Tsapasui (Sapasui)

When I was about eleven or so, my aunt married Wesley, a Samoan from the island of Manono, the little one between Savaii and Upolu, where dogs are banned. He worked as a leading hand and later foreman at VW Motors Assembly plant in Otahuhu, where his skill as a boxer dealt effectively with ongoing derogatory comments about coconuts that surfaced among the lads shortly after he started there in the late fifties. He found me a job there during the university vacation, which helped considerably to make the next year more comfortable. He continued to work there for many years, until he died, suddenly, of a heart attack on the job.

He also introduced me to, and showed me how to make, Tsapasui, which he always brought to family occasions, always cooked the day before and left covered to gather flavour overnight in the fridge. I have never quite got it tasting the way he did - he used a thick black sauce which dark soy only approximates - but I got close enough to enjoy it nevertheless. So here's something for you to try.


You will need

  • 1kg pork stirfry pieces - any meat will do, but I like the taste of pork best of all
  • 2-3 tablespoons peanut oil. (When peanut oil could not be had I have used a combination of peanut butter and olive oil.)
  • 3 - 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 dessertspoon grated ginger root (optional)
  • 100-125g beancurd noodles (the thin transparent wiry kind)
  • To taste: thick dark soy sauce

Combine the first three (or four) ingredients in an ovenware casserole, and just cover with water. You can brown the meat first if you like. Place in a 160C oven for about an hour and a half - two hours. You can of course do this in a pot on the stove, but there's something about the slow casserole flavour that is special, if completely inauthentic.

About 60-80 minutes into cooking, place the noodles into a bowl and cover with hot water. Leave for about 20 minutes, drain, and then use kitchen scissors to chop the noodles into roughly 50mm lengths. Don't even attempt to measure this. Just keep chopping with the scissors until it looks about right.

Remove the casserole from the oven — always place a pottery casserole on a wooden board when you take it out of the oven, not on a stove top — and stir in the drained and chopped noodles. Return to the oven for another half hour. Add soy sauce about a tablespoon at a time and stir until the taste is about right for you. Generally that's about three tablespoons for me, but I'm keen not to overwhelm the peanut oil contribution.

If you're dead keen, eat it right away, but it undoubtedly improves overnight. I'm not a great one for taro. I never mastered the technique that Wes used to sort out the good ones. He'd pick them up and hold them close to his ear and tap them, and listen to the quality of the sound. Potatoes are good, provided you use enough butter and salt.....

Perhaps a lettuce salad instead on second thoughts ;o)







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