Koko alaisa is yummy anywhere, anytime, but I love it most on cold New Zealand winter nights. A hot, sweet mug of deep, dark Samoan cocoa, mouthfuls of fat rice grains, a speckling of undissolved coconut cream, and pegu – little, nutty koko fibres – to crunch on at the end. Perfection.
Every Samoan will know about koko alaisa, and we all have our own preferences for how it’s made.
Some like the rice to be so thick, you can stand a fork up in your koko alaisa, or eat it like rice pudding. My family prefers it on the just-about-drinkable side, because then you can dunk hot buttered bread in it as an extra treat.
Some people use normal (palagi) cocoa – and I’m not going to be mad at that. I love me some hot chocolate, why not add rice? But for our house, you can’t make koko alaisa without hard bricks of real Samoan koko.
Even though it’s not too difficult to find this koko in Auckland, we collect our koko from Samoa. To us, it just tastes (and smells) more fresh and… koko-ish straight from the islands.
Any family who comes over knows to bring us at least a few chunks of koko Samoa. And when I travel to Upolu, I make sure to save a good part of my luggage weight for a new supply of koko.
Anyway… let me show you how my family makes koko alaisa.
Like all amazingly proficient traditional cooks, we don’t use standard measuring cups/spoons. Yes that means our koko alaisa might taste a little bit different every time, but that’s all part of the Samoan (homemade) culinary experience.
So we take a large pot (ours is probably 12 litres or so), fill 3 quarters of it with water, drop in your entire chunk of koko Samoa (the size that’s in the image above), then enough dry rice to coat maybe an inch and a bit of the bottom of the pot, then bring it all to boil, stirring occasionally to help the koko dissolve.
Check it. I drew a picture to show you how the measurements sort of look (don’t laugh).
Okay, so once it’s all boiling, boiling, the liquid is getting all dark and you see bubbles of rice on the surface, turn the heat down to let it simmer (still stirring occasionally) until the koko is fully dissolved and the rice is cooked.
Then… sugar is your friend when you’re working with koko Samoa. It has to be nice and SWEET. So like, don’t eat this stuff everyday if you’re worried about diabetes, because the next step is to take your bag of sugar and just keep pouring and stirring and tasting the koko alaisa until you love it. It can take at least 2 mug’s worth (ok, 3 maybe more) of sugar to make my sweet tooth happy, but see how you go.
The last step for HGG’s family koko alaisa recipe is to add half a can of coconut cream for extra richness, and a few lemon leaves .. just because? I use lemon in everything just to brighten its flavor, but for this dish, just the lemon leaves are enough to bring a little something special to the koko alaisa experience.
And that’s it.
Serve piping hot with a thick slab of bakery bread and real butter. Mmmmmm….
I’m off to (ask my mom to) make some of this for dinner. Might post a few more photos soon.
How do you like YOUR koko alaisa?