Context Clues

Aside from talking about food with people who share the same passion and thirst (hunger?) for knowledge in talking about food, the thing I loved most about being in the Gastronomy Program at Boston University was the snacks.  Because our classes most often were from 6-9pm on weeknights, instructors would incorporate a shared snack situation to be enjoyed during the mid-class break.  A time to stretch, pee, freshen up, socialize (outside of passing notes – not that I did that; I mean, this is grad school… who does that in grad school?), we were also able to indulge in yummies, especially after talking about food for an hour and a half.

On January 31, I presented my thesis as part of the Jacques Pepin Lecture Series at BU.  My thesis is about the foodways of Guam, where I am from.  I talk a lot about the flavor profile of the food preferences of locals, and have a bunch of photos that I took while I was there doing “fieldwork” (yes, it was fieldwork, but I was also there visiting family and generally having a lovely time soaking in the sun and gaining about 15 pounds).  Taking inspiration from the class snack time, I decided to provide topical snacks at the lecture for attendees to enjoy so they had some gustatory context for what they were learning about.

In case you are unfamiliar with the food (or anything) of Guam, basically people there like their food salty, sour, spicy, and meaty.  The most common ingredients used (according to my participants, and my experience living there for the first 17.5 years of my life) are soy sauce, coconut, lemon, vinegar, onion, garlic, black pepper, and donne’ (local hot pepper).

For the snacks, I chose red rice, chicken kelaguen (similar to ceviche, but the chicken is cooked by heat before acid is added), finadene (the preferred condiment), and manha titiyas (coconut tortillas).  I also made roskette (Chamorro cornstarch cookies).   AKA:

2013-01-31 18.05.172013-01-31 18.05.28

Red rice, kelaguen, and finadene are must-haves on the fiesta table.  Shoot, finadene is generally a must-have in the refrigerator.   I know I always have some!  Roskette is something that personally transports me back home when I eat it.  When I lived on Guam, I would only have it on special occasions, though it was usually readily available at certain grocery stores and mom-and-pop shops.  Once I moved away, it was one of many things I longed for in care packages.

Before I get to the recipes, a quick word about the hot pepper I used.  Donne’ (pronounced doh-nee), the local hot pepper on Guam, is similar to Thai chilies.  Although people certainly simply slice the donne’ and add them to dishes, fresh donne’ don’t travel well nor do they have a long shelf life.

Fresh donne'

Fresh donne’

So, to extend the shelf life, donne’ is usually processed by grinding the peppers and adding a combination of lemon juice or vinegar, and perhaps some garlic and salt for flavoring and preservation.  The form I used was ground peppers, bought from Pacific Red Hot (while I was on Guam — they do ship, though).


Pacific Red Hot brand of ground donne’

Although I have not tried it, I assume one could use Thai chili paste as a substitute.  If you have, or know of any other substitute, please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment!

So! Without further ado, the recipes.

Rice cooker: (adapted from Paula Q’s “Taste of Guam”)
3 cups medium grain rice and water*
1  tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 packet annato/achiote powder (or 1/3 oz by weight or approximately 1 1/4 tsp) **
1 packet Goya con achiote y cilantro

*Measurement is in rice cooker cups. If you have a rice cooker but no cup, one is about 3/4 cup standard measure.  Put enough water to the 3 cup measure line, or 4 ½ standard measure cups.
**Can be found in Latino markets.  You can also leech some coloring from annato seeds by soaking 3-4 Tb in warm water (about a cup or so) for 20 minutes, making sure to agitate them occasionally.  Strain out the seeds before adding the colored water to the rice.  The color will not be as intense as when using achiote powder.  If you want more coloring, use more annato seeds.

1.  Wash rice 2-3 times, until water runs mostly clear.
2.  Add achiote powder, if using, and seasonings.  Stir until dissolved
3.  Add water (including achiote water, if using seeds).
4.  Cook rice.

If rice is too wet, stir gently, and leave pot uncovered while on “Warm” setting for about 5-10 minutes.

Red rice

Red rice

2-3 lbs whole chicken, cut into sections, or 2-3 lbs chicken thighs and drumsticks
4-5 lemons, juiced
½ medium onion diced finely
1 ½ green onion bunch, chopped
donne’ or Thai chili paste

1.  Season chicken liberally with salt on both sides, place skin up on cookie sheet lined with foil.
2.  Broil for 10 minutes, then flip chicken and broil for an additional 10 minutes.
3.  Reduce oven to 350F, and remove cookie sheet from broiler.  Cover with foil, making sure to seal the top and bottom foil pieces all around.
4.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool a bit, then remove meat and chop.
5.  Add lemon, onion, and green onion as desired.  Taste frequently, keeping in mind the flavors will intensify as it sits.
6.  Add donne’/Thai chili paste, a little at a time (starting with 1/2 tsp), tasting after thoroughly mixed.
7.  Refrigerate overnight.

Chicken kelaguen

Chicken kelaguen

MANHA TITIYAS (adapted from, pronounced tih-tee-zuhs)
2 cups of flour
½ cup of sugar (if you want it sweeter, add more sugar)
1 tablespoon of Canola Oil
2 Tb milk
¾ cup coconut milk

1.  Combine flour and sugar in a medium bowl.
2.  Add oil, coconut milk, and milk.  Mix dough using a wooden spoon, then using one hand, combining thoroughly.
3.  Separate into balls, or dividing the dough evenly.  The size of the balls depends on the size of titiyas you wish to make.
4.  Before pressing the dough into rounds, heat cast iron pan or griddle over medium heat.
5.  Using a tortilla press* or rolling pin on a lightly floured surface, flatten each ball into a circle about 1/4-1/2 inch thick.  Dough may shrink, so if you wish for them to be larger, you may have to adjust the size of the balls.
6.   When pan is heated, place rounds on the pan and cook. After a minute and a half, flip.  The bottom should have spots of brown.   If no browning has occurred, allow to cook longer.  Continue cooking on other side until some browning has appeared.
7.    Place on plate with towel covering it and put in warmed oven (200F) until all are cooked, or until serving.
8.  Serve warm.

*If using a tortilla press, cut a ziploc bag into two separate pieces, placing one on the bottom of the press, then the dough, and the other piece on top before pressing.  Then peel off the bottom piece and place dough on a lightly floured surface before peeling off the top piece of ziploc.  This will ensure the dough does not get stuck to the press or to your hands.

**If dough is too sticky, add more flour until pliable.  If dough is too dry, gradually add more liquid (milk or coconut milk) until pliable.

Titiyas with a plate of red rice, barbecue pork and chicken, and salad from the Chamorro Village on Guam

Titiyas with a plate of red rice, barbecue pork and chicken, and salad from the Chamorro Village on Guam

½ c soy sauce
¼ c vinegar
½ yellow onion, diced finely
2-4 stalks green onion, sliced thinly

1.  Combine, adjusting donne’ to taste.
2.  Refrigerate or serve immediately.

*Can stay in refrigerator up to 3 months (or longer – it’s usually gone before then, though).



1 box corn starch
1 cup flour
2 sticks butter, softened (but NOT melted)
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ to 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract

1.  Combine flour and cornstarch in medium bowl.
2.  Cream the butter and sugar, until light and fluffy.
3.  Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix.  Slowly add the dry to the wet using your hand just until combined.
4.  Dough is perfect texture when you take a small amount and roll out into a line of dough and twist.  It should look smooth and won’t easily break when twisted.
5.  Roll into balls and press a fork dipped in flour twice (90 deg turn) or twist into coils.
6.  Bake at 350 for about 20 mins.  Gauge readiness by the bottom of the cookie (should be a light tan).

Roskette - pressed and coils

Roskette – pressed and coils

One thought on “Context Clues

  1. Pingback: Week 1: Reacquainting with Hawaii | theredspatula

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