It all started a few weeks ago when Auntie Claudia of Island Liaison came to my class to do a food/cultural presentation. When we met to plan this, I mentioned that one of my favorite foods is Chamoru empanada. She mentioned that her cousin makes it and that she would share the frozen empanada that was currently sitting in her freezer. Fast forward to her class visit, she ended up bringing an incredible spread to my students.
When I saw the spread, I was really overwhelmed. There was so much more than I was anticipating. When we discussed her visit, she said she would bring “tastes” for my students. However, it ended up being more of a mini fiesta! There were two long desks filled with varieties of taro, rosketti, potu, coconut candy, and my favorite: Chamoru empanada.
Inspired by her visit, I decided to actively look for a recipe for Chamoru empanada. As I’ve said many times, I don’t trust recipes. Every cook has her/his secrets that are purposely left out. Chamoru food is no different. The few recipes I’ve mastered have come from lots of trial and error. My recipe for Chamoru shrimp patties came from my brother-in-law’s aunt, so it was totally legit. Even then, technique needs to be developed. It takes time.
I have had the recipe book Remember Guam bookmarked on amazon for ages. However, I hesitated because again, I don’t trust recipes. However, Paula Quinene, the author, has a website and a youtube channel. After viewing the video on Chamoru empanada, I decided to buy her cookbook because the recipe and technique seemed legit.
I’m happy to announce that it’s TOTALLY legit! The videos show technique, but you need to purchase the book(s) for the actual recipe. I say do it! In order to respect her recipes, I will not be posting the recipes or my modifications.
Here’s my first stab at Chamoru empanada. There are two steps to this. First, you need to make chalakiles, which is the filling. Note: It’s nothing like Mexican chilaquiles. After making the chalakiles (which is a fine meal on its own), you have to refrigerate it overnight so that it cools and thickens. Here are the pix:
The second part of the recipe is the shell. This is the part that is a bit difficult. I know my mom has stopped making empanada all together because of stiffness in her hands. After doing some online research, I discovered that a lot of people use a tortilla press to bypass the rolling involved in making the shell. BRILLIANT! It totally saved time and allowed some uniformity in the empanada. Again, here are the pix:
The last part of the process is the fold and pinch. This is where the filling and shell meet. It’s quite easy and unlike lumpia, you DO NOT need a binding agent (such as eggs). The challenge is figuring out the right amount of filling. It took me a while and I’m still working on it. I found that my filling tended to spill over a little. It was okay, though because as long as you pinch well and remove the air, things should be fine. Check it out!
Once the empanada is made, you want to make sure you keep them in the wax paper. That way, you avoid drying. Also, the shell is really brittle, so the wax paper keeps everything intact. Ideally, you want to freeze these before frying. However, if you can’t wait, please be gentle when peeling the wax paper.
There you have it! I’d like to thank Auntie Claudia for an awesome presentation and for inspiring me to finally make this. To my Guam family: We don’t have to buy these at $2.50/piece at the bakery anymore. We can make it ourselves at a fraction of the cost, and with an infinite amount of love!