Chamorro-style Escabeche and Mashed Ube with Coconut Cream

Chamorro-style Escabeche and Mashed Ube with Coconut Cream

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easybutwithafewsteps
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Ube in coconut milk with tilapia, eggplant and onion escabeche-8075

Growing up on Guam I thought that most of our traditional dishes were indigenous to Guam but as I grew older I realized that our cuisine was actually a mix of dishes from Spain, Asia-Pacific, and the U.S. that we have adapted using our native plant, animal, and marine life.

Escabeche is a Spanish dish that came to the Guam by way of the Spaniards sailing from their colony in Mexico to their colony in the Philippine Islands.  Chamorro escabeche is very similar to the original Spanish version with the exception that we use turmeric instead of paprika as the main flavoring (and coloring) ingredient.  Chilis are not indigenous to Guam but were also introduced to the island by the Spanish.

The recipe is quite simple actually.  Fish are initially pan- or deep-fried, whole or in large pieces, then transferred to another pan where they are sauteed with onions, turmeric, and vinegar.  Other popular versions add either peppers, cabbage, or eggplant.  Escabeche on Guam is usually prepared on special occasions and served along with rice or yams which are called “dagu” in Chamorro.

There are two main types of dagu grown on Guam, white and purple.  The purple variety is better known in other parts of Asia as “ube”.  The photos below are of me harvesting ube that I grow in my garden in Sarasota, Florida.     Even after only one year of growth they get quite large and can be a challenge to harvest.

2017-02-04 16.27.33

In researching the history of escabeche on Guam I saw older recipes that called for “yellow or orange ginger” and more modern recipes that suggested using turmeric if either yellow or orange ginger was not available.  Even my mother said that if she couldn’t find orange ginger she used turmeric.  Funny thing is that I’ve never seen yellow or orange ginger on Guam, just turmeric.  It turns out that in other parts of the Pacific turmeric is often called yellow or orange ginger depending on the color of the flesh inside which can range anywhere from almost neon yellow to deep orange.  It was turmeric all along!


Ube with coconut cream

Note:  This can be made a day or two ahead and stored in the fridge until ready to use.

Miz for ube and coconut cream puree-8476.jpg

  • 3 – 4 lbs ube, peeled and cut into large cubes
    • You can also use purple yams
  • 1 13 oz can of coconut cream
  • Kosher salt to taste

Chamorro-style Escabeche:

  • 1 – 1 1/2 lbs tilapia, cut into large pieces (snapper is a great substitute)
  • 4 cups peanut oil (to fry the fish)
  • 1 yellow or Spanish onion, quartered or sliced
  • 1 lbs Asian eggplant, sliced
  • 2 tbsp fresh grated turmeric or 2 tsp dried ground turmeric
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup organic rice vinegar
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Sliced scallions (optional garnish)
  • Fresh chilis (optional garnish)



Ube with coconut cream

Note:  I purposely do not season this preparation so that I have the option of using the ube with coconut cream mixture in either savory or sweet dishes.  Also, I initially only partially mash the ube to make it easier to store.  I divide the ube with coconut cream mixture into small one-pint containers so that I can prepare only what I need and depending on the final dish further mash or puree the ube until very creamy.

  • Wash and peel the ube.
    • You will have to use a knife as the skin is thick and tough.
  • Slice into large cubes, place in a large soup or stock pot.
  • Add the coconut cream, cover and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes.
  • Partially mash, cool, spoon into one-pint containers.


  • Retrieve a pint container of ube and coconut cream from the fridge, reheat in a small saucepan over medium heat, season with salt and pepper to taste, keep warm.
    • A single one-pint container of the ube and coconut cream will serve two.
  • Wash and pat dry the fish, season with salt and pepper; set aside.
  • Pour the oil into a large frying pan, heat over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 350 F.
  • Carefully add the fish and fry until golden brown on both sides (about 3 minutes per side), remove and drain on paper towels.
  • Heat a separate frying pan over medium heat, add two tablespoons of oil from the frying pan used to fry the fish, add the onions, saute for one minute, add the eggplant and turmeric, stir to mix well, cover, cook for 10 minutes.
    • Note:  You may need to add another tablespoon or two of oil as eggplants are notorious for soaking up oil.
  • Add the fried fish to the onions, eggplants, and turmeric.
  • Add the vinegar, stir to mix well, cover, cook for 15 minutes, carefully turning the fish over halfway through.
  • Taste for seasoning, season if necessary.
  • Your Chamorro-style escabeche is ready.
  • Serve with the mashed ube with coconut cream, garnish with sliced scallions and fresh chilis.

Ube in coconut milk with tilapia, eggplant and onion escabeche-8075

Chamorro-style Escabeche and Mashed Ube with Coconut Cream



3 Comments Add yours

  1. Hey Ray! As always, another amazing dish. I am just letting you know that I have nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award. Feel free to check out the post:
    Oh and I appreciate all of your support on Facebook (:


  2. rdaumit says:

    Oh My! What delicious style and recipes you have here! I am new to Word Press and just meeting some new neighbors. I love your style and for sure will follow you!


    1. Thank you for visiting my site. I hope you have a wonderful 2018!


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