How do you like your… povi masima?

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How do you like your… povi masima?

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I grew up in Hawaii, and like a lot of us raised outside of Samoa, my siblings and I were exposed to a wide variety of culinary delights (which sadly included big macs and pop tarts) and we never fully developed a taste for Samoan food.

I say ‘never fully‘ because I am familiar with a lot of our dishes and I have a few (stereo)typically Samoan eating habits. For example, I’ll eat just about anything from the ocean, yumm… ulu is my most favourite staple, I enjoy our Asian imports – curry, stir-fries & chop suey (as long as they’re made ‘properly’) – and everybody loves pagipopo.

For the most part, though, our home meals were based on what we called ‘Palagi food’, i.e. anything foreign to what people in (the ku_a villages of) Samoa normally eat. We’re talking spaghetti bolognaise, roast meat with potatoes, lots of chicken and rice, tacos, brownies, noodles, etc. The usual suspects in a Westernized diet.

And for the most part nobody complained – we were hardly starving. But every now and then my parents would sigh and lament the absence of things like mea a’ago… all like, ‘E le kau ai se magava i gei mea’ai’, which loosely translated means ‘this food doesn’t truly satisfy’… referring of course to the magical connection between ‘real’ Samoan food and ‘real’ Samoan stomachs.

I’ve since heard the sentiment repeated often, especially amongst the older folks in my currently New Zealand-based Samoan community. I appreciate how they must feel though. Food is a powerful trigger of emotion, and I can understand how certain aromas and flavours will transport our elders back to the beloved motherland, to an almost mythical time of vibrant youth amongst family and friends.

What I don’t always appreciate, though – let’s blame television and the American food industry – is the appeal of SOME of the dishes my parents hold so dear to their hearts. Don’t get me wrong… I’m a pretty adventurous (and prolific) eater, I’ll try anything at least once. That’s how I know for sure I’m not a fan of SOME of these so-called Samoan delicacies.

I have decided, however, that this year, for the sake of research and for love of my culture, I’m going to give these questionable dishes another real go.

I’ve coerced my mother into playing head chef in my new endeavour. I’m going to learn from her how to make these dishes, and then I’m going to figure out how to really enjoy them (even if I have to bastardize the recipes with my own little tweaks – please don’t shoot me).

Wish me luck!

Okay, let’s start with *drumroll pleaaaase*… Povi Masima! (the crowd goes wild).

What is it?


It’s simply fatty beef briskets preserved in brine (really really salty water). You can find them everywhere in South Auckland, especially at the butchers and dairies that cater to Islanders. Just look for the white paelo stacked in the corner somewhere.

In my town, these buckets are always labeled ‘Povi Masima’, and I find it amusing how many non-Samoans I know will casually refer to the stuff by its Samoan name. *thumbsup*

If you’re not in South Auckland? Hhmmm… Remind me to work on a list of places in the WORLD where you can buy Samoan food.

Why it’s not my favourite

Possibly because it’s really really salty, and often very ga’oa, but also because my mom cooks it with lots of cabbage.

So… salty, fatty beef boiled to a tender pulp with cabbage. You feel me?

How you make it

Okay this was the fun part – and SO easy.

Just chuck the briskets into a pot of water, boil for a long time (like, an hour or so) till it’s tender, then throw in some big chunks of head cabbage…

…and continue to boil till the meat begins to fall off the bone and the cabbage is soft and opaque.

“And you don’t have to add any other kind of seasoning,” my mom enthuses, practically drooling as she stirs the pot. “All that beauuuuutiful flavour is already in the meat!”


How my mom eats it

Like this:

A simple and apparently divine plate of povi masima with cabbage, accompanied by the almighty taro.

How NOT to eat Povi Masima

So I struggle to eat taro (yes, you can shoot me now) and I’m really fiapoko (i.e. I think I’m brainy), so while my mom wasn’t looking, I swapped my kalo for a heap of rice and figured I’d ladle some of the soup from the pot over the rice as like, you know, to add flavour.


Soggy, super salty rice to go with salty beef? Let’s just say I did not enjoy that experience.

The RIGHT way

The good news is, the meat itself – like, completely by itself, and maybe rinsed just a little bit – was really not bad at all. It was so tender and, yes, the fat in it added another dimension of subtle flavour that made it.. what’s the word… succulent.

I should have eaten the kalo with it! I believe now what my mom says, that povi masima really needs a strong, solid kind of starch for balance.

My good friend says she also loves it with lots of tomato sauce, and I can see how the sweet acidity of ketchup could nicely counter that brine.

The Verdict

The next time I make povi masima I’m going wait a little while longer before I throw the cabbage in – I want it to be a little firmer, to preserve a little more of its own delicate, vege flavour.

I’m going to eat it with a small piece of kalo, some fresh tomatoes on the side and drizzled with tomato sauce.

Wowsers… my mouth just watered at the thought.

On the matter of povi masima? I think it’s safe to call me a convert.

How do YOU like it?


Known IRL as Lillian (Lils, Lei'a) Arp, I'm just a Hamo Geek Girl, sitting behind a screen... learning, deep-thinking and typing up Samoan things.

19 thoughts on “How do you like your… povi masima?

  1. U r funny lol its.the same as silverside…just a rougher. version
    But yeah add mayb tomato and cucumber fresh with the cooked cabbage
    and trim the fat (well….leave some on)… then u got

    U could.boil the meat then change the water once or twice
    that helps get rid of the saltiness… then u can add
    salt as needed once its done.

    1. So I told my mom your suggestion for pouring the water out a few times and she goes, “Yes, that’s how it’s SUPPOSED to be done. That’s how I always do it, too.” And I’m like.. ummm…. then why didn’t we do that this time, the ONE time I’m planning to blog about it…? And she’s all laughing…

      But then she goes that it really depends on where you get your povi masima and how long it’s been in brine, because sometimes it doesn’t need to be poured out.. and we just happened to have an extra salty batch this time.

      And then she said, ‘well that’s my defense, anyway.’


      You know I was thinking cucumber too, but maybe pickled in some vinegar … OR ice cold kim chee…. Mmmmmm…. now that would be a great meal.

      Can I come faikakala at your kuka someday Kelly? 🙂

  2. i love eating my povi masima wit fa’i… i love the the cabbage as well.. mm mm mm.. very salty.. at times hard to chew through the meat.. but hey.. we got samoan teeth!.. bite thru rocks..metal n’ errything else.. hahaha.. i’ve eat’n it with rice too… but i prefer it wit fa’i or taro… continue on with ur research!.. love to see more of ur food adventures =)

    1. Òh yeah, don’t u know Samoan teeth are diamond tipped? lol You got it MsTivz… I’m looking forward to many food adventures too!

  3. Oh I LOOOOOOOOOVE me some fasi povi.
    Love your pics too.

    So how I make mine:
    I tend to boil it twice (yea, it’s super salty and i don’t understand how some ppl like it like that ugh)
    And when I know it’s about 30 minutes from being the way I like it, I put in my cabbage. I put in a bit of seasoning as i crush my ginger or garlic and put that in before my cabbage. I like to put in some red pepper as well. It tastes really good.
    there are a lot of ways you can cook it, but no matter how one makes it, I still love it.
    lol@my fatness haha

    1. Ohh I like that idea @ ginger or garlic (or both!)… by red pepper, though, do you mean the spicy powder stuff or the vegetable (capsicum)? and yes.. definitely going to boil it twice next time…mmmmm @ my fatness too loll …

  4. You can use the red pepper..powder..the more you season the better…that’s what i’ve been told by burrito dude. Aaaand he’s been correct so far lol
    but adding other veggies other than cabbage, OMG! you’re a genius Ms Chi!! Haven’t thought of that, but will when I make some this coming Sunday! 🙂

  5. You sure need to change the water 3 times. Imagine your povi masima being brined and sitting in there for a year? Most samoans I’ve seen cooking povi masima with the old pot, well a pressure cooker tend to help alot in conserving time and energy, and when it’s fully cooked in a pressure cooker, you dont necessarily need samoan teeth made for rocks and steel or tipped diamond too. You can swallow your povi masima without the bones though…lol

    1. Sitting there for a year? Yeah that’s not really how I like to imagine meat I eat… lol

      I’ve never tried a pressure cooker for…anything actually. Can you stick vegetables in there too? Hmmm….

  6. U can add veggies when the meat is soft and tender, but not during the cooking process; if you do, your veggies will taste like baby food. And if you’re toothless sure you can add them veggies in, the pressure cooker will actually soften your food to paste lol.

  7. I bake it with what we call in Tongan “loloi.” Loloi is a liquidy mixture traditionally made with coconut creme and coconut milk, but out here in the states we also make this mixture with the right ratio of water and mayonnaise which is how I like to make it adding a little bit of curry to the mixture. Then I get the foil place my shredded cabbage in, create a small hole and put my corned beef in (cut in small pieces), then add onions on top and the liquid mixture on top, close up the foil tight and bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes then bring it down to 375 degrees for another half hour. Ifo ifo!!

    1. Hey Louise… I guess you can try silverside. It’s also salted and will be a healthier option than the salt beef we use (a lot less fat, I’m sure), but I don’t know if hard core povi masima lovers will appreciate the substitution lol. If you do, please let us know how it goes.

  8. I like to cook it in the oven….In a roasting dish, then sprinkle breadcrumbs over it and the usual cabbage in with it, cover it with foil and bake it for a couple of hours……comes out beautiful! Yummy!……

  9. I tried some as a trial(as I I put it in a roasting pan with water and I sprinkled some seasoned breadcrumbs all over it and baked it covered with foil for about 2 hours at about 200 C then I put in a quartered cabbage and baked it for about another hour uncovered and it turned out just simply divine!…lol…the family loved it! Now my bro cooks it like that all the time….lol…

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