Samoa, and much of the Pacific, is prone to cyclones. If one of these tropical storms hits really hard, then the natural food resources that Samoans depend upon are severely depleted. When such a disaster happened in the past, food relief and aid came in mainly from New Zealand, Australia, and the US. Now, where am I going with all this seriousness?
Oh yeah, I was trying to give you guys a historical context for kopai. So anyway, because assistance was coming in from benevolent Western nations, the food aid packages typically consisted of flour, sugar, rice, canned fish and canned meats.
In my imagination, the first native cyclone survivors to receive these packages of Western staple foods were probably thinking,"What the -?!? Huh?!?"
But then Samoan ingenuity kicked in. Cooking fires were started up, cans were forced open with sapelu (machetes), and people thought of as many ways as they could to use the foreign white stuff - rice, flour and sugar.
I'm convinced that Samoan classics like sua alaisa, koko alaisa, fa'apapa, panikeke, and alaisa fa'apopo, all originated during a post-cyclone burst of cooking creativity. But prize for the most inventive Samoan dish using only three ingredients has got to be...(drumroll)...kopai.
I mean, how...really, HOW do you take flour, sugar and water and make a dish that's super tasty, stands the test of time, and is beloved by Samoans the world over?
I'll never know. But it's GENIUS.