Combat Cooking with USO Guam: Dagu Doughnuts
By Sandi Moynihan
For our next installment of Combat Cooking, we stopped by our newest USO center on Guam for a taste of their local cuisine.
If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a Guamanian home (or stop by the USO on Andersen Air Force Base) over the winter holidays, there’s good chance your host or another party goer might prepare a Chamorro delicacy - banuelos dagu - for everyone to enjoy.
Banuelos dagu, also known as yam doughnuts, are special deep-fried fritters, similar to beignets, that are made from a root vegetable called dagu.
“You only get it around the holidays and honestly, whenever someone makes it […] it’s very special and its usually one of the first things to go,” said Guam native and USO Andersen Center Manager Jadine Lujan.
The signature ingredient of the doughnuts, dagu, is native Guamanian yam that has to be uprooted from the jungle floor. Sometimes, shoppers can purchase dagu from a local farmers market, but Lujan notes many locals simply prefer to head into the forest, or their own backyards, to dig up the root themselves. For those on the mainland that don’t have access to fresh dagu, you can easily substitute taro root or yams when making this recipe.
Once the dagu is harvested, then the real work can begin.
“There’s a lot of hard work that goes into making the doughnuts,” Lujan said.
Part of what makes banuelos dagu so special, yet difficult to make, is cleaning, preparing and grating the dagu before mixing it into dough. Additionally, raw dagu can easily irritate skin and is extremely sticky, which is why local Chamorro and USO Area Programs Manager Edmund Lebita, suggests wearing gloves throughout the entire cooking process.
“Back in the day, we didn’t have food prep gloves, so what we would do is coat our hands and arms up to our elbows in oil [to help with the stickiness and irritation],” Lujan said.
Once the dagu is grated and mixed into a batter with other ingredients, the mixture is hand-squeezed into bite-sized shapes and dropped into hot oil, where they are fried until golden-brown. Once they are cooked through, the dagu doughnuts can be eaten immediately and are often enjoyed with maple syrup, just like pancakes!
Think you’re ready to try making dagu doughnuts at home? Check out the recipe below!
USO Andersen’s Dagu Doughnuts
Adapted from Annie’s Chamorro Kitchen
- 2 lbs. of dagu (or taro root/yams)
- ½ cup flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- Oil for frying
Remove skin from dagu or other root vegetable of choice using a peeler or pairing knife. If using dagu, make sure to wear gloves when handling the root or dough to avoid an potential skin irritation!
Once the dagu is peeled, grate the root into a bowl. It will have the consistency of a sticky paste.
Next, mix the flour sugar and baking powder with the dagu until a thick batter forms. Set the mixture aside.
Add oil to a wok or frying pan and bring to 400°F. Once oil is heated, begin to drop 1-inch sized balls of the batter into the oil, making sure balls don’t stick to each other. Fry doughnuts until they are golden brown and cooked through, then remove from oil.
Serve immediately with maple syrup, if desired.
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