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Making Family Foods

Making Family Foods

Delicious Kō Pai  

By Victoria Ico 

Simple foods are an interesting category of food. These meals are usually easy to make, use cheap accessible ingredients, and are quite popular among college students. Simple foods, however, can be elevated to a higher status with the addition of one simple ingredient: love. Matthias Bernard, a senior theology major, has one such recipe, imbued with culture and love passed from one generation to another. Treasured in his heart is a Samoan dessert called Kō Pai. 

Bernard described the dish as bready dough balls covered in a coconut and caramel “sua,” which in Samoan means soup. [1] Kō Pai’s simplicity lies in its short ingredient list: sugar, water, flour, and coconut milk. These are ingredients that every household would have in the tropical Polynesian area this dish originates from. For Bernard, it was normal for church members to start cooking it in the middle of potluck to continue the fellowship feasting. “It was something to eat on the side when social events were happening,” he said. [2] 

Memories of his grandfather making his Kō Pai add to the feeling of warmth and home Bernard gets when he eats this dish. “When I’m eating this, I’m with people who I call family,” he said. [3] His grandfather perfected this recipe over his lifetime, making it a taste that Bernard has known since childhood. With this recipe, he hopes others will taste the simple love in this dish. 

Kō Pai 

Start to Finish: 1 hour 

Servings: 10 


2 1/2 cups flour (separate 2 cups from the 1/2 cup) 

2 1/2 cups white sugar 

See Also

7 3/4 cups water (separate 7 cups from the 3/4 cup) 

Two 14-ounce cans of coconut milk 

Kō Pai is an easy dish to make with family and friends. Sourced from Panipopos’ blog.


  1. Into a wide pot, pour 7 cups of water and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour, 1 cup of the sugar, and the remaining 3/4 cup of water. Mix together until it forms a sticky dough. 
  1. Sprinkle the countertop with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Knead until it’s taut like pizza dough, adding the remaining 1/2 cup of flour as necessary. Roll the dough into ping pong sized balls. 
  1. When the water starts to steam, start dropping the doughballs in. When they’re all in, bring to a rapid boil and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally so the dough doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. While the doughballs cook, empty into a bowl the 2 cans of coconut milk and whisk in 1 cup of sugar. 
  1. To make the caramel for color, add enough of the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar to thinly cover the bottom of a small nonstick pot. Heat on medium-high and watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn, but instead turns a golden brown. Add the remaining sugar in small batches, letting the sugar fully melt into the caramel before adding a new batch. 
  1. When the doughballs finish boiling, pour in the sugared coconut milk and stir. Wait for bubbles to reappear, around 6-8 minutes. 
  1. Add the fully melted caramel into the dough and coconut mixture carefully. It will sputter rapidly, but that is normal. Stir until the caramel is fully dissolved into the sauce, resulting in a light brown color. 
  1. Let sauce thicken for 5-7 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy! [4] 


  1. Interview with Matthias Bernard, 2/22/2022. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid. 


  1. A close-up of fresh Kō Pai. Sourced from Panipopos’ blog.  
  1. Kō Pai is an easy dish to make with family and friends. Sourced from Panipopos’ blog.  
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