The landscape is full of beautiful mountains, glaciers, hot pools and is abundant in lakes and forests. The cities and towns vary from beehives with a cool and totally relaxing atmosphere to adrenalin and adventure scene. With a culture largely inherited from British and European customs, interwoven with Maori and Polynesian tradition, this makes New Zealand a unique place to discover food.
One tradition that has continued over a hundred years is Hangi (‘earth oven’) from the Maori culture. The method of a Hangi is distinctive in comparison to modern day cooking as it involves cooking food with heated rocks buried in a pit.
Laying a Hangi involves digging a pit in the ground and heating stones with a large fire. Volcanic rocks are the ideal stones for this method of cooking as the stones are able to withstand the high heat without chipping or crumbing.
Once the stones have been heated, baskets of food are then placed on top of the stones and covered with wet cloth or sheet, which is then covered with earth/dirt. The water in the cloth turns into steam and cooks the food.
There is a lot of preparatory work involved in a Hangi, making it labour intensive and involves skill and planning. Typically the food used is a selection of lamb, chicken, pork beef, shellfish, kumara (sweet potato), potato, corn and pumpkin. The total cooking time is about 7 hours, hence this method is only used for ceremonial and special occasions.
The overall result is a rich, succulent dish with a flavour quite unlike anything else. It is well worth the wait to experience.