IMBB 6: kelaguen mannok


this wednesday, july 21st, is the 60th anniversary of guam's liberation by us forces from japanese occupation in world war 2. although the core of the many events is solemn, it *is* a celebration of and by the local people, known as chamorros. for my first "is my blog burning?" entry, i wanted to submit a chamorro dish in honour of the unique culture of the island.

i decided on kelaguen mannok, chicken kelaguen, which is a standard local dish. it is basically a chopped chicken ceviche-type dish with freshly grated coconut, hot red chilis, and onions. however simple it is, it comes with a complex history reflecting guam's native culture, the influence from hispanic, latino, and filipino cultures during its time in the 16th century spanish empire, and the far east asian influence during the japanese occupation in the 1940s.

this is what you'll need:

1 3-4 lb. broiler-fryer chicken, cut into pieces or 2½-3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken parts, seasoned with salt and pepper, then grilled (preferrably over charcoal); after cooking, discard bones and skin, coarsely mince the meat
2-3 c. freshly grated coconut (frozen fresh coconut can be substituted--if you can't find either, omit it, do not substitute with bagged coconut)
1 c. chopped green onions
½-1 c. of fresh lemon, lime, calamansi, or dayap juice
thai bird chili peppers or scotch bonnet chili peppers, finely chopped (i start with 6 and work my way up!)

this is what you'll do:

put all the ingredients in a bowl. mix them up. adjust the acid--is it not lemony enough for you? add more. adjust the heat--is it not spicy enough? you know what to do. salt and pepper to taste.

it is not necessary to grill the chicken over charcoal or wood, but i do recommend it as the smoky flavour adds a depth to this spicy, lemony dish that pan or gas grilled chicken doesn't. you can omit the spicy chilis altogether, but the sweet milkiness of the fresh coconut will temper the fire in every bite.


kelaguen is served either cold or at room temperature. you can eat it as is, or wrapped in a warm corn or flour tortilla, or the local version, titiyas, with a little finadene on the side.

i hope you enjoy it!


Santos - this sounds delicious! I'll have to look and see if frozen coconut is available around here. From time to time I do see whole coconuts, though I've never attempted to open one myself. I know you get your coconut grated when you buy it, but can you use a regular kitchen grater?

Looks like you were cooking up a storm for this IMBB! The bananas look incredible!

hi cathy!

actually, both recipes were very simple, and quick to make. i think i spent more time playing around with photoshop than cooking!

you can find frozen grated coconut (look for something that says 'niug' not 'buko' if you come across a brand from the philippines) in most asian/indian stores.

if you want to grate it yourself, i highly recommend either using one of those cylinder-type cheese graters or the grater blade on a food processor (my knuckles are proof that hand graters really do grate hands).

if you've never opened a coconut before, the best method is dropping it down a flight of concrete stairs or flinging it against a concrete wall (stand out of the way, though, it will bounce back). this is how my german sheperd, rocky, does it (he seems to think coconuts are squeaky toys)--if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me. ignore the liquid that will splash out, you won't need it anyway. the easiest way to pry out the meat from the hard shell is to take a cleaver and cleave a piece of the coconut on the meat side--the piece will still be stuck to the knife. use the cleaver to gently but firmly tap the coconut shell side against your kitchen counter, and the meat should come out in large chunks. you can pare off the dark skin, or leave it on.

good luck! if you decide to try it, let me know how it worked out!

Hi Santos,

Looks yummy! I can just imagine the flavors that this has....I love hot and spicy, sweet and tangy. Better yet if they are combined into one dish.

Can you eat this as a side dish with something more substantial?

hi reid

certainly! kelaguen is usually eaten as a snack wrapped up in tortillas or as a part of a plate lunch or fiesta buffet, rarely just on its own. because it has the spicy lemony flavour and it's cold, it's often just considered a salad; and as you know on the islands, a salad is never a main course, even if it's made of meat :-)

a typical fiesta plate for guam consists of red rice (a future post), barbecued chicken or shortribs, chicken kelaguen, titijas, and finadene. this would sound really good to me right now if i didn't just have an enormous lunch....

Great stuff Santos. Culture, history, language and food all rolled into one. I'll be saving the recipe for summer.

and a jazzy ceramic moai head to boot!

Thanks so very much for sharing these special recipes, Santos. I was married into a family from Guam for several years. All these things are some of the most fantastic foods I've ever eaten; and bring back warm, happy feelings and memories. I'm especially excited to get the kelaguen recipe as it's the one I could not remember!!

Georgia, USA

hafa adai heidi! thanks for stopping by and happy holidays to you!

Buenas Santos,

This is an ideal recipe for one of Guam's famous dishes. I also like the cultural tie-in using history and the tips to get it as close to the "native Guam" version as much as possible. Si Yu'os Ma'ase (Thank you) for putting Guam on the worldwide web.

Deployed in the Middle East

Hafa Adai Santos. I was on the island for the first part of May. I got to experience the 5/10/08earthquake first hand on the 7th floor of the Sheraton Laguna in Tamuning. While visting I go to experience some of the local culture - especially when I spent a day driving the southern loop on Rte 4. However I came away without knowing how to pronounce "kelaguen" as I heard it pronounced differently. Can you help? Also I saw different preparations of this dish at - yes, I know it was touristy thing to do - at the Chamorro Village on Wednesday night. Some looked like they were served warm.