Tuesday, February 23, 2016
BUCHI BUCHI AND PÅSTET
Buchi buchi? Or påstet?
I suppose the best answer is "both."
But what is the question?
For some people, the question is which is which? The general answer I receive from most people is, "If it's fried, it's buchi buchi. If it's baked, it's påstet." And my sources come from Saipan, as well as Guam.
Then there are the hold-outs who say that both words apply to either. I suppose, then, one could ask for fried påstet or baked påstet. Fried buchi buchi, or baked buchi buchi. I can just see the traditionalists cringe. For them, påstet is always baked and buchi buchi is always fried. Personally, I go along with this distinction of fried-vs-baked. It makes it easier to know which of the two you want.
The filling does not make a difference in the name. The traditional filling on Guam is pumpkin (kalamasa), though at times I also see on Guam papaya fillings for påstet. This is the typical filling for Saipan påstet - papaya.
The next endless and, perhaps useless, debate is which of the two is better? While I tend to favor the fried buchi buchi, there are times when I prefer påstet but only when the shell is exquisitely flaky and the filling perfectly flavored.
These foods were introduced to the Marianas in Spanish times as we had no wheat flour, nor pumpkin nor papaya until then.
Påstet is surely the Chamorro rendering of the Spanish word pastel. The word pastel in Spanish can mean many things, all of them a kind of food, of course. In Spain, pastel usually means "cake." But in other Spanish-speaking countries it can mean a filled pastry as we have it, although the filling can include meat. So the idea came from Latin America, I believe, and we simply used the ingredients available to us locally.
Buchi, in Chamorro, can mean a swelling on the body or a bubble on a tire. Perhaps the air pockets formed in the shell of the buchi buchi when it is fried lead to this food's name. Who really knows? The Filipinos have a treat called buchi, but it's a sweet rice ball with a mung bean filling and sesame seeds added to the exterior. I believe that's inspired by the Chinese and the name might be Chinese in origin, as well.
As someone said to me, "Call it what you want. We don't eat the name, we eat the thing itself."