empanada love

7 May

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.


Auntie Claudia showing my students that the coconut ladle can be used to serve food and to hit stupid people over the head:)

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.


I urged my students to not eat this. Unfortunately, they refused to listen:(

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:


One of the key ingredients is toasted rice. You can easily do this over the stove. Medium heat and watchful eye is way better than using Cream of Rice (which is what some folks end up using).


Just so you can see the contrast, the toasted rice needs to be golden brown. Even if you burn it a little, it should be fine because it gives the filling a nice charred taste.


I used at least double the meat the recipe called for because I like a meaty, chunky filling.


This is the finished product of the chalakiles. It’s basically a thick soup. Again, my version has a noticeable amount of bacon and chicken.


After letting it cool and thicken overnight, the filling is ready! There was a lot of chalakiles. Unless you’re going to eat this first and use the excess for filling, I suggest making only half of Paula Q’s suggested recipe. A full recipe will make about 80 pieces.


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 recipe for the dough is quite simple. Paula Q’s recipe makes about 40 dough balls. Admittedly, I tried to be fancy and this batch was slightly salty for my taste. I have since made notes to adjust. The dough balls need to be the size of a golf ball. Some other techniques is to use an ice cream scooper or a 1/4cup container to measure.


I wrapped the tortilla press in plastic wrap on both sides. From there, I placed wax paper on the bottom and followed with a dough ball in the center. Note: You’re better off cutting he wax paper yourself. I had the pre-cut ones from Costco and wasted a lot of it!



A simple press of the lever and BAM! A perfect thin shell. I’m sure you can adjust thickness by not pressing so hard. However, I like a thin shell.

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!


You really want to play with portions. Make sure you press the filling so that there’s no air pockets.


From there, fold over and pinch. If you look carefully at the top left corner, you’ll see where there was a little filling overflow. The amount of filling is also personal taste. Personally, I like there to be a good amount of filling. A tablespoon or two will do ya!

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.


Because you want the shell to be crispy, I suggest frying 4 minutes per side. Yeah. This stuff is fried. There’s no way around it, folks!


The finished product. Don’t mind the oil stains. It just means that this is good stuff!


Again, my filling is meatier than most. You’ll figure out your own adjustments.

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!

Live deliciously,


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