samoan food culture


Samoa is a group of islands in the South Pacific, home to some of the smiliest people in the world. Samoan people love to joke around, sing, dance and are serious about three things in life: God, family and food.

Every major life event is marked with a feast, and every Sunday we have to'ona'i, which is lunch with a capital L. It's the only meal of the day, with people waking up in the wee hours of the morning to get it cooked in time for church, and to'ona'i is usually so filling that all we do afterwards is sleep.

Samoans don't skimp on regular weekday meals either. Roasted chicken, homemade vegetable soups, smoky bbq and fresh fish salad (ota) were all regulars on my family's menu. My parents weren't exactly rolling in money (ask me later what a fa'alavelave is), but there was always plenty of food on the table.

I used to think that Samoan cooking was simple because the ingredients seemed limited and there appeared to be lots of variations on a theme, like coconut cream covered taro, coconut cream covered yams, coconut cream covered potatoes. I now realise that Samoan cooking is quite versatile, surviving wherever a bunch of Samoans would decide to settle, and the ingredients are actually quite flexible, adaptable to any local produce and meats.

Samoan food today shows some clear historical influences, mostly European and Chinese. Classic dishes like umu (oven-pit-baked food), sapasui (chop suey), and puligi (pudding) have not changed much over the last few decades, whereas some dishes have not stood the test of time, such as suamasi (cracker soup). (Please raise your hand if you eat suamasi, because I personally don't know of any Samoan that does.)

Of course, no cuisine can stay static, and there are some exciting developments being made by Samoans overseas and by foreign chefs based in the islands. For instance, check out Joe Lam's poi and recipes such as Mango-Spiced Chicken from the Samoan section of Sam Choy's Polynesian Kitchen. Never saw these on my childhood dining table, but it really is inspirational stuff.

If you are Samoan or lived a Samoan life, I hope to hear what dishes you grew up eating. If you are just interested in Samoan food, I hope you give some of these recipes a go. I'm sure your tastebuds will be pleasantly surprised.

Manuia,


panipopos




90 comments:

  1. I am sooo glad I found your blog! I have been looking everywhere for the recipe for half moon pie!
    I'm Hawaiian/palagi, but husband is Samoan. He introduced me to Samoan food and I'm hooked! Too bad we can't find some of the stuff tho! Like koko and taro! Gotta drive for miles to find cooked taro and it's expensive!
    Thank you so much for your generosity in sharing your culture's wonderful recipes!
    Lotus Vele
    lootsvele@yahoo.com

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  2. Im doing a special project for my History class and i was just wondering what would be a good Samoan food for 9th graders to eat.?

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    1. Same here i decided on Vaifala itz nt to eat but hey its a sweet drink :)

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    2. Haha I gotta do this for my 8th grade Social Studies project, except it can be any Pasifika nation :)

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    3. what should I bring for my class to eat and im in 8th grade full Samoan born in a island called American Samoa.........

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    4. i picked Samoan half-moon pie

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    5. same project here

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    6. i think a good food to make would be panipopo

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    7. I also have to do this project for a 7th grade project

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    8. YEAH ME TOO GUYS HAHA HAHA HAH HAH HAHA

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  3. Lotus: Thx for the comment. Like you, I have problems getting ingredients too. Hopefully that will change as more people get exposed to Samoan food.

    Anonymous: Try any of the sweet recipes on this blog, like panipopo, masi samoa or paifala. Even panikeke are delicious, but they pretty much have to be eaten straight away. Good luck!

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  4. I am so greatful that I found your site!! Although I am Samoan, I usually have to wait for special occasions to have traditional foods. Like family reunions, Christmas and other holidays. Or I have to put in a lot over begging. There isn't a lot of time for my Aunties and grandma to teach me so I haven't learned. I can now!!! THANK YOU!!!

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  5. You are so very welcome...I totally understand where you're coming from...Samoan women are awesome at cooking, but not so good at passing on the recipes...So I really hope my blog helps in this respect...

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  6. Hey thanks for creating this blog! I'm Samoan and my parents never want to teach us how to make anything, yet they get mad that we ask them to make it. The usual poly stuff. Anyway, is there any possibility in making the recipes for Palusami and Lupulu too? I haven't had them in over 3 years. My dad made it the other day and ate it all before I could get to his house. :( please please please! I'll be so grateful if you could! Thanks!

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  7. Hi Dennis, thx for your comment...unfortunately, young taro leaves are really hard to come by round these parts, unless I substitute with spinach...I'd rather wait until I can make it properly than put up a spinach-based recipe...But I'll see what I can do...Cheers!

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  8. Thank you so much for creating this blog! I live in Philadelphia and I NEVER get to eat the foods I grew up with back in the West Coast. I regret never taking the time to watch my mother cook these recipes and now that I'm married and my Irish husband loves Samoan food he constantly asks me if I can call my mom and ask her for the recipes; which I do but I'm more of a visual learner and watching someone do it helps me learn faster. Is there any way you can post a video up of Masi Saiga? Thanks again!!

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  9. Thank you so much for creating this blog!! I was raised on the West Coast in a pretty untraditional Samoan family, who rarely spoke Samoan in the house. My parents only spoke Samoan to eachother but my mom always made most of these fantastic recipes. I live in Philadelphia and NEVER get to eat these anymore. My Irish husband constantly asks me to call my mom for samoan recipes. I regret never going to the kitchen to watch her cook. It's just a feeling of nostalgia when I watch your videos, I'm actually cooking along with you! This blog is a HUGE help. Is there any way you can post the recipe and video for Masi Saiga. Also, for Koko Araisa, I can never get my hands on Samoan Koko, is there a way to make it with Hershey Coco or Nesquick? Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks again! Much Alofa's!

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  10. Hi, thanks for your feedback...I think I did the Masi Samoa/Saiga recipe back in September 2010...video too...If this is not what you're after, please let me know. Happy cooking!

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  11. Where is the recipe for the panikeke

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  12. See November 2010...I will index it soon...

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  13. I just wanted to thank you for all the receipts that you have posted on you blog. I was raised in the bay area in California and my parents were Faifeau's and i did grow up learning how to cook traditional samoan foods but never knew how to make the deserts. Thanks to you I am trying to do your pagipopo tonight. we will see if i can bake my favorite samoan dish. Thank you again.

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  14. Hi Tania, I really appreciate your comment...Good luck with the panipopo...Hope they turn out as delicious as you remember them...Cheers!

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  15. I am just enjoying your blog on all these delicious Samoan food. I will be trying them all. On the subject of Palusami, I go to the Vietnamese markets and some of them sell the luau (Taro Leaves) in packages at the fresh vegetables section. I'm sure they sell in most all Oriental markets.

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  16. Thanks so much for the tip...I wonder what the Vietnamese use taro leaves for...?...Definitely a source to check out!

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  17. I love your blog! For awhile, I've been searching for a Sua I'a recipe. Do you have one or know where I could find one? Thanks!

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  18. I'll make one for you this month. Cheers!

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  19. Awesome! I look forward to reading/seeing your post on it. By the way, I cheat when I make panipopo by using frozen rolls. And for all those who love Samoan Koko, try a new product called Crio Bru - www.criobru.com.

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  20. How HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY!! was I to discover your blog!! I grew up spoiled, and now that my aging mother no longer cooks I find myself craving for her cooking...so the irony is I'm cooking and shes complaining-lol, I would like to surprise her for her birthday next month by making at least a 'dessert' item and a main dish for tona'i...and then complain about how hard I worked in the kitchen :0), thank you for keeping our culture alive! Manuia~

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  21. Thank you so much for your comment!...I'm glad that what I'm doing is useful and hopefully people who don't usually cook Samoan food can get motivated to try it...I really think you'll make your mother's birthday special by giving her some traditional food...Good luck with your cooking, and if you get the chance, let us know how it goes!

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  22. Awesome blog! You don't know how many times I've googled "panipopo"..lol. Thank you for all of the wonderful recipes & helping everyone stay grounded to our traditional foods. I will be trying out as many of these recipes for my son's graduation party/family reunion..lol. You know how we love any excuse to get everyone together and EAT!!
    Manuia!

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  23. My sister found your blog and I am so excited to try your recipes. I think my first attempt will be Koko Rice. I am thrilled to expose myfamily to some good Samoan recipes. Thanks again.

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  24. Anonymous: Thanks for your comment...Hope my recipes work out for you and your family!

    Talani: You can't go wrong with koko araisa! Happy cooking!

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  25. I stumbled across your website quite by accident while looking for one recipe and saw your link to another. Go figure!! :) I just browsed through and watched the videos. Nicely done! I'm a (home) cook myself. My dad taught me Samoan cooking, having been raised in America. I love that you put measured ingredients to the recipes. It's so true, I know a lot of Samoans who cook (and bake) by sight. I'm one of them. :) AND I was also raised on suamasi but I haven't seen that in a while... used to be when Dad was alive, suamasi was served after pese. But koko araisa is still a favorite! Fa'afetai tele for your beautiful and delicious work! Malo le taumafai... Manuia le aso... Happy Cooking!

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  26. I've been waiting for someone to mention suamasi...I think it was something from the 70s or 80s although my mother still makes it these days...as far as I'm concerned, suamasi was a waste of good cabin bread (crackers) that were better served with butter and jam or a pisupo/onion mixture...Fa'afetai mo le encouragement, and enjoy the blog!

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    1. I think that a grate ideal..

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  27. Thank you so much for your blog...it is an awesome tool to have that has given us the opportunity to create our Samoan cuisines (comfort food) for our own families. Having been raised with a lot of this sort of food - it is now hard to come by and quite expensive, just like it was mentioned before, we only get to eat them at family gatherings which are very few and far between. It's at times like these I wish I had paid close attention to what my mum and aunties were doing in the kitchen. I was wondering if you were able to put together a recipe for pi sua and/or ko pai (not too sure about the spelling)?? Thank you very much for making comfort food available to me again...keep up the great work

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  28. Thanks alot for the comment...My sincere hope is that more people take the time to make Samoan food at home or else we might lose some of this knowledge and, even worse, our cuisine might not develop...Funny you happen to mention kopai, because that's what I've been working on all month!...I shall have the recipe up by the end of this week, for sure!

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  29. Talofa, I have been on your blog for a few days now, well basically since I discovered it by chance.It's awesome. I take my hat off to you for starting one.
    Yes I am a veteran of eating sua masi and I loved it! Just proved how hard those cabin biscuits were back in the day. lol
    Anyway keep up the great work and hope to see more great recipes from you and blogs too, they just leave me in fits of laughter sometimes, just reminds me of my fam. It doesn't matter where you reside , Samoans will always be the same!

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  30. Hoorayyyy! So glad to have found your blog! I am Tongan & i too ask for recipes but get the same reply.. topai, puteni, panipopo etc did you have a recipe for pineapple pie? I will attempt your recipes & return with feedback.

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  31. Hi! I really hope a Tongan person starts a cooking site to share your culture's food...I get a lot of requests for Tongan recipes, and although I know how to make some stuff, I don't feel confident enough to put those recipes up...Should come from a Tongan and not a Samoan...Please try the recipes and let me know how they go...

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  32. Love your videos and Blog, I have written to this Blog twice and they have not uploaded, so will try again, I am sure the problem is not your site. I was wondering if you have a recipe for a Dry Curry, I think it was usually made with Mutton & the dish was very popular on the dinner table of many Samoan families. Keep up the fantastic work in documenting Samoan recipes, I will keep looking at your Blog & Videos to see what you are doing. Regards Selma :)

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  33. Hi Selma! Thanks for taking the time to write to me...sorry your previous comments didn't come through...this time there's been a huge delay because I am on holiday without regular internet access...My brother makes an excellent curry so I'll try and create a recipe when I can catch him cooking..Thanks very much for your support and encouragement!

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  34. I've enjoyed making some of the recipes on your site and enjoyed eating the food afterwards! Thank-you! By any chance do you know how to make vaisalo?

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  35. Hi, can't get the young coconuts needed for vaisalo :(

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  36. I recently returned from Western Samoa after finishing peace corps. I appreciate your web site and hope to try some of the recipes. I miss samoan food--much less processed than western food. thanks for doing this.

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  37. Thanks for your service! Please try out the recipes and let me know how they go. Food is the one thing we can take with us wherever we go to bring back memories of Samoa. Good luck!

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  38. Ok I just found this blog and oh my goodness, i think I'm hooked already, can't wait to try out recipes. Thank you thank you thank you.Grew up eating all this yummy stuff but never really paid attention to Mum and how to make them.

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  39. Happy you found me! Good luck with your cooking and please, pass the recipes on to anyone and everyone.

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  40. Muslimsam,
    I am happy also to have found your cooking site. I love the Samoan food that I grew up eating as a child back home. I love the Puligi with the white sause, the have moon pies with pineapple, and a delicacy of mine, the panipopo. Now I can make my own instead of buying it from the store thanks to you, alhumdilah. Fa'afetailava for the recipe, and manuialava in the future inshallah.

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  41. Thank you for your comment. I'm glad you enjoy the site. Happy cooking!

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  42. Talofa Lava, What is soo funny i was looking up how to make paifala and I found your video than you have a blog....lol you do not know how much I appreciate you posting the how to and recipes, what really caught my eye was the Fa'apapa, I remember as lil kid my dad always make that about twice a month I'll make sure I grab one to my self.
    Fa'afetai Lava Manuia lava le aso.
    Tai

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  43. Glad you found the blog! Wonderful how food can trigger so many fond memories for people. Thank you for your comment.

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  44. I love to cook and I love your blog! I'm so excited to try all these recipes. Thank you so much. It makes me feel a bit closer to home.

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  45. No worries, all the best with your cooking!

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  46. Talofa... Your blog is great. My husband was born and raised in Nu'uuli and now that he lives in the states I know he is missing some of the home cooking. I am so thankful I came across your blog. I think it's been 5 or more years since we have had koko rice... also we have been driving like 15 miles to get some decent pineapple half moon pies, I am going to attempt to make them soon as well as banana pancakes.. Thanks again!!

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  47. Thank you Mrs Hunkin...Good luck with all the cooking...Samoan food is not hard to make, it's just getting the ingredients that is sometimes difficult...and of course, finding the time...Happy cooking!

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  48. Hi

    Thank you so much for the recipes and your right when it comes to asking for the recipes from all the Aunties, they are all very vague. I cannot wait to make the recipes and teach my grandchildren how to make everything on your blog. Thanks again.

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  49. Talofa Mei,

    Thanks for your comment, and good luck with your cooking.

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  50. Hey there I was wondering if you have a recipe for Keke Saiga/Keke Pua'a...the sunflower looking biscuit and great blog by the way :)

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  51. Hello Leilani, yes, i have the keke saiga recipe...and the keke pua'a dough recipe can be found in the recipes list...all the best!

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  52. Replies
    1. Wow, is that really you? You are one of my heroes. You are the best thing that has happened to Island Food since the invention of canned coconut milk. THANK YOU for taking our food to the world and CONGRATULATIONS on winning the Gourmand Best of the World Award. You and your team greatly deserved it!

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  53. I love your blog and sooooo glad I found it. I grew up on my mom and gma's yummy samoan cooking. And when I can't get to moms for help, i have your blog to turn to.. Thank you Thank you. LOL @ your post on mamma jamma..haha

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    1. Thanks for your comment. Hope the website is useful for your cooking, even if just for inspiration. Happy cooking!

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  54. Wow I love your blog!! Am alaska native and Palagi my husband is samoan.....and I love when he cooks...he's is trying to show me how....and am learning ....but this is nice cuz I can suprize him when he gets home ;) good food = happy husband . Thank you

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    1. Good food = happy Samoan! lol...Hope your man is learning to cook native Alaskan food too. :) Gotta keep our cultures alive. Enjoy the blog and feel free to shoot me any questions about anything. Happy cooking!

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  55. hi it nice foods in samoa

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  56. Just found your excellent site. Malo le gasese, if I may say so. Do you have a good recipe for German buns or pai penu?

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    1. Hi Nate, I have those recipes...it's the time to write about them that I don't have. Will post when I can.

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  57. I absolutely love your website. I too grew up on Samoan Food, but no one ever made like grandpa did. Of course now he does cook no more, but I wish I would've spent more time cooking with him in the kitchen. Now I am trying to back track and teach myself. Thanks for all the recipes they really have helped give me a starting point for learning to make all these foods I love to eat.

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    1. Thanks for the comment...'Starting point' is a great way to describe this blog...My recipes are how I remember the food growing up but everyone experiences food differently so please make every recipe on this site your own. Good luck!

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  58. I wish I discovered your blog sooner! I am Samoan and live in New Zealand and I love love love Samoan food. I am married to a palagi and our children love the food also! Hubby says Samoan food is mainly heart attacks in a can style foods, hmm what does he know.
    Anyway, I came across your blog yesterday when I was googling for a round round pancake recipe. This blog is so easy to follow and I have kept the page open ever since as it is hilarious to read. It was the first time I made these panikeke and the kids loved them, I've been lavished with compliments and very sweet drawings declaring me the best mum. Sadly, I decided today I'm going on a diet so I will be making your delicious recipes for the kids and hopefully find something healthy for the fussy palagi eater.
    Thank you for your blog I love reading it. All the best and keep those recipes coming! I could be a huge hit at Xmas yeeha! xoKKox

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  59. Hello Kristina, and thank you for your comment. Make some oka and luau for your hubby and he might appreciate our food more. Your kids sound so cute making you drawings. No-one around here has drawn anything for me lately :(. Don't worry if you are going on a diet. You can still eat Samoan food, just in much smaller portions than we're used to. Thanks again.

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  60. So happy I found this site. My ex husband is Samoan and even tho he is not longer around I really want to raise our children with as much traditional Samoan food and things as possible.

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    1. Thank you for sharing our culture with your children. If you have any questions whatsoever, just shoot them through. Good luck!

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  61. O my..suamasi with coconut milk! Oloolo, faausi, suafa'i, vaisalo, suaesi, koko rice or with the lemon leaves, siamu popo serve in banana leaves, pisua and THEE NO WAY on earth I like to have another bite MASI ULU! Then my always fav after swimming in the ocean... KAFOLO with pe'epe'e! I grew up spoiled with my Grandfather, Father and my Brothers cooking all the following as I the umu helper watched on. OLoolo is the one I don't know how to make but I sure am very fluent at eating it. Do u have the recipe for it? The Brothers have gone AMERIKANAs on me since their last umu 30+ yrs ago. MoleMagava

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    1. That was a nice walk down memory lane. Drooling now. Can't believe it's been more than 30 years since your last umu. That's way too long. I'll put up my olo fa'i recipe sometime soon.

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  62. Malo, Can you please post a simple recipe for puligi and sauce. My Aunt was a pro at making it but didn't get the recipe for it before she passed. and I luv your your recipe for Faausi. My mom makes it with taro but it is too sweet and I don't care for it. But I made it with the papa and she luvs it. Gonna try to make the half moon pie LOL Ty

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    1. Good luck with your cooking! Will try and get around to the puligi and sosi when I have time. Glad you like the faausi and thanks for visiting my site.

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  63. Loving your blog. At our house, we cook foods from all over the world, and my oldest son has chosen next week as "Samoa week." Your site has been exceptional in finding plenty of recipes to choose from. I was wondering one thing...there doesn't seem to be many green vegetables. Lots of coconut and root veggies and meat...which all sound delicious. Are there just not many green veggies available in Samoa? I was hoping to round out the starches and meats with some greenery, but if that's not really traditional, we'll go ahead without them. Thanks for all the work you put into this blog. I can tell the love you have for your country. Looking forward to trying out many of the recipes.

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    1. Hi Erin, and thank you for your comment. Samoa does have a fair selection of tropical veges and the only reason you don't see them on my site is because I can't buy them here (I live outside the islands), Go ahead and make a fresh garden salad to round out your meal. Or try the oka or crab salad recipe on this site. Tell your son, I wish him all the best for his cooking and if he has any questions, please let me know. I hope your family enjoys Samoan food. Thanks again :)

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    2. We made your keke pua'a, half moon pies, and fish soup. Thanks again for all the info, recipes, and good reading. Keep up the cooking a blogging! If you want to see how ours turned out, here you go: http://epicureantravels.blogspot.com/2013/03/got-coconut.html

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    3. Erin, I LOVE it. Your photos are beautiful, the food looks delicious, and it looks like you had some great meals. Hope you don't mind, but I'd like to link to your post, if it's okay.

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    4. Thank you, and sure...Link away!

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  64. sole - outou in the USA "ala mai" You shouldn't asking about whats in the recipes....you learn the recipes from your aiga - its not taught via words but through watching and doing with!!

    If you need lessons - go back (or for those of you US born, go)to Samoa and learn for yourself.... or learn from those who have been handed down the knowledge....otherwise all your doing is colonising Samoan food.

    And for the westerners who want to know about our food - again seek out those who have been handed down the knowledge from parents, grandparents, etc.

    PS: and yes there are a lot of us here in the Pacific that eat "sua masi"

    Ia manuia

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    1. Interesting points. Thanks for visiting my site.

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  65. How yuo make sosi for the faausi

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  66. how does roasted chicken look like is samoan cooking? roasted chicken is called lechon manok in the Philippines

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  67. I have a friend from Samoa and I need to cook food for them every time they come and had have a lesson for their religion as a Mormon.I am filipina and I want to cook them food.they are 4 missionaries.

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