Guam Kitchen: 6 traditional holiday dishes you can make yourself

Guam Kitchen: 6 traditional holiday dishes you can make yourself

Rueben Olivas, a barbecue and fishing fanatic who authors the blogs BBQGuam, Guam FirehouseCook and FishingGuam, shared these traditional holiday recipes with Stripes Guam. To get that authentic taste of Chamorro tradition, he asked his sister-in-law and others for family recipes handed down over the generations.

“The food (back in the 1950s) was just as great then as it is now, if not better,” Olivas said, adding that there are many different recipes for these popular holiday foods. “But one thing is evident, the island residents back then were very resilient and resourceful. Nothing was going to slow them down from celebrating their holidays.”

Why not give one or two a try for the holidays.

Boñuelos Dago aka  (yam donuts)

Boñuelos Dago is a holiday staple. Everyone loves to eat these delicious donuts. The most popular type of dago (yam) used for boñuelos (donuts) is the red dago. These donuts were usually dipped in syrup, made in the old days by melting sugar, and made for an almost unstoppable bite size treat.

  • 8 cups of grated local yam
  • ½ -1 cup of sugar
  • 1 ½-2 cups of flour
  • 2-3 tbsp of baking powder
  • Oil, enough to deep fry the donuts. It depends on the pan you use for frying.

Any of these amounts can be adjusted to the personal taste of the preparer.

  1. Grate the dago very fine. It will turn into a gooey and slightly sticky type of paste.
  2. Mix in the flour until you get the consistency you like. If you have never made this before, seek advice from one who has or just use the 2 cups of flour.
  3. Mix in the baking powder and sugar.
  4. Heat your oil to about 350 F.
  5. Wet your hand with water (helps the dough slip off the hand easier), take a handful of the dough and squeeze a few donuts into the oil.
  6. Fry until golden brown, let cool and taste.
  7. If they are too gooey inside, you may need to add more flour. If they are not sweet enough for you add more sugar. But remember you may be dipping them into syrup so the sweetness may be adequate. It’s all up to the individual’s taste. Once you are satisfied with the taste of the donuts, fry the rest.
  8. Allow to cool.

You can enjoy these with syrup or without.

Kadon Mannok (chicken soup)

Kadon Mannok was a traditional table fare back in the day. Most homes has chickens running around in their yards so chicken was often on the table in one form or another.

  • 1 whole chicken cut into small pieces
  • ½ large white or yellow onion, diced
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp of oil (in the old days coconut oil)
  • 12 cups of water or just enough to cover chicken by 2 inches
  • 2 lbs. of fresh white taro cut, peeled and cut into 1 inch chucks
  • 1 lb. of pumpkin tips
  • 1 lb. of green beans
  • 2-3 cups of freshly grated coconut milk or two 15 oz. cans
  1. In a soup pot sauté the yellow onion, garlic and black pepper over medium heat.
  2. Once the onions are translucent, add in the chicken. Saute the chicken until slightly brown but no longer than about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the water, change heat to high and bring to a boil
  4. Once the boiling has commenced, return heat to medium, add the taro and green beans and cook for about 20-30 minutes, covered, until the taro is cooked. Test with fork (doneness similar to potatoes though taro is denser)
  5. Add the pumpkin tips and coconut milk, stir and cook covered for another 2 minutes and turn heat off


Gollai Hagon Suni (taro leaves with coconut milk)

Taro was grown all over the island of Guam. Not so much anymore. But back in the 1950s, it was quite common. This dish was very popular for special events and celebrations. Made from all natural ingredients, it was affordable by everyone.

  • 20-30 fresh taro leaves, sliced into 1 inch strips. There is a special way this is done. You stack about 5 leaves on top of one another, roll them together and cut into 1 inch strips.
  • 6 pieces of fresh yellow ginger root, grated. Roots about 3 inches long by about ½ inch wide
  • ½-1 yellow or white onion, cut into thin slices
  • 1 bunch of garlic, peeled, cleaned and minced
  • 5-10 hot peppers, minced
  • 2-3 cups of fresh coconut milk or 3-4 15oz. cans
  • The juice of 1-2 lemons, to taste
  • Oil for sautéing.
  • Salt to taste
  1. In a large pot boil the cut taro leaves until very soft.
  2. Remove from pot and drain.
  3. In pot, sauté the onions, garlic, ginger, and hot peppers over medium heat.
  4. Return the drained taro leaves to pot with the sautéed ingredients and stir thoroughly to mix all ingredients together.
  5. Pour in the coconut milk.
  6. Mix in the lemon juice and salt to taste and constantly stir.
  7. Turn heat off when the mixture starts to boil.

Serve with white rice or tortillas.

Eskabeche (fish with vegetables in vinegar sauce)

This is a very popular holiday dish back in the 50’s. It still is today.
Serving is small for 2-3 people but usually was made for many.

  • 2 lbs. fish
  • 10 tbsp white vinegar. Add more depending on your taste
  • 5 cups water
  • ¾ to 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup salad or coconut oil (coconut oil was used back in the day)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 5 fresh yellow ginger roots about 3” long by about ½” wide (grated)
  • 2 large onion, cut thinly in about 2” long
  • ½ to 1 lb. ea. green vegetables, usually whatever is on hand from the home garden (eggplant, hot pepper leaves, cabbage, long or short green beans and any kind of dark green leafy vegetable like spinach, or kang kong or another name is water spinach)
  1. Scale and clean fish, slitting the fish on the sides and add salt to the areas that were slit
  2. Then fry the fish in oil.
  3. Cook your vegetables which were usually stir fried until their desired doneness. For the harder veggies like the green beans, you would usually start to cook them first as they would take longer. Then you add the rest of the “soft” vegetables, timing the veggies to all be finished at the same time.
  4. In another pan, sauté the grated ginger, onions, and minced garlic in heated oil.
  5. Then add vinegar and water and bring to a boil. The ratio of vinegar to water is to taste. You just want to add enough water in order to take the “edge” off of the vinegar a little. This is the sauce.
  6. In your serving pan, layer the fish on the bottom, then evenly distribute the cooked veggies over the fish topping everything with the sauce.
  7. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes so that the sauce soaks into the veggies and fish.

Check out more of Rueben Olivas’ recipes at:


Chicken Kaleguen

Kelaguen and Titiyas ~ both staples on a Chamorro fiesta table.  But you don’t have to be invited to a fiesta in order to enjoy these tasty dishes — they are so easy to make that you can have it anytime you get the craving!

My two daughters (ages 11 and 15) prepared the dishes; if THEY can do it, so can you!

Give my super easy recipes a try.  I think you’ll like them!  :)


  • 1 small rotisserie chicken
  • 6 stalks green onions
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon powder plus 3 tablespoons water (or use the juice of 1 large lemon)
  • 2 teaspoons salt (more or less, to taste)
  • Hot pepper, optional
  • Freshly grated coconut (unsweetened), optional


  1. Debone the chicken; shred or cut into small pieces (I used a food processor to roughly chop the chicken).
  2. Thinly slice the green onions then add it to the chicken.
  3. Add the lemon powder, water, salt and pepper to the bowl of chicken; mix to combine.  Taste; adjust seasoning if required.
  4. Stir in the grated coconut (optional).
  5. Serve with my super easy sweet flour titiyas (see recipe below) and enjoy!


Red Brown Rice

My family is making a concerted effort to develop healthier eating habits. We’re making small changes in the foods we eat as well as how we prepare them.

One change we definitely like is that we’ve made the switch from white to brown rice. I admit, it took some getting used to, but we actually like it. Of course, I have to season the brown rice whenever I cook it.

I wanted to see if the classic Chamorro Red Rice would taste good using brown rice instead of the usual white medium or long grain rice we know and love.

The result? Delicious! Granted, you can definitely tell you’re eating brown rice (it’s firmer and a bit nuttier than white), but delicious nonetheless.

Give my recipe a try. I think you’ll like it.


  • 3 cups brown rice (use your rice cooker cup)
  • 6 1/3 cups water (use your rice cooker cup) (*See note below)
  • 1 packet achote powder (*See note below)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Dashida seasoning (or salt, to taste)
  • Note: You can use achote water made with achote seeds instead of achote powder. Scrub the seeds in the water; strain out the seeds before using.


  1. Rinse the rice then place into your rice cooker pot.
  2. Add the water.
  3. Add the achote powder.
  4. Add the olive oil.
  5. Add the green onions.
  6. Add the Dashida seasoning.
  7. Cover the pot then turn it on or place it on “cook.” After about 5 minutes, open up the lid and stir the rice, ensuring the achote powder and Dashida seasoning are dissolved and evenly distributed. Place the cover back on the pot and let it finish cooking. After your rice cooker turns from “cook” to “warm” (or the equivalent for your rice cooker model), be sure to keep the lid closed, letting the rice continue steaming for 10-15 minutes before serving.
  8. We love red rice with fried chicken and cucumber salad. Serve with your favorite main dish(es) and enjoy!

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