Pång’lao: Guams' stuffed land crab?
Like fish, crab was a staple in the Chamorro diet. Land crabs, pång’lao in Chamorro, continues to be one of the most frequently harvested animals on the island. Pång’lao echong (crooked crab) is the most common of the land crabs. It has extremely large claws.
Along with fish, crab and other shellfish were the primary protein source for ancient Chamorros. Crab hunting has probably been a human activity since prehistoric times.
In addition to being a source of protein, crabs were significant to the ancient Chamorros. This is evident in Chamorro oral traditions that include stories with central characters that are crabs or simply mention crabs or crab hunting as an activity.
One such story is the legend of Puntan Påtgon (Child’s Point) about a powerful man who becomes envious of his child’s superior strength. According to the legend the son was so powerful that as a little child he uprooted a coconut tree trying to get his pet crab. In another legend, golden-spotted crabs were the escorts of a statue in the image of the island’s patron saint, Santa Marian Kamalen, who was also referred to as the “Lady of the Crabs” because of the story.
Land crabs are much sought after even today. Residents wait for the lunar cycle (on the eve of a full moon) to go crab hunting. In the past crabs were plentiful and could be obtained easily. While they can still be found today, some residents “order” crabs from the southern villages or other locations such as Palau and the Philippines. This is largely due to the time it takes to catch, purge and prepare the dish.
This dish can be eaten anytime and at any gathering and is not associated with any particular event or occasion.
Crab hunting is a family affair with men, women and children taking part in the hunt.
After they are caught, crabs are kept for a few days to purge their system of toxins and to fatten them up. They are usually fed a diet of grated coconut.
There are regional difference in how the stuffing for the grab is prepared. In northern and central Guam, the stuffing is called “pengot.” In southern Guam, it is referred to as “ka’it.”
Placement on table
Stuffed crab is placed alongside the fish on the fiesta table. The fish section is the third section coming after the starch section (åggon) and the meat section (totche). The vegetables and salad section follows the fish section. The kelaguen, fina’ denne’ and kadu (soup) section is at the end of the table. The desserts are usually located on a separate table.
Pång’lao: Stuffed land crab
- Onion, chopped
- Pepper leaves, chopped
- Pumpkin Tips, chopped
- Red Pepper, chopped
- Coconut, grated
- Coconut milk (for every 1 cup of coconut milk add ½ cup of water)
Remove shell from body of crab. Set aside. Remove bitter part (bile) then scrap out meat. Mix finely chopped onion, pepper leaf, pumpkin tips, and donne (hot red chile peppers) and grated coconut. Stuff mixture in shell and tie it securely with coconut leaf or string.
Mix coconut milk and water and place in large stock pot. Submerge stuffed crab in pot. Vegetables can be added to the top of crab if desired. Cover and let boil until crab turns red.
* Recipe provided by Sen. Pilar Lujan
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!