Chamorro Village's Wednesday Night Market - Something for Everyone
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
If there is one place that embodies the fun, food and revelry of a local fiesta mixed in with the countless shopping choices of an international bazaar, it has to be the Wednesday Night Market at the Chamorro Village! This is understandably a highly popular attraction for both local residents and visitors alike, for it represents the spirit of free enterprise, with bargain prices for local food, goods, and services offered. In fact, the Wednesday Night Market is the only venue for the public to acquire many of these home-made crafts, foodstuffs, garments, and artwork, which are sold by local residents who use this event to make a little money from doing what they love.
This was my first visit in well over a year, maybe two, and we were joined by my nieces, Brieana and NaTaya, who had just arrived from Houston for a 10-day stay where they were born and they craved getting back in touch with their local roots. What better place to do this than the Chamorro Village?
Our first stop was at Hafa Na'mu, Chamorro for "What would you like to eat, or what is your food?" This little business stand is owned by Toni Quintanilla, who does catering (472-2652), too. We had the empanadas ($1.00), the Pastit ($1.00 a baked pumpkin turnover) was excellent, Chicken Chalakiles (a savory, thick rice and chicken soup), and Latija ($1.50, a local custard-like cake dessert sprinkled with cinnamon.) This version of Latija used angel food cake, though many prefer sponge cake for a different consistency.
Just down from Hafa Na'mu was Pearl's Fast Food - which is next to Raphael's Ice Cream Stand. Although Pearl's is a regular food stand at Chamorro Village, on Wednesday Nights they set up a hot food table outside the kitchen order window and serve it up to you right there - you like, you get! (It should be noted that mostly everything here is open-air, which means that they don't serve according to Public Health requirements for sneeze guards). Pearl's serves full menu plates with choices of 1 - 5 meat items, with prices ranging from $3 - $6.00. I saw some Lechon Koali (forgive my spelling, but this was a nice piece of fried pork that tasted very good, augmented by a little of Mama Sita's Lechon Sauce.) The business is owned by Mariam Wagstaff and is named after her daughter Pearl, who was busy serving the swarm of customers surrounding her table.
One food stand had a long line that snaked around, almost blocking the front. It was Kusinan Ari, and the owner had set up tables some distance away from where her permanent kitchen and stand location is. Her food apparently has a large and loyal following with people coming for her Shrimp Patties. Her Plates also run from $3.00 - $5.00. She had several types of fish, including Tilapia, as well as the ubiquitous BBQ Chicken and Pork skewers. I was brought a few pieces of Dry Meat, which was made by Champaco's Food Service. This was smoked dried beef brisket and it was really flavorful and chewed easily. This meat is cured and has a nice reddish tint.
Zee had mentioned "kettle corn" a few times, saying she was looking for it - I'd not tried it so didn't identify with her undisguised zeal. We eventually walked around and she pointed to an area on a small hill where she said there it is - Kettle Corn! What I saw was a man stirring a long paddle in a very big kettle over a jet-fired flame. I got closer and noticed that it was an 80 Qt. Stainless Steel mixing bowl for a Hobart Mixer (I used to sell these). It was an ingenious device as it was securely clamped in place. This business is called Bree & Jay's Krazy Korn, owned by Joe and Martha Taitano. They sell tubed bags at $2.00, $4.00 and $7.00. The popcorn is specially flown in for them. It is popped in the kettle and sugar is added, giving it a thin coating similar to Cracker Jack's, but not as thick. The kernels pop up round, almost like balls. It tasted awesome and we walked away with a medium-size bag. You can order Krazy Korn for parties and special occasions by calling 633-0177. This was a great discovery!
Another table that caught our attention (and held it for a while) was Diane Bachelder's Micrafts Pacific Floral Gel Candles. This amazing table had original gel candle jars, bottles, and glasses, some with charms inside that you can remove after the gel has melted, and others with seashells and other colorful decorations. The variety of scents were impressive, including White Ginger, Peach, Rose, Gardenia, Plumeria, Apple, and Iced Pineapple. Some of the glasses were wine and brandy snifters, which looked really neat with the decorated fragrant gel inside. Gel candles are the newest thing in the candle market, and they burn 2 - 3 times longer than paraffin candles. Moreover, while burning the light diffuses through the whole candle, which is truly an inspiring touch for candle aficionados! If you want to get in touch with Diane, visit her website at www.micraftspacific.com or call her at 789-9464.
I was honestly overwhelmed by the many vendor stalls and stands at the Chamorro Village. You could get anything including Shaved Ice, tattoos, BBQ Squid, hand-painted wooden plaques, banana lumpia, sweet tuba, fresh eggplant, green beans, coconut, coconut juice, tomatoes, betel nut...just about anything! While I was savoring a BBQ chicken skewer, I was approached by my friend and local entrepreneur, Richard Chan of The Beverage Source, who had set-up a Jet Tea stand. He let me sample the newest flavor of this frosty, slushy frozen beverage called Intense Green Apple. It definitely captured the essence of the green apple...it was great, and certainly very refreshing...he won new customers in both Zee and me. He even gave us a sample of the Mango Jet Tea, which I thought was good, but not as intense as the apple!
We stopped by a table that was full of neat little plastic box trays filled with yummy looking desserts, such as Pecan Tarts, Carrot Cake, German Chocolate Cookies, Oatmeal Cookies, and Velvet Cake. This business was called Yeng Yeng's Yummies, owned and created by Lynn Manibusan! Gosh, her business name says it all...the tarts were super, the carrot cake was moist, sweet, and filled with carrots and spice.
I can't forget the Produce Stall, partially occupied by the Duenas Family. Patrick Duenas manned the store and we had Tamales Giso, which was really good! It had bacon and was just spicy enough...a really terrific local favorite made with corn meal and masa harina, similar to grits. Then we couldn't help but get a bag of Bonelos Aga (Banana doughnuts for $1.00), another local favorite. Sharing the Produce Stall was Mrs. Diaz, who had Pickled Papaya and Pickled Mango among other local produce items like bananas, eggplant, and avocados. The bags of mango and papaya offer powerful and exciting taste sensations that I can't think about without causing my mouth to water.
Chamorro Village has more than enough things to see, do, eat, and buy for the entire family. The events start sometime after 5:00 p.m. and last until about 9:30 or 10:00. I think it would be good for Guam's visitors to have more exposure to this special place. Perhaps we could consider expanding it beyond Wednesdays...maybe Friday night! It would get my vote, and would certainly help the local economy, especially those hard-working entrepreneurs who are experiencing the benefits of free enterprise at the Wednesday Night Market at Chamorro Village.