, one cup vinegar, one half to one diced onion and fresh garlic minced. Some even add a little black pepper and sugar,” he said. “By allowing your meat to marinate in this mixture, you can be sure that the longer you marinate your meat, the tenderer it will become. And the flavor of this marinade is awesome.”

Olivas, who said this special marinade can be used for chicken, steak and pork spare ribs, recommended marinating the meat overnight in the refrigerator and grilling over a direct flame.

If there’s one thing that stands out at a Guamanian barbecue, it’d have to be the spicy sauces that are available to dip in. If you’re on Guam and have the opportunity to attend a local barbecue, don’t hesitate to try dipping your meat into some finadene sauce, a spicy concoction made from soy sauce, vinegar, fresh lemon juice, sliced green onions and hot peppers.

But what’s the real key to a successful barbeque?

“Have your cooler of drinks ice cold and play good music,” Olivas said.

Let them serve you

If you are busy and have no time to barbeque, you can still find tasty barbeque at local restaurants.

If you are looking for authentic Chamorro-style smoked meat, the local favorite Asu Smokehouse in Chamorro Village is a great place to start.

Asu uses only locally-harvested hardwoods in the smoking process. They don’t use propane, lighter fluid, charcoal, or electricity to cook because petroleum products have no business imparting chemicals onto meat, according to Sonny Orsini, one of the owners of Asu.

“Our meat is smoked anywhere between 14 to 18 hours,” Orsini said. “Our product is very unique. Once the brisket is done with just the right amount of smoke, we let it to rest anywhere between an hour or two to allow juices to distribute. Everything Asu does is all about the process. We take great pride in our product. We make every effort to ensure no short cuts.”


Recipes by Reuben Olivas

BBQ Guam:


  • 1 slab of U.S. pork spare ribs
  • 1 cup of Rib Rub
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar in spray bottle


  1. Trim the rib tips off of the slab. You can grill these while the ribs are cooking and eat these while you and your guests are waiting for the ribs. Just rub these down with rib rub before grilling.
  2. Pull off shiny membrane from the rib’s boney side and discard.
  3. Rub ribs down with a liberal amount of rib rub.
  4. Grill over medium heat until the color of the ribs is to your liking.
  5. Double wrap in heavy duty tin foil. Before closing up the ribs in the tin foil, spray down with the apple cider vinegar to help it steam (cooks ribs down to the bone) and remain juicy.
  6. Cook Ribs in tin foil for about an hour. Open to see if the meat around the rib tips has shrunk back. If so, they are ready to come out of the foil. If not wrap and cook a little longer in the foil.
  7. Once the ribs are cooked and removed from the foil brush bone side with barbecue sauce and place on grill. Then brush the top side of the ribs with the sauce. Grill for a couple of minutes to allow the sauce to harden and flip over. Brush both side twice then remove.
  8. Be very careful not to burn the ribs on this final step as the sugars in the sauce with blacken very easily.
  9. Serve rib rack whole for good presentation and cut on table. Provide sauce on the table in a squirt bottle for those who want more sauce.
  10. Say goodbye to Tony Roma’s. Your ribs will be much better and you’ll be proud to say that you made the ribs.

(Note) Make sure you have some good, fresh lemon finadene’ (Guam lemon-based hot pepper sauce).

BBQ'd Rainbow Runner


  • Rainbow Runner Medium Size (3 lbs) or Red Snapper
  • 1 Medium Onion diced
  • 6 cloves fresh minced
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • Mayonnaise
  • 1 cube butter
  • Olive oil  

Santa Maria-Type Seasoning:

  • 1 tablespoons non-iodized table salt or sea salt
  • 1 tablespoons granulated garlic powder (fine grind)
  • 1 tablespoon of Kosher Salt (Morton’s Box @ Payless)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, medium grind
  • /4 teaspoon Accent (MSG), optional


  1. Clean and scale fish and trim fins and tail. Slice both sides of the fish down the lateral lines. This will allow the seasoning to soak in and also will cook faster. 
  2. Rub fish with olive oil. Sprinkle and rub the Santa Maria seasoning and paprika all over the fish, including the inside.
  3. Stuff the stomach cavity with the diced cherry tomatoes, onions, minced garlic and one stick of butter.  Then rub the entire fish with mayonnaise and sprinkle with diced green onions.
  4. Wrap the fish in heavy-duty tin foil and place on the BBQ pit, direct heat, for about 30 min.
  5. Open the tin foil up and allow the smoke to penetrate the fish and cook for another 20 minutes. This really gets that BBQ smoke-flavor into the flesh.
  6. Remove from the pit and let it rest (sit) for about 10 min. before serving.

– Rueben Olivas, BBQGuam


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