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
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.