As much as I try to be health conscious when it comes to eating, there’s one guilty pleasure that’s I practically always fail to resist.
I previously wrote about how I grew up on a beautiful Pacific island called Saipan that I took for granted for the time I lived there. But one of the things I did enjoy was the local cuisine.
Since moving to the continental U.S. in 2008, I’ve discovered TWO restaurants in Southern California (yes!) that offer a taste of home. One is Guahan Grill in Oceanside, and the other is Chamorro Grill in San Diego. I’ve been to Chamorro Grill more often, which is why I’m writing about it specifically. But Guahan is worth stopping by, too!
Although a huge part of the reason I recommend Chamorro Grill as a place to eat is because the place makes me nostalgic, it also is a way to learn about the local cuisine of a US Commonwealth. I’ve only met a handful of people who aren’t from Saipan or in the surrounding area who know where the island is or about its significance in World War II. Some of these people know about it because their plane happened to stop by there to refuel or for maintenance while en route to some other destination.
Why not learn about one facet of Chamorro culture in a fun way? In this case, by eating food?
Every time I go to Chamorro Grill, I always order chicken kelaguen with red rice. (Shameless plug: I shared this on Snapchat, so if you’re on there, be sure to follow me @bydestinations! 😛 ) Kelaguen is basically shredded meat mixed with onions, green onions, hot pepper (I’ve had it with habanero, chili and Thai chili peppers, as well as ginger as a substitute), lemon juice and salt. You can also add coconut milk or coconut flakes, depending on preference. (Kelaguen is also similar to a Filipino dish called sisig, for all you Filipinos/Fil-Ams out there.) The red rice is a deep orange color and is made with achote.
To add to the experience, it’s always great to order either King Car lemon tea or Assam Black Tea. They’re not cultural beverages or anything, but very popular on the island. (I definitely couldn’t get enough of it while I lived on Saipan!)
Aside from kelaguen, I also recommend the beef short ribs, ahi tuna (a seasonal side), spam musubi, mac salad, and kalua pork. Chamorro Grill also has Filipino dishes, including a pancit and lumpia bowl 🙂
Seasonal ahi tuna poke. Yummm 🙂