Samoan Banana and Coconut Milk Pudding (Suafa’i)

Happy September, dear friends! We’re beginning this month with a ‘trip’ to Polynesia!

It all began when I was in search of a sweet recipe that met certain dietary requirements for one of my family members. Since my family member could not consume any of my regular snack stash picks temporarily, I embarked on a foodie mission to seek a recipe with a sweet edge that tick the ‘dietary’ and ‘delish’ boxes.

After browsing through sweet recipes for a while, the foodie fairies guided me to an intriguing dish that matched my search perfectly. Not only did making this dish turn out to be a fun Sunday project with my family, it was another food adventure to document and share! Without further ado, I hereby introduce Suafa’i – a Samoan banana and coconut milk pudding.

Talofa (Greetings), Samoa! + A Bit About Suafa’i

Samoa is a Polynesian island-nation in the South Pacific. Being located near to the Equator, Samoa experiences tropical weather. While the island is known for its breath-taking natural landscapes and friendly locals, its cuisine is a must-try. The island’s tropical ingredients – from fruits (especially coconuts, in both sweet and savory selections) and vegetables (such as taro, which is used in many dishes) to seafood and meat – are the hallmarks of Samoa’s flavorsome cuisine.

Suafa’i celebrates the ingredients that are quintessentially tropical, namely tapioca pearls/sago, coconut milk and bananas. In fact, they are the only ingredients in this recipe besides water. Also, this delicacy is a no-bake treat as it is prepared on the stove. Another fun fact is that suafa’i is a dish that Samoans enjoy at any time of the day. Some foodies refer to it as a soup, while others consider it a pudding – it depends on the consistency you desire, really. Since my suafa’i attempt is on the firmer side instead of being soupy, it would appeal to pudding fans.

While making suafa’i is as easy as pie (or should I say, ‘pudding’), it matches a wider range of meal preferences. This is because it is sugar-free (mine does not include sugar, but sugar can be added if you have a sweeter palate) and it does not contain animal-based ingredients.

Sago

The sago world is exemplary of the saying “never judge a book by its cover”! Sago is commonly derived from tropical palm trees. There is tapioca-based sago as well, which is the version was used in my culinary adventure. This ingredient comes in the form of white sprinkle-looking beads at the supermarket. These ‘sprinkles’ will expand and become chewy translucent/transparent spheres when they are cooked. If sago isn’t available at your local supermarkets, you might find it at international food stores.

Tapioca-based sago

It’s time to cook! This recipe is inspired by recipes from Samoa Food and Heart Foundation NZ. Makes 4-6 serves.

Ingredients

4 Ripe Bananas (I used frozen ripe bananas, semi-defrosted prior to cooking)

500 ml Water

200 ml Coconut Milk (I used the trim/reduced fat version)

4 Tablespoons Sago (small sago)

Let’s Get Cooking!

Step 1: Place the bananas in a pot and pour the water to cover them completely. Turn the stove’s heat to a medium temperature to boil.

Step 2: When the water-banana mixture begins to boil, add the sago in small portions while stirring the ingredients in the pot. Remember to rinse your sago in water just before adding it to the mixture – this is based on the instructions on your sago packet if there are any.

Step 3: Stir continuously until the sago turns translucent (i.e. no signs of white) and the bananas become mushier. The bananas do not need to be completely mushy.

Step 4: Reduce the stove’s heat to a low setting. Add the coconut milk and continue stirring until the mixture reaches a delicate pudding-like texture.

Step 5: Your suafa’i is ready! You can eat it either hot, cold, or at room temperature. If you plan to eat the suafa’i when it is cooled, allow the pudding to rest. The sago will continue to expand while the pudding is resting in the pot – this is absolutely fine. It will stop expanding when it is cooled completely.

Time To Taste!

Having enjoyed the blissful aroma of all the ingredients during the cooking process, I was excited to finally taste my very first bowl of suafa’i, which was at room temperature.

The flavors comprise of two layers that blend together: bananas and coconut milk, which are the two ingredients in this dish that possess their own distinctive flavors. The bananas add their signature banana-y taste and sweetness to the pudding, while coconut milk contributes a refreshing coconut flavor that shines throughout. Both of these ingredients are pleasant together, with island vibes in every bite!

The suafa’i’s delicate pudding-like consistency is credited to the sago and mashed bananas. The sago spheres are perfectly chewy, while the mashed banana bits add a lovely punch of flavor.

Having tasted the suafa’i at various temperatures in the name of science, my preferences are the servings that were mildly warm and cooled at room temperature. This is due to the texture, which is softer yet firm. That said, it is nice when it’s cold too. The pudding becomes a little firmer when it’s refrigerated, but its taste is pretty much identical to the warm and room temperature versions.

I had a blast making this dish at home and I would gladly make it again!

3 thoughts on “Samoan Banana and Coconut Milk Pudding (Suafa’i)

    1. Thank you for joining me on the Samoan foodie ‘adventure’! 🙂 Same here, it’s used in sweet and savory eats too. I tasted sago payasam many years ago, it’s a lovely dish! One of my sago favorites is steamed sago cake (called ‘kuih sago’), which comprises of shredded coconut and sugar with sago. Some of the versions include pandan and rose flavors 😃

      Liked by 1 person

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