Friday, October 21, 2011

Bella & the (samoan) Balls

The only (Samoan) Balls that pass my lips & go straight to my hips: Panikeke

(Ha! Gotcha there for a second didn't I? You thought I was talking about a different kinda balls, huh? Perhaps, cake balls? )

Samoan panikeke: preferably tennis ball sized, perfectly round, perfectly crisped browned crust & pillow-y soft bread-y goodness on the inside. It's the kind of comfort food that Samoan's every where know.

Split one open & spread it with New Zealand Anchor Butter & a smear of strawberry jam... Ahhh! Simple & Delicious.

Mom's Place, served (what I think were) the best ones I'd ever had. 3 big tennis ball sized panikeke's to an order with all the butter & jam your arteries could stand! Yummy. Yummy. Yummy. (again apologies to my various numerous grandmothers & aunts & uncles who are now mad at me for saying that)

(Mom's which used to be at the Pago Pago International Airport when I was a child, later on moved to a little place in Fatu-ma-Futi  & then to the space below Samoa News in Fagatogo, where I really got acquainted with their menu. Currently, they're in Tafuna. If you're in American Samoa, please pay them a visit & tell them I said Hello!)

Brunch for Tafilele
Samoan Panikeke's are not something we made at home when I was growing up. For some reason, my mother struggled with getting the little dough balls to cook right enough to impress my father. After several failed attempts, she told him to just go buy it at the market & slapped several dollar bills in his hand. They were both happier for it after.

Since I moved away from home (Samoa) many years ago, the only chance I've had to get really good panikeke's like the kind I ate back home have been at funerals. I confess there have been a few of them that I attended just on the hope that so & so was making those darling spheres of fun to go with the KokoSamoa  cocoa rice in a large Styrofoam cup to go.

However, as many funerals as Samoans seem to have, I wasn't getting enough panikeke's to get my groove on & the soggy oily mess that some of the Polynesian food stores were selling grossed me out.

I decided that was it! I would finally try to make it on my own.

(Desperation is the mother of all good eats these days!)

After many tries & fails (dough too thick, dough too thin, what is this rock hard mess?) I hit on the right mix of everything. Even better, when I bought an Island Favorites Cookbook circa 1971 there was a recipe for Samoan panikeke almost similar to what I had! I was on the right track at last.

Now I don't think that these babies are as good as the ones I've inhaled ingested at Mom's over the years but if - like me - you're a long ways away from home... they hit the spot.

(Just remember butter & jam!)

Slammin' Samoan Panikeke's:
3 cups of flour
3 tsp baking powder
1cup white granulated sugar
2- 3 cups of cold water

Mix the dry ingredients together first. Then add the water in slowly. I like getting the mix to the consistency of thick glue - where it doesn't drip off the end of a spoon but kind of drops in a lump.

Meanwhile, get a pot out & pour some oil in it. (I like vegetable oil. Some times I use shortening which gives me a deeper crisper crustiness. But I like to save my Crisco for biscuits & frosting's, where liquid fat just doesn't do it.) No matter the size of your pot, you're gonna want to have at least 4-5 inches deep of oil to fry your panikeke's in.

Once your oil is heated up, drop a big tablespoon sized dollop of batter into the hot oil. Test just one first. If it floats - the oil is hot enough & you can keep adding in more spoonfuls of batter to the oil. Just don't crowd them all in. Leave lots of space for the oil to roll around the panikeke's so they get that nice crispy shell we all like chomping on.

I've seen some cooks use chop sticks to turn their panikeke's over. I'm not that talented. I use a pair of long aluminum tongs. You use whatever works for you.

When they're brown enough, pull them out & set to cool a little bit on a couple of paper towels to soak up the oil.

Tell the anxious eaters that due to the recession the days of 10 for a $1 are gone. They can may be get 2 for .25 cents. My hungry hungry hipos trade me hugs & kisses for panikeke's on an easy Sunday morning. *smiles* It's a good trade!

With love & delicious crispy (samoan panikeke) balls~
Cy.


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