Welcome to week 4 of the Five US Territories of New Recipe Tuesday. This week, we explore American Samoa, who joined the US as a territory in 1899. United States influence began in 1872 when the United States Navy met with Chief Manuma to establish a harbor in Pago Pago. Up to the end of the century, a power struggle ensued between the US, Germany and Britain. A civil war in Samoa brought backing of opposite positions from Germany and US, with each side hoping to gain power to use the islands for whaling and as a coal station. It wasn’t until the signing of the Tripartite Convention of 1899 that the Samoan Islands were divided, resulting in the western islands, controlled by Germany, and American Samoa.
Over the years, there have been calls for either independence or autonomy for American Samoa, but as recently as a referendum in 2010, the majority of citizens decided to remain unchanged. Interestingly, Americans need a passport to enter American Samoa, and they have their own immigration.
When I went looking for a recipe to make this week, I found that American Samoa is much like its neighboring islands in the south pacific, having large influences from Asia and the Philippines, while also having a sense of mix from American military and European countries. The most unique dish that I found was called Sapasui, which is the American Samoa version of Chop Suey. It uses ingredients that you would find in the traditional dish, including soy sauce and bean thread noodles, but many of the versions I found included canned or frozen vegetables. This is mainly due to the challenges in getting these ingredients on the islands. I also found that Spam was often used, a nod to the US military influence in the region.
I decided on a version that used chicken, plus carrots, red pepper and edamame. The dish is really simple, but I found that it lacked flavor. I added some fish sauce (my Asian umami magic ingredient), plus a little hot chili sauce, which improved things, but I was still a little disappointed. It was just ok, so I am going to give this one a B+ and move on.
I don’t think this will come into my regular rotation, but it was interesting learning about this far away island. I shall continue on my journey, and look to next week to round out our US Territory adventure.
Thanks for stopping by! See you next week in the Northern Marianas Islands!
Traditional American Samoa dish; their own version of Chop Suey
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 5 oz bean thread vermicelli noodles
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoons finely minced ginger
- 2 carrots, chopped in ¼ inch dice
- ½ red pepper, chopped in ¼ inch dice
- 1 cup frozen shelled edamame (you can also use frozen peas)
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce (or more, to taste)
- 1 teaspoon chili paste
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and then add the noodles. Turn off the heat, cover and soak noodles for 15 minutes while preparing the rest of the dish.
- Add oil to a large lidded wok or pan on medium high heat and stir fry the onions, garlic and ginger for a couple of minutes.
- Add the chicken and stir fry until brown. Add half of the soy sauce to the meat, stir and lower the heat, put the lid on the pan and allow to simmer until the meat is tender (about 7 minutes). The meat will start caramelizing and the liquid will reduce. Add a little water if required and stir occasionally.
- Add vegetables (carrots, red pepper and beans) to the pan after the meat is tender and increase heat to medium, stir frying until just cooked, about 5 minutes. Season with a little salt.
- Drain the noodles using a strainer or colander. Add noodles to the pan and gently fold it in. Stir the remainder of the soy sauce, water, fish sauce and chili paste, put the lid on the wok and allow to cook for 2 minutes.