One of my friends on Facebook said that they were searching for Samoan food recipes on Google recently, and apparently my blog came up in the first few pages of results, which I thought was kinda weird since I didn’t have any Samoan recipes on my blog at the time (although it was probably because of this post). I’ve been planning to post up my sapasui recipe at some point, so I figured this was a sign to finally post it up.
Sapasui, or Samoan chop suey, is that Samoan soul food of questionable nutritional value. Borrowed from Chinese migrants and integrated into traditional Samoan cuisine, everyone’s got a their own variation of this staple food in their family.
My dad’s chop suey was always a hit at family gatherings when I was growing up. However, having it on a regular basis at home, I became too familiar with it and only appreciated it once I had left home and yearned for that familiar savoury soy sauce satisfaction.
My first attempt at making it was when I was in my first year of design school in Wellington, and I asked my dad for the recipe so I could try and cook it for my flatmates. He tried to coach me through the process over the phone, but dad’s ‘eyeball’ method of measuring ingredients, and a few key steps being lost in translation resulted in a soupy mess that was such a disaster I didn’t try making it for another 10 years!
Fast forward those 10 years, I’m now a single dad and in the beginning stages of learning how to cook for myself and my daughter (see my 1 Player Chef article). My dad was down visiting one weekend, so I decided to get back on the horse and try learning my dad’s recipe firsthand, rather than over the phone. We both made it together, side by side, one batch each, so I could learn and watch at the same time. He still didn’t use measurements, rather his own eyeballing method, so I kind of got the idea and was successful in making a decent chop suey, but was a bit uneasy with trying it again without him.
Some time after this successful attempt, I came across the book “Me’a Kai – The Food and Flavours of the South Pacific” which had a recipe for ‘Fancy Sapasui’. It had some unnecessary ingredients (in my opinion) like lobster(!) and vegetables(!!). But it also had measurements for ingredients, which was the last piece of the puzzle I needed. So after stripping out all the ‘Fancy’ extraneous ingredients, I refined it down to the core fundamentals that I felt made it what it needed to be. No veges, no extra bits, just the goodness. And this is what I present to you below:
Recipe: Sapasui (Samoan Chop Suey)
- 250 grams vermicelli
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil
- 2 tablespoons ginger, minced
- 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 400 grams chicken thigh, diced
- 2/3 cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Pepper to taste
1. Soak vermicelli for 15 minutes in boiling water, then drain the noodles and reserve a bit of the liquid (you can prep the next steps while it’s soaking). Cut smaller with scissors.
2. Heat oil in pot, add ginger and garlic, when lightly browned add chicken and cook for four minutes.
3. Add noodles, and stir fry quickly.
4. Add soy sauce, sugar and pepper, and stir to combine. Add some of the liquid drained from the vermicelli if the sapasui is a bit dry.
5. Serve immediately! Goes great with rice and fa’alifu talo (taro cooked in coconut cream)
- If you want to make it healthier, you can add mixed veges, or in the case of the ‘fancy sapasui’ recipe, yellow beans. I’m all for getting in your 5 plus a day, but that can be on the side. I keep my chop suey OG!