Guamanian Cuisine — Chicken Kelaguen

Kelaguen is a Guamanian dish similar to Latin American ceviche or French tartare where meats or fish are finely chopped and marinated in citrus juice with coconut, onions and chilies.  In modern times, chicken kelaguen (recipe follows) is fully cooked before chopping and marinating, but beef, shrimp, or fish versions are marinated raw until the acid in the citrus juice cooks the meat.  Often accompanying kelaguen (and just about any other Guamanian meal) is the spicy condiment fina’dene, made from soy sauce, vinegar, onions, and chilies.  We love cevice and carpaccio (raw, thinly sliced beef marinated similarly) and spicy things, so we couldn’t wait to try our hand at kalaguen.

Being a long way from the Mariana Islands, not all the ingredients a Guamanian would use to prepare kelaguen were available to us.  We used Thai chilies instead of the local Guam variety, and couldn’t find fresh coconut so it was omitted.

Chicken kelaguen

(adapted from The Scent of Green Bananas)

SERVES 2

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • Juice of three limes
  • 2 Thai chilies, sliced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced

First we heated our grill pan over medium heat.  Once it was hot we brushed a little oil on the grill, seasoned the chicken breast with salt and peppper, and put it on the grill:

chickenongrillpan

After about five minutes it was ready for its first flip:

chicken5min

The chicken was flipped every five minutes until it looked ready to take a temperature.  Ideally we would have removed it at 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  We were pretty close:

chickentemped

The chicken was put onto a plate to rest for a few minutes:

chickenresting

…then we were ready to chop it up.  In Guam we are certain that chicken for kelaguen would be chopped a little more finely, but we did as much as we had the patience for:

chickenchopped

Next it was time for the chilies:

chilis

These two little chilies might not look like much, but Thai chiles pack a punch.  Sliced thinly, the chiles were added to a large bowl with the chicken, onions, and lime juice:

kelaguen

Kelaguen is tart and spicy with a rich, meaty flavor added by the browned chicken.  It was improved a little by a big spoonful of the fina’dene (recipe follows), which took the spiciness to another level.

Fina’dene

(adapted from ChamoritaMomma’s recipe on Food.com)

MAKES 1 1/2 CUP

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 2 green onions, sliced thinly
  • 4 Thai chilies, sliced thinly
  • Juice of one lime

All ingredients were combined in a serving bowl and stirred:

finnedenne

Served with red rice, the kelaguen and fina’dene were a colorful plate:

redricekelaguenplated

More from our Guamanian meal:

Red rice

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