sam choy's on guam has added a lunch menu of local cuisine. the menu is called sam choy's backyard kitchen chamoru--a rather romantic allusion to the outdoor cooking spaces that many people on the island have that are colloquially (and affectionately) known as "dirty kitchens"--and features chef peter dueñas's take on some of the local favourites. although there is a version of kelaguen, which many non-locals know, there are other items on the menu that aren't as familiar, but just as tasty.
the photo above is of kelaguen uhang yan titiyas (shrimp kelaguen with corn tortillas), a sort of ceviche made with minced tiger prawns marinated in lemon juice, hot peppers, and onion, served with grilled flatbread made with masa harina and water. the prawns were tender and fresh, and the other flavours a lively counterpoint sweet meat, and tempered nicely by the subtle tortillas.
also on the menu: tinala katne, thick slices of beef brisket, salt-cured, air-dried then deep-fried. the result is something like a more tender version of beef jerky, only considerably more palatable than that. there is home-made spicy chorizo sausage, sauteed with diced eggplant, onion, and garlic, served on a bed of steamed rice. although this is somewhat oily, it has a bold spiciness that doesn't mask the strong pork flavour.
tinaktak is a dish normally made with ground beef, coconut milk, tomatoes and long beans, but in dueñas's version, he uses ground chicken and bok choy, then colours the coconut broth with achote (achiote, annatto). it doesn't add any flavour to the dish, but it is quite attractive. tinaktak is one of my favourite dishes, as i love the flavour of the vegetables cooked in the meaty, coconutty broth. the tomatoes add a little tang to the sweetish, rich dish, and the chicken adds flavour to the broth, without the greasiness and weighed-down feeling that can accompany the dish when made beef.
i had to throw in a dessert because usually that is the best part of a meal at sam choy's: deep-fried churros (doughnuts), served with sauteed bananas, vanilla ice cream, and a warm caramel sauce. the churro were perfectly crispy and light, and the caramel sauce quite light in both consistency and flavour. a fine accompaniment to the warm bananas and cool ice cream. although it's not a traditional recipe, it is island-y enough to be a great way to end an island-y meal.
i am glad that sam choy's has added more local cuisine to the menu; frankly, i was more than a little bored with the every day menu. also, hopefully non-locals will be daring enough to try something on the backyard kitchen menu and discover how good chamoru food can be.
more on the choy
1245 pale san vitores road, suite 450