Sunday, October 31, 2010

Koko Samoa video

By panipopos

You know, I'm not sure why Koko Samoa isn't sold in grated or chipped form. I'm also not sure why Samoa doesn't market it's own chocolate made from Koko. Do you reckon anyone has ever tried to smuggle drugs in the middle of a koko block? And who first had the brilliant idea of using disposable cups for koko molds?

Things that make you go "hmmm" when you're sipping your koko...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Koko Samoa - Samoan cocoa recipe

By panipopos

I believe that Koko Samoa is a comfort drink to Samoans around the world. The smell of the koko while it's simmering away is almost as good as the koko itself, and for me, it brings on many a memory of nights spent chatting with family after being separated the whole day. It's a beverage that you sip slowly while enjoying the warmth of your home, or while spending time with friends. Koko Samoa creates a feeling of togetherness with your drinking companions, a sense of unity because you all appreciate this unique Samoan drink, and even more so, because you are all mannered enough to respect the unspoken rule: Do not stare too long or look too closely at the pegu (grinds) stuck in each other's gums.

Koko Samoa (makes 2 cups)
2 cups (500ml) water
4 tablespoons (24g) Koko Samoa, grated
4 tablespoons (60g) sugar

Bring your water to the boil, then add the Koko. Turn the heat down and simmer for 10-15 minutes to release the cocoa oils and flavour from the nibs. Turn off the heat, and sweeten with the sugar. Pour or ladle into drinking mugs.

Serve hot, always hot. If you let Koko Samoa cool down, you'll be drinking little balls of solidified koko fat.

You can also add milk if desired.

Note on drinking Koko Samoa: Samoans enjoy the pegu (grinds) that you get with every mouthful of drink. Some even strain the drink through their teeth, hoping to have a nice collection of pegu they can chew on at the end (or maybe I'm the only one who does that!). Pegu have the texture of peanuts, but the taste of roasted cacao beans, and I think they're delicious. However, if you are averse to chewing on these, go ahead and strain your koko before drinking it. But then sadly, you will miss out on one of the joys of the experience.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Koko Samoa - Samoan cocoa

By panipopos

It's here! It's here!

My koko Samoa is finally HERE!

Thanks to my beautiful sister, D, I have two quality blocks of koko samoa standing on my kitchen table. I mean REAL Samoan koko! On my kitchen table. I feel like throwing a party because I haven't had Samoan koko since...I can't even remember the last time, and now it's right HERE.
On. My. Kitchen. Table.

Those who have never tasted it are probably asking "What's the big deal about koko samoa?".

Well, you will only appreciate my answer if you are a chocoholic, or a coffeeholic. Because koko samoa is the best that both these beverages have to offer.

Koko samoa is made from Samoan cocoa beans, considered a premium cacao bean because there is no trace of bitterness in it's products. This makes it ideal for drinking.

But koko samoa is the kind of drink that you either love or hate. You'd love it because of it's deep chocolatey aroma and flavour. You'd love it because it packs one hell of a caffeine kick. You'd love it if you grew up with it because it's a smell and taste that is unique to Samoa and Samoans. On the other hand, you'd hate it if you didn't like chewing on grinds while you drink. You'd hate it if you drank it as a kid, then forgot to brush your teeth before you went to school, and then spent the day grinning and laughing your head off before realising you had all the grinds stuck in your teeth. And you'd probably hate it if you were the one that was always stuck pounding the beans.

Nevetherless, koko samoa is truly an original, local product. Samoans pick their own beans, roast them, pound them and then leave the grinds to dry into hardened blocks. Whenever the desire for koko samoa comes up, part of the block is chipped off or grated and then mixed with boiling water and sugar for a hot, satisfying drink.

Koko samoa is so integral to Samoan life, that the cocoa plant is protected by law. The Cocoa Disease Ordinance of 1961 makes it illegal to bring any cocoa plant or seeds into Samoa that might carry pests that threaten the locally grown trees. (After blight almost wiped out the country's taro industry, I bet they're taking this one seriously.)

When I finally stop sniffing my blocks of koko and put them down, I'll take photos and start cooking with them, because this, my friends, just took our blog to a whole other level.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


The Irish are potato people. The Italians are pasta people. We Samoans, we're taro people.

Taro is one of the world's oldest cultivated crops, and Samoans eat it both in everyday meals and for larger feasts. Taro has a fibrous brown skin, but inside it has pink, white or purplish flesh. When it's cooked, it is invariably purplish-grey. Taro has a starchy texture, kind of gluey, when cooked.

And don't even think about eating it raw. It contains oxalic acid which can irritate your throat and mouth, and some people are so sensitive to oxalic acid that their hands get all itchy just touching taro. If you're one of these people, simply rub some oil on your hands when handling it, and this should help keep the taro rash away. In any case, oxalic acid is not deadly, just unpleasant.

So make sure you cook your taro thoroughly. Samoans commonly boil or roast/bake taro, and a few people (vendors mainly) fry them into chips. But it's a versatile root and if you want to get creative, you can steam it, ground it into a flour, or pound it into Hawaiian poi. The great thing about taro is that it holds it's texture and shape when cooked, and blends in well with other savoury flavours.

Health-wise, taro is highly nutritious and is perfect for people with digestive problems. It's got more protein, calcium and phosphorous than a potato, and is rich with vitamins B, C and E. It is so digestible that these days taro flour is often used in mass-produced infant foods, which is something Samoans have been doing for yonks already. Back in the day, Samoan women would chew on cooked taro to make little balls of food which they placed along the back of their hand. Then they'd feed these taro balls to their babies - the perfect first food!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fa'alifu Video

By panipopos

Some of the people reading my blog are non-Samoans who want to give their Samoan spouse a taste from home. This fa'alifu post is for you. It's fast, easy, and guaranteed to please. I can imagine that in a Samoan Cooking 101 Course, this would be the first lesson. Fa'alifu is not something we eat every day, but on the days it's eaten, we are very happy peoples.

I've shown a couple of ways to make fa'alifu, but if anyone out there knows a different way to make it (and this goes for all my recipes), feel free to share.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fa'alifu - Savoury coconut sauce

By panipopos

It’s back to basics this week, with something that’s not so much a recipe as it is a technique. This is a standard Samoan sauce for dressing up any starchy root crop or staple fruit.
 If you’re new to Samoan cooking, this is a good place to start, because even if you overcook your taro (or whatever it is you happen to be making), even if you boil the sauce a bit too long, or not long enough, even if you add too few or too many onions, this forgiving sauce will still taste good. The only two ways you can stuff this up is if you add too much salt to the coconut milk (which is something you’ll know before you add it to your roots), or if you burn the roots and the sauce to the bottom of your saucepan.

Below are the most common foods that we fa’alifu:

Starchy root crops
Sweet Potatoes

Staple fruit
Ulu (breadfruit)
Fa’i mata (green bananas)
Prepare your roots/fruit for cooking as usual – peel, wash, cut if desired.
Place in a saucepan, cover with water and heat until boiling. Then simmer until fork-tender.

1 medium onion
1 can (400ml) coconut milk
½ - 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)

1. If you like a very thin coating of coconut sauce, first season the coconut milk with salt. After draining your roots/fruit, simply pour on the coconut sauce.
2. If you want your roots/fruit partially cooked in the coconut sauce, then while the roots/fruit are boiling, chop up the onion– sliced, diced, fine or chunky – whatever floats your boat. Just remember, the bigger your onion pieces, the longer they will take to cook. Put the coconut milk in a bowl with the onions and salt, and mix. Cook the roots/fruit until they are almost cooked but still firm (because they’ve got another couple of minutes cooking). Drain them but leave them in the saucepan. Pour the coconut mixture over the roots/fruit and boil this for 5 minutes or until the onions are cooked. Be careful not to overcook your roots/fruit.
3. If you prefer to cook your sauce separately, then cook the roots/fruit until they are done. Drain them and then set aside and cover with foil. Mix the coconut, onions and salt in the saucepan and simmer this over medium heat for 3-5 minutes or until the onions are cooked. Pour the hot sauce over the roots/fruit being sure to cover each piece generously.
4. Some people like a really thick coconut sauce. You can achieve this by using just the cream that collects at the top of the can of coconut milk (discarding the watery milk) to make your sauce. Or you can cook the sauce as in 3. above, then when you have the sauce simmering, add ⅓ cup (80ml) water mixed with 2 teaspoons of flour. Simmer while stirring until the onions and flour are cooked. Pour this over your roots/fruit.
5. If you’re a total coconut addict, and like your roots/fruit completely drenched and infused with coconut flavour, then just cook them from beginning to end in equal parts water/coconut milk seasoned with salt to taste. But remember to give a health advisory warning to anyone you serve it to.