Recently, my family and I ventured out to the brand new BG Food Cartel Pod, Beaverton’s first food cart pod. When I first learned that this pod was being built, I was super excited because it’s closer than all of the other carts and pods that I typically visit. After months of delays, it finally opened on February 2nd, although the official grand opening will take place later this spring. The BG Food Cartel Pod is currently home to about twenty carts but can house just over thirty.
One of the carts at this location, Marianas Food Cart, is on my list favorites. They serve Chamorro cuisine (food from Guam) – a cuisine that I am quite familiar with as my fiancée is Chamorro. However, she does not make as many Chamorro dishes as I would like, so I sometimes have to supplement by visiting one of the two local Chamorro carts every once in a while. Because this cart has become one of my favorites, I wanted to show them a little love by featuring them on my blog. Plus, it gave me an excuse to check out the new pod and grab some great grub while doing so.
Marianas Food Cart offers a variety of plates to choose from, though I highly recommend the Fiesta Plate because it gives you a little bit of almost everything on their menu (almost, but not quite). And trust me, it’s worth the $12 you pay. This plate includes two scoops of rice (red or white), a BBQ spare rib, a BBQ chicken, choice of potato salad, crab salad or daigo (cucumber salad with pickled radishes), chicken kelaguen, pancit (noodles), and your choice of lumpia (Chamorro egg rolls) or shrimp patties. Also, the plate comes with finadene (also fina’denne’), which is a Chamorro sauce that you can add to pretty much anything. Personally, I love to use the finadene on the red rice, chicken, and shrimp patties. Be forewarned that, to some, the finadene may be a bit spicy. Start with just a small amount and go from there. It adds a unique and complimentary flavor to so many Chamorro dishes.
Now, you can go with whatever combination you like, but my suggestions are the red rice and Daigo. As for the choice between the lumpia and shrimp patties – I can never decide because both are fantastic choices; so much so, in fact, that I usually add a side order of whichever one does not end up on my plate.
I’m not exactly sure what the meat is marinated in, but both the chicken and the rib have amazing flavor. Typically, I’m not a big fan of ribs, but I make an exception here – they are that good! In addition to whatever the meats are marinated in, or seasoned with, the grill master does an excellent job, as well. The meats are always tender (and the chicken juicy) and have the perfect amount of smokiness to them.
What may very well be my absolute favorite Chamorro side dish is the daigo. There are different ways to make it, but Marianas’ version is the best I have ever had – even better than my fiancée’s. I had to break that news to her recently. Luckily, she still loves me anyway. Daigo is a cucumber salad with pickled radishes, a kimchee base, and vinegar. Some versions can be a little spicy if Chamorro hot peppers are used, but Marianas’ daigo is pretty tame compared to others I have had. It has a great balance of sweet to sour, so if you like that type of flavor, you need give it a try. I’m sure the crab and potato salads are also tasty, but I must admit that I have not yet tried them.Additionally, lumpia and pancit are essentials to any good Chamorro plate. The lumpia is just about what you would expect from an egg roll – veggies and meat (and sometimes noodles) wrapped in rice paper and then fried. As is the case for most foods, there are variations, of course. The same goes for pancit – different varieties are available, but typically follow the same formula; noodles and a combination of veggies (sometimes meat is added). At Marianas, they offer a meatless version of pancit that is similar to pancit canton – a Filipino dish – which uses an egg noodle (as opposed to rice noodles in other versions).
Chicken kelaguen is another Chamorro dish that ranks near the top of my list of favorites. I’m not even sure how to accurately describe kelaguen because it has such a unique taste. It’s like a chicken salad – but so much better! Basically, it’s shredded chicken combined with lemon or lime juice, Chamorro hot peppers, green onions, and freshly grated coconut, among other ingredients. I don’t know what all is used to make it. I just know it’s damn good.
The shrimp patties are pretty awesome, too! Again, there are different variations, but most use an egg-based batter, and are combined with shrimp (chopped or shredded) and a mixture of veggies. Marianas Food Cart uses shredded shrimp and a veggie mix of corn, green beans, and peas; they are then fried until golden brown on the outside, but still light and fluffy in the middle. And, oh so good!
There are other items on their menu that are also worth trying. The corn soup is amazing, though I did not order it on this particular day. Aside from the corn, it’s made with coconut milk and bits of chicken. At first, the combination of corn and coconut milk sounded strange to me. My willingness to try new things rewarded me, though, once I tried it – it’s absolutely wonderful. Additionally, they offer empanadas. I have had Chamorro empanadas in the past, but not from Marianas. I will make it a point to try those on my next visit and update this post after I do!
I realize that I am not the most descriptive writer when it comes to explaining flavor profiles (I will get better, in time). With that in mind, I recommend stopping by Annie’s Chamorro Kitchen for more in-depth information about Chamorro food. I would describe Chamorro flavors as a blend of Filipino, Japanese, and Spanish cuisines. It’s as if they took the best of each cuisine and combined them to make their own unique style.
The last thing I’ll mention is that you can easily turn the Fiesta Plate into a couple of smaller meals. If you are trying to watch what you eat, have no fear – it makes for great leftovers! So head on over to the BG Food Cartel Pod and stop by Marianas Food Cart. And don’t forget to come back and let me know what you think! I’m pretty confident that you will not be disappointed!