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Guam Food History
...where did it all come from?

A dive into Guam's food past. Where did it all come from? 

Our food history on Guam is much a reflection of the food history of our planet. What we have today goes way back when to climate changes: events that caused apes to evolve from four-legged to two-legged creatures in search of food; events that allowed apes to cross over continents; and events that gave rise to humans living in communities, or civilizations. Our human evolution is directly related to the evolution of food, and how food was available, gathered, preserved, and cooked. The modern form of humans, or homo sapiens sapiens, is so young at just under 200,000 years compared to about 4 to 10 million years ago when the transition of ape to man is suspected to have started. Moreover, the original inhabitants of Guam, our ancient people, are believed to have reached the island around 4,000 years ago, or 2000 B.C. Before humans came upon her shores, a few indigenous foods grew there. These ancient Chamorros, along with the birds and the ocean currents, are suspected of carrying seeds from other lands to Guam. When we think about Guam food from the time before our time, we could use the available data from naturalists, archeologists, and historians like Lawrence J. Cunningham, William E. Safford, and Laura Thompson, in addition to the documentation from visitors and settlers that have passed through Guam.


These foods were on island before man arrived.

Bamboo shoots or pi'ao palao'an

Breadfruit, seeded, or dokdok

Freshwater foods like shrimp or uhang, and eels or asuli

Hutu, seed of the dokdok 

Pandanus or kaffo' and pȧhong

Queen sago or fadang

Seafoods like fish or guihan, land crabs or pȧnglao, coconut crab or ayuyu, lobster or mahongang, clams or hima and pȧhgang, and turtles or haggan



These foods are what have been documented as foods brought to Guam by her first settlers.

Apighighi (apigige') lemmai - fermented breadfruit mixed with grated coconut, made into little pellets then baked

Areca/betel nut or mama'on and pugua'

Bananas or aga' and chotda

Bittermelon or atmagosu

Breadfruit or lemmai

Coconut or niyok

Duck weed/water spinach or kangkong

Fruit bats or fanihi

Ginger of white coloring or hasngot

Ginger, wild, or mango'

Horseradish or maronggai and kutdes

Kelaguen or to cook without fire using lemon juice and salt


Mango or mȧngga

Rice or fa'i

Rice and grated coconut gruel or alȧguan

Rice cakes or poto and potu

Taro or suni

Sugarcane or tupu

Yam or dȧgu

Yam, wild, or gaddo'

References to baking foods wrapped in banana leaves

References to broiling food in embers of an open fire pit

References to carrying water in trunks of bamboo or bongbong

References to cooking in a deep pit or hoyu

References to using a mortar and pestle to smash breadfruit, grind rice, and grind herbs or lusong and lommok

References of having rice cakes blessed to heal the sick -- could this be poto / potu?

References to grating coconut with a kåmyo to make coconut milk and coconut oil

References to woven pandanus and banana leaves used as plates

Refereneces to gourds, pottery, and coconut shells used for liquids



The following are foods recorded by visitors and settlers in addition to the indigenous and ancient foods, according to the year of documentation. Keep in mind, however, that whalers and seafarers stopped on Guam for supplies long before Ferdinand Magellan floundered onto the island in 1521.


The year Guam was officially claimed for Spain by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi



Fowl or domesticated bird kept for eggs and flesh



About 100 years after Guam was claimed, Jesuit missionaries arrive on island to spread Christianity. They introduced a lot of food stuff, including how to grow and use corn.

Cacao or kakao

Corn or mai'es


Sweet potatoes or kamuti


References to use of garden hoe or fusinos

References to use of stone grinder or manos and metati

References to use of pickaxe or hachita



Bread of fine wheat flour

Hogs in salt


Pickled mangos or inasne mȧangga

Pickled fish or inasne guihan

Potatoes or batȧtas

Pumpkins or kalamasa

Watermelons or chandia



Cows or guaka


Oranges or kȧhet

Sugar or asukat



Betel pepper leaf or pupulu



BreadstuffsDeer or binȧdu

Cajan cajan/pigeon peas or lanta'as

Capers or atkaparas

Guava or  ȧbas


Additional foods introduced to Guam from the Americas by the Spanish:

Avocado or alagetta

Chili pepper or doni'

Papaya or papȧya

Pineapple or pina

Soursop or laguanȧ

Tapioca or mendioka

Tomatoes or tumȧtes

Vanilla bean



Pedro's Ice Plant is established - "ice box" 



The following are what Laura Thompson observed, as noted in her book, Guam and Its People.

Arrowroot tubers, ground and soaked to use as starch for making boñelos

Carabao mango

Carabao meat

Distilled liquor from fermented fruits or aguayente

Dried meat

Pepper or seasoned fina'denne'

Raised open hearths

Rice as an import

Tortillas made of ground corn for the noon meal





History of Apigige'

History of Guyuria

History of Kelaguen

History of Tamåles

Guam PDN: Sweet tamåles mendioka

Guam PDN: Corn soup without the chicken

Guam PDN: Boñelos kalamasa with fresh pumpkin

Guam PDN: Rice, rice baby


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© Copyright Paula Quinene. Check out Guam cookbooks and Chamorro cookbooks, A Taste of Guam and Remember Guam, for more Guamanian recipes and Chamorro recipes that are tested, tried and true. Get Macarons Math, Science, and Art, for foolproof macaron recipes and techniques. Enjoy a Guam romance novel in Conquered. Most photos courtesy Paula and Edward Quinene.