Bella Maiava’s signature dish of stir fry noodles have gained a popular following here in Apia and the young “mumpreneur” took orders from her noodle box fans on a casual basis over the past two years to a growing number of customers.
However as of last week, Bella was ecstatic that her vision of having a mobile eatery has finally become a reality. On Valentine’s Day, at the Culture Fest held in front of the government building, she and her husband, Mika Maiava, officially unveiled her new food venture “Bella’s Food Trailer” to the delight of her fans.
On Bella’s menu, she offers five types of noodle boxes, which are fish, prawn, beef, chicken and vegetarian with beef noodles being the most popular. According to Bella, as a lover of food and cooking, this was something she had always wanted to do, provide food that was different, inexpensive and could be eaten on the go.
“What I want is for people to enjoy good food without them having to worry about the amount of money to pay and it doesn’t have to be fancy for them to go dine, they can just pick it up and go wherever they want,” said Bella. “It’s just so simple. This is what I’ve wanted for so long and now we have it, but there’s just a problem of finding a space to lease and park our trailer there.
“I hate the fact that sometimes when you go out to eat, they charge you so much for a meal and yet when you taste it, it’s not flavourful. When we go eat out and there’s only very few places that I like, but so many of them are exactly the same, they just charge so much money on top of what they make. I want to be able to provide nice meals for our people and charge a small amount for them to enjoy it.”
Bella’s noodle boxes aren’t just economical, they are seriously flavourful and if there’s one word to describe her cooking style it would be “home” which is not surprising considering that Bella utilises a lot of produce from their own gardens.
The Maiava’s surrounding gardens at their home, indicate that serious foodies live there with patches of vegetables, fruits and herbs all over the property and they are in the process of expanding their garden to produce more vegetables for their noodle canteen.
“We have about six different types of basils here and other types of herbs. All the herbs are the main ingredients in my cooking, it’s what makes my food taste so fragrant and tasty.
“The other thing I use out of our garden is ‘kapisi sosolo’, its cabbage and it grows wild and we use our lettuce for our burgers that we sell. As soon as we start our new garden and get some fresh produce out of there, we’ll promote local veges and things so that’s coming up.”
Bella says the only way to describe her style of cooking is that she cooks with love and for the love of cooking. When asked what her secret was to producing noodle boxes that kept people coming back for more, she refers to one widely known authority on noodle dishes for her answer.
“Have you seen Kung Fu Panda?” she asked. “I think that there is no secret ingredient to anything except you,” she laughs.
“I don’t have to have a set recipe I just do it as I go. My sister in New Zealand said when I was younger she used to say to me ‘you know you could be really good chef if you were to study it but you don’t want to’. I don’t want to study I just want to do what I can. I love food.
“I always say that you don’t have to be qualified to make good quality food, if you love food, you should know how to cook, it’s as simple as that. I only started to learn how to cook when I went to New Zealand for school because there are so much different foods available to play with there.”
Bella got the idea about specialising in noodle dishes when she was in New Zealand on holiday while waiting for her second child to be born.
Out of boredom she started to experiment with udon noodles and different sauces and it was a hit for her family in Wellington from there the noodle craze began. When she returned to Samoa, she started to have food stalls at Teuila Festival, the Food and Wine Festival and the Oka Festival where her food would sell out within hours.
Not only was it her dream to have her own food trailer, it was important to Bella to help her husband, who worked hard for their family and having a food trailer is another source of income for their family, which was something that gives Bella much satisfaction on top of working on something that she is passionate about.
Recently they heard a friend was selling her trailer and Bella said when her and her husband went to view it, she said it was love at first sight and she wanted it.
“Through word of mouth I heard of a lady, Lena, who had one. I called my husband straight away because I knew they were really good friends. When we went there to have look, I fell in love with it straight away. It needed a lot of work, but I told my husband I wanted it.
“When I stood inside the trailer I was so happy because finally I was going to do something that I have wanted to do for so long.
“We got it painted and while it was being painted, it really helped to see that things were starting to move finally and that’s when I knew that it was going to work out.”
Finally, Bella gets to live out her gypsy food trailer dream and rather than changing locations every day for their food trailer, they are working on finding a permanent space in town to lease and park their mobile food canteen.