🇼🇸 Samoa | Pani Popo

Recipe: Vegan Pani Popo from Ai Made it for You

TL;DR Honestly, just save yourself the time and start making this recipe right now. I will got through the ins and outs of creating these delicious, soft, semi-sweet coconut buns, but there are times when it just makes sense to experience something for yourself and what I’m about to write is really just various different ways of telling you how good these were.

A friend sent me this recipe, for which I am hugely appreciative because researching 195 countries is a lot of work, and also my friends have excellent taste. I hadn’t started looking into Samoa yet, and I guess I don’t think about baked goods when I think about pacific nations (yet another one of my preconceptions which has proven to be wrong), but pani popo is considered one of Samoa’s national dishes, and now I understand why.

These were very simple to make. You make some dough, knead it, and let it rise for a while. Then you punch the dough down (this is always so satisfying), divide into 12 parts, roll them into balls and then gentle snuggle them together in a oven-proof pan and let them rise together again. Cover with a sugar and coconut milk syrup and whack them in the oven. When they come out all golden and delicious you pour the remaining syrup over the still hot buns, and then try to let them cook a bit before eating them.

I am not much of a sweet tooth. In my world, savoury will win 99 times out of 100. But golly gee these were DELICIOUS. They’re soft and a little bit sticky and sweet without being too sweet. I ate three straight out of the pan, which is why I don’t have very many good photos of individual buns.

One thing to note is that they do not keep very well. They were OK the following day with a 10 second blast in the microwave, but by day three they were hard and a bit chalky inside. I’d recommend making these an hour before you need them and ensure you have a gathering large enough that they will all be devoured. They really are that delicious when they’re freshly made that you won’t want to lose them to the degradation of time.

Also, for one of my favourite recipes so far I failed to get any really good photos because my desire to eat them superseded my plan to document them. And if that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.

🇰🇮 Kiribati | Sweet potato and coconut soup

Recipe: Kiribati Pumpkin Coconut Soup

Have you heard of the Republic of Kiribati? Do you know how to pronounce Kiribati? Had I not met a really interesting couple a number of years back who had spent some time living in there, I wouldn’t have known that this country existed. One of them was teaching at the local university and they told stories about Kiribati culture and sadly how our refusal to deal with climate change will ultimately lead to Kiribati being reclaimed by the oceans as they rise.

On that positive note, it’s pronounce ki-ree-bas, and it’s an island nation comprised of 32 atolls and one raised coral island, with a population of roughly 120,000 people. It only has 818 square kms landmass making it the 24th smallest country in the world, but is spread across 3.5 million square kms of ocean which straddle the equator.

Finding a vegan recipe for Kiribati was a bit of a struggle. It doesn’t have much arable land so there isn’t a lot of local agriculture, and given its proximity to the ocean, seafood makes up a lot of the diet. However, sweet potatoes and pumpkins are known to grow on some of the northern islands and a pumpkin or sweet potato and coconut soup is one of their traditional dishes.

I will admit I wasn’t that excited about this recipe. I make soup all the time, and I make pumpkin or sweet potato soup regularly enough that I didn’t expect this to really stand out. However this recipe used a lot more coconut milk than I normally would, and a lot, lot more ginger. It was visually beautiful pastel tangerine, and the flavour was creamy with a bit of a kick – and tasted even better the following day. The recipe was straight forward, which goes to show you don’t always need complicated for delicious. I’ll definitely make this again!