Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Going Home

It has been one year ago that I first visited Guam. As I like to say, I am Chamorro by marriage and last year I had the honor and privilege of visiting Guahan for the first time.
It is hard for me to put into words how much I have fallen in love with the island and its people.
Tomorrow we will begin the long journey back to what I have affectionately referred to as "Home".
True, I am not Chamorro by birth but I feel as sense of belonging to this beautiful place and once again I have the honor and privilege of going back.
Don't get me wrong, the mountains of Colorado and New Mexico will always be where I am from and as contradictory as it sounds, home for me too but Guahan is another very special place that has taken a firm hold of my heart. This sense of wonder I guess is a part of what I attempt to convey and share here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chicken Kelaguen Recipe - Gof Mannge!

SEE: Coconut Cracking and Grating - Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Guam has many great dishes and out of them all, Kelaguen ranks as one of my favorites. Chicken Kelaguen or Kelaguen Manok is basically BBQ'd or roasted chicken served "ceviche" style and has a flavor that is all Guahan.

Kelaguen is often served with the main meal but also makes a great quick meal and can be eaten with crackers, pita bread or rice. Plus, if you're looking for another reason to make Tatizas (Tateyas - Post from October 30, 2012), Kelaguen wrapped in warm Tatizas is wonderful.

One of the things I love about Kelaguen is that it can be made from chicken, beef, venison, elk, fresh fish or shrimp and even SPAM. Don't knock SPAM Kelaguen until you've tried it and when you're in between paychecks and there's no chickens in the coup and beef and venison are still on the hoof, you can open up a can or two of SPAM and still enjoy Kelaguen.

So, the only thing the Internet needs is another Chicken Kelaguen recipe, right? Maybe not but it's hard to have a blog that expresses the beauty and culture of Guam without talking about food, particularly Kelaguen Manok.

There are several versions to this recipe and since I am a "make do with what you have" kind of person I will throw in a couple of ideas just in case you don't have the exact or preferred ingredients for this delicious dish.

Some of the measurements are relative to what you have on hand and adjusting for taste. I have yet to measure anything out for Kelaguen and sometimes, depending on how much meat I have I will adjust the recipe as needed.

For Chicken Kelaguen you will need:
  • 1 Chicken - BBQ'd, roasted or baked preferably without spices or sauces. BBQ sauce or marinade on your chicken will throw off the flavor of your final dish. When I cook chicken on the grill the wood smoke adds a great flavor and when I cook chicken on the gas grill, I throw in a few pieces of coconut husk soaked in water to add a light and sweet smoky flavor to the meat. When making SPAM Kelaguen, one or two cans will work. I like to use SPAM Lite. Regular SPAM just seems to make the final dish a little heavy.
  • 1-3 Lemons - Lemon powder will work but mix it with a little water because you need a little moisture. Bottled lemon juice will work also but fresh is best.
  • 1 Small Onion - A small bunch of Green Onions are preferred and add nice color to the dish.
  • 2-4 Small Hot Peppers - The preferred pepper is the Boonie Pepper found on Guam, also known as Donne Sali. I can't get fresh Boonie Peppers where I live but Thai peppers are available at the local Asian market and dried crushed red pepper will do in a pinch. You will need about 3 Teaspoons of crushed red pepper. When using fresh or frozen peppers roast them on a small open flame or the burner of your electric stove.
  • 3/4-1 Cup Shreaded Coconut - I get coconut from the grocery store and shread it myself but by the time it arrives in the market here in the US, the coconut is sometime hit or miss on the flavor. I did find frozen shreaded coconut in the Asian market that is not bad. You don't want to use sweetened baking coconut and at the risk of breaking away from tradition, I have made Kelaguen without coconut but only when the craving for Kelaguen overcomes my desire to drive to the market.
  • Salt for flavor
Begin by deboning the chicken and cutting up into small chunks. I like to add some of the skin for more flavor. If you're using SPAM, break it apart with a fork.
Dice the onion and mince the roasted peppers.
Mix the chicken, peppers and onion thoroughly. Do not mix in the coconut at this time. Also, do no use a food processor to mix your Kelaguen. I may make Kelaguen without coconut but I would never mix my Kelaguen with a machine.
Next, squeeze the juice from your lemons (lemon juice) or if you have them, Calamansi lemons. The lemon is mixed thoroughly and you  must pour your lemon in a little at at time, tasting as you mix your Kelaguen to get the right flavor. Your Kelaguen should be tangy but not too sour. Add some salt and adjust the lemon and salt to taste.
Finally drop in your shreaded coconut and mix. 


You can eat your Kelaguen right away but it is better to let it stand for about 30 minutes. You may throw it in the icebox while you wait. Sometimes, when I can stand to wait longer I will eat the Kelaguen the next day allowing the flavors to mature.

Now the very best part of Kelaguen Manok, eating! As I mentioned before Chicken Kelaguen is good with corn tortillas, corn or flour Tateyas, corn chips, crackers or with rice. An added treat to top it all off, a couple of ice cold beers make this island dish perfect.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The 60 Second Sling

Using a single strand of twisted cord you can make this sling in just few short minutes.

Step One: Measure out your cord. You will need two arm lengths. The heavier and thicker the cord the longer your initial piece has to be.  
Step Two: Tie two overhand knots in the middle of your cord. The knots should be spaced about 3 ½ inches from each other.

Step Three: Untwist the section of cord between the two overhand knots and split the strands into two separate but even sections. This will form your pouch.
Step Four: Pass one cord through the center of the pouch to retwist the strands to form the pouch.
Step Five: Using an overhand knot, make your finger loop and release knot.
If the finished sling has an unusual or unwanted twist to it, as long as you're using natural fibers you can wet the sling with water then hang it with a stone in the pouch. Allow it to dry and the sling will be find afterwards.
EDIT: This sling is similar in style to a sling from New Caledonia on disply at the Natural Museum, Australia.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Slings from Around the World - Africa I


EDIT: 5/17/2013
I was sure when I posted this sling and subsequent tutorial that this sling was from somewhere in the South Pacific Island region. Well as it turns out I was able to trace my picture back to its origin and it's not Pacific at all. It's African. I was right in that the sling was made from coconut fiber; at least got one thing right....

I have tried to find where this sling came from but I am still at a loss for its origin.
Now on to the fun part, sharing with you how this sling can be made. For this sling I used a small craft loom but the sling can still be made without one. Refer to my sling weaving post from November 10th on how you can craft up a loom. Bottom line is to be creative and use the resources available to you.
The small craft loom seen here is a simple square frame made of wood with plastic pegs to loop yarn if you were making small woven projects like little rugs for the duendes to wipe their feet on when they enter you home at night. As for the pegs on this loom they are not necessary to make this sling.
The material used for this tutorial is twisted jute but any twisted cord will work whether you twist the fibers together to make your cords from scratch or buy commercial cord. The thickness of the strands used to make this sling should be around 3/16 of an inch in diameter.
What you will need:
  • Three strands of twisted fiber, each one 100 to 120 inches long. These three strands when twisted together will make your finger loop and release cord.  
  • One 100 to 120 inch long cord about half the diameter of the cords mentioned above. I took a length of my original cord, untwisted it, removed half of the material making up the cord then retwisted the cord back together to make a thinner cord for the weaving of the pouch.


  • Chopsticks and rubber bands to bind and hold your cords together.
  • Spacers: Hair combs or similar means to hold your cords parallel to each other. I used an old plastic key card with three evenly spaced slots to hold the cords parallel when making the pouch but any stiff material you have on hand will do.
  • A large sewing needle. If you do not have one I will show you how to make a sewing and lacing needle at the end of this tutorial. **
One thing to keep in mind is that some of the measurements are relative. In other words it is okay if you don’t have the exact materials in the exact lengths or in the exact diameters. Be creative and keep practicing. Thomas Edison made around 3,000 attempts before he perfected the light bulb so don’t lose heart and keep trying.

Step One: Lay three cords in parallel with each other. Using the spacers, chopsticks and rubber bands hold your work firmly in place.


Step Two: Using the thinner diameter cord and a needle, thread through the parallel cords to create a lattice of cords. It is in between this lattice of cords where you will work to create the square pouch for this sling. The foundation of any sling is its pouch so make sure your foundation is solidly built.
Step Three: Weave the smaller diameter cord into the lattice of the sling’s pouch, pushing and packing the lace tight. Neatness counts so take your time as you weave the pouch. When the pouch is complete tuck the loose ends back into the woven cords inside the pouch.  
Step Four: Remove the spacers and clamps. Take the two outer cords and weave each cord together.
Step Five: Take the center cord and tie a simple overhand knot where you joined the two outer cords in the previous step. This knot will bind the three strands together before they are twisted together to form the finger and release cords of the completed sling.  
Step Six: Twisting the strands. It will be necessary to tie or clamp the pouch to keep your strands and completed cord from untwisting until this step is done. Begin by twisting each strand in the same direction along the entire length of the strand. Hold each tightly twisted cord to keep it from untwisting then bring all three strands together. Next, twist the group of three joined strands together as one in the opposite direction. You’ll find that the cord will naturally twist in the opposite direction somewhat on its own. Finally twist the whole group of three strands together tightly. Repeat for the other side of the sling.
Step Seven: Make your finger loop and release knot. The finger loop can be made by binding it closed with another piece of cord, weaving the end back through itself or an overhand knot. Your completed sling should be about an arm’s length measuring from the end of your hand to the top or front of your shoulder. Again, sling length is a matter of personal preference so if you’re a slinger, you’ll know how long you want your completed sling.

It is important for me to note that these slings are not historic reproductions. My slings only attempt to represent and maintain the spirit of the craft.

** Needle Tutorial: As promised, this is how you can make a simple sewing and lacing needle using what you may already have on hand. I’ve been making and using these needles for years.

What you will need:
  • Tin can or some other form of thin sheet metal.
  • Tin snips or sturdy kitchen shears or heavy scissors.
  • Cement/Glue – Rubber cement works best but if you don’t have any flexible cement this will still work.
  • Hammer
First: Cut out a small square piece of tin and fold it in the middle. Use caution while handling the tin as the edges can be razor sharp. Apply a thin coat of rubber cement then lay your cord/lace in the center along the fold.
Second: Using the hammer, tap and form the tin tightly around the cord/lace.
EDIT: You can also use a pair of plyers to form the tin around the lace/cord.
Third: Using the snips, carefully cut off the excess tin making your needle about the same thickness as the lace/cord it holds. Nip the tip of your needle at an angle to make a point. Finally, using a fingernail file, sandpaper or other abrasive tool, smooth out the edges of your needle, removing the sharp edges so you do not damage your fingers or your project.