When it comes to breakfast, Chamorro know a thing or two
Breakfast. The most important meal of the day during the workweek can be America’s favorite meal on leisurely weekends. And on this laid-back island “where America’s day begins,” folks know a thing or two about the first meal of the day.
With a virtual fiesta table full of cultural influences – including indigenous Chamorro, Spanish, Filipino and American – is it any wonder? From fried rice and fried bananas to chorizo and Chamorro sausage to Spam and eggs to hotcakes, there’s a lot to celebrate about breakfast on Guam.
Ancient Chamorro diets relied heavily on fish and seafood as well as starch foods like breadfruit, bananas and taro cooked in coconut milk, according to Annie Merfalen, author of Annie’s Chamorro Kitchen blog. Guam breakfasts may be somewhat Americanized today, she says, but you can still find elders who enjoy cooking traditional recipes.
“There are a few foods such as “champuladu” (chocolate rice), which is more traditional Chamorro fare,” Merfalen says. “As I was growing up, my mom would also fry some bananas, called ‘madoya,’ for our breakfast.”
One staple breakfast food, however, has withstood the test of time despite foods like bacon, eggs and waffles becoming as commonplace here as tourists. Rice has long been a staple on Guam, and fried rice is at the top of the list when Guamanians talk about breakfast.
“When I was growing up, it was common to have eggs and spam and fried rice for breakfast,” says Guam Visitors Bureau spokesman Josh Tyquiengco.
It may sound odd to many Americans, but breakfast helpings of fried rice heaping with tasty tidbits like savory meats and sometimes even seafood as well as grilled onions or diced potatoes – all topped with a sunny-side-up egg – pleases many a local pallets.
Local favorites include rice fried with corned beef, Chamorro sausage, Portuguese sausage and, of course, Spam, another popular island staple. This morning meal is eaten at home, served in cafés and lauded in local restaurants and hotels pretty much everywhere on island.
And while many a morning meats my grace Guamanian breakfast tables, you can bet, as the name suggests, that Chamorro sausage has an honored place.
“Our homemade Chamorro sausage is one of the most popular items,” says Richard Lai, owner of Shirley’s Coffee Shop, a popular breakfast spot for nearly three decades. “The homemade Chamorro sausage is basically ground pork and diced onions and local spices. … You actually don’t put it in a sausage (casing); you just grill it like ground beef.
“Back in old times in Guam,” he continues, “we didn’t have those sausage skins, we just cooked it like that. You can have it by itself or with an omelet or you can have it scrambled with onions and eggs all together. That is very traditional local dish here.”
What you eat for the first meal is as important as when you eat it, and on Guam eating Sunday breakfast or brunch out is a time-honored tradition. Lai says that while businessmen meeting at Shirley’s to avoid high-end hotel eatery prices make up most of his weekday breakfast crowd, it’s a different story on weekends.
“On the weekends, people are very firm on coming here before they go to church or after church, because more than 70 percent of the local people are (Roman) Catholic.”
It should be no surprise that franchises on island have gotten on the breakfast bandwagon, catering to local tastes. Morning meal mega chain Denny’s draws droves of locals by adding the popular Chamorro Slam ($10.99) to its regular 24-hour breakfast lineup. It includes Portuguese sausage, a mushroom, onion, jalapeno and cheese scramble with your choice of steamed or fried rice.
And while you can see people sipping hot coffee at MacDonald’s in the morning here like you can anywhere in the U.S., you can also see them chowing down on rice. You can select Spam and Portuguese sausage from the local Mickey D’s breakfast menu as well as rice to go with your eggs.
Fresh tropical fruits, smoothies and yogurts for those craving a more healthy diet are also popular breakfast menu items on Guam.
“There is something for everybody here whether you want American diner food or you want a more local flavor of the Chamorro community or you want to have healthy food,” says Guam Visitors Bureau’s Tyquiengco. “Just go out and experience the different tastes of Guam.”
“Our Tumon Bistro, served with Chamorro sausage, two eggs and fried rice, is our local-style favorite. It is something we eat at home, and when growing up; it’s a very traditional dish. OOG (Only on Guam) is served with smoked meat, egg, steamed rice and ‘finadene’ (dipping sauce). Also, our local scramble is something my grandparents used to make for us: Corned beef, egg scramble with white rice and finadene. Benedict Chamorro, French toast with bananas, and the local scramble are also popular. You can build your own fried rice. We use local produce.”
- Lenny Fejeran, owner
Address: 888 N Marine Corps Drive, Tamuning
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 7:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
(Breakfast served till 10:30 a.m.)
Shirley's Coffee Shop
“We are named as the No. 1 pancake and omelets for last 25 years in Guam. And our fried rice has also been very popular. You can order all kinds of breakfasts but not only do we have toast and hash-browns but you can have the fried rice, which is very locally orientated. We’ve had fried rice on the menu for 28 years. Pancakes and fried rice are top sellers here.”
– Richard Lai, owner
Address: 3115 Agana Shopping Center
Hours: Daily, 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Address: Governor Carlos G Camacho Rd
Hours: Daily, 6:30 a.m.-12 a.m.
“The most popular breakfast dish is corned beef fried rice. Because a lot local people like corned beef in Guam, so we make fried rice out of it. We are one of originals makers of corned beef fried rice. Pancakes in different flavors such as peanut butter, strawberry and blueberry; Rancho hash-browns and Chamorro fried rice are also very popular. The busiest day for morning is right after the Mass on Sunday. So, Sunday, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. are non-stop. But we are open 24hrs and you can order any items on breakfast menu anytime. Ninety percent of our customers are locals. If you want to find the food local people eat at home, you can find it here.”
- Andrew Leon Guerrero, manager
Address: East Hagatna
Hours: 24 hours daily
“Our Lumberjack Slam is popular with Americans. For local people, Tapa (marinated beef), Chorizo Skillet and Chamorro Slam are popular. Our breakfast menu is available 24 hours.”
- Vehner Carmona, manager
Address: 393 Smarine Drive
Hours: 24 hours daily
Address: 1088 West Marine Corps Drive (at Micronesia Mall)Open: 24 hours daily
“Fried rice ala topped with eggs and Portuguese sausage, country brown, and chocolate pancakes are the top three best-selling dishes here for breakfast. Our fried rice is rated as one of the top greatest in Guam. We are master at it. We have spicy ground pork that we process from scratch and we call it chorizo. It goes in the fried rice, too. This restaurant has been open for 35 years. We are open for 24 hours and you can order anything (anytime). We get customers after a night out and, of course, families after church.
- Frank Solomon, manager
Address: Compadres Mall
Hours: 24 hours daily
Address: 199 Chalan San Antonio Suite 200
Hours: 24 hours daily