“Everywhere you turn in New Zealand, there’s something exciting to do. It’s the gem of the world. It’s so far away from the madness, and so you get that element. It was just stunning.” – Wes Bentley
When you think of food in New Zealand, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? For us it is lamb. When our daughter was invited to a New Year’s party at the Embassy of New Zealand in Beijing, China, she asked if they will serve lamb.
Laughingly, her friends explained that to them, lamb is the casual, everyday food.
The main course at that party was New Zealand mussels, which our daughter found delicious. She probably had the famous green-lipped mussels.
In the restaurant in Christchurch, we ordered a pot of the green-lipped mussels, cooked in the hot broth with lots of garlic. This is how we like to eat local mollusks in any country.
Fish and chips
In Queenstown, we bought fish and chips at a hole-in-the-wall place. We took them to our hotel, sat on the balcony with a lake view and enjoyed the dinner with a bottle of cold beer. These fish and chips we the best we ever ate.
In all our travels, we never encountered whitebait fritters. The main ingredient is the tiny minnows (baby fish) mixed with eggs and flour and prepared as an omelet. Very unusual, and incredibly delicious.
Paua is a large sea snail. It was cut in small pieces and served as a curry over rice. The locals also make paua fritters, but we try to stay away from any kind of fritters, knowing that it could be too much flour and too little paua.
Pies & Kumara chips
We loved all kinds of pies we bought in New Zealand. We tried all sorts of these crowd-pleasing pastries – with fish, meat, or cheese. The ones with the filling of onions, mushrooms, and cheese became our favorite.
Kumara is a sweet potato which is a favorite root vegetable in New Zealand. It can be used in hanai in addition to white potatoes. While traveling in New Zealand, we always ordered Kumara chips instead of French fries. The sweet potatoes are more nutritious than white ones.
Hangi is a traditional Maori dish. The meat (pork, beef or chicken) is cooked with potatoes and other root vegetables. The Maori way to prepare it is to wrap everything and slowly bake in the underground oven.
Hangi can take a whole day to make. We had it at the restaurant in Auckland but did not ask if it was cooked underground or not. It was delicious.
We eat burgers very seldom. However, we made sure to try the Kiwi burger. It is prepared with ground beef and all the usual trimmings. What gives it a “Kiwi touch” is the addition of beets and a fried egg. Original and tasty!
New Zealand has almost 10,000 miles of coastline. The lucky population eats a lot of fish and seafood. Kina is a popular delicacy. It is a sea urchin that can be eaten raw. We enjoyed it as a topping over the hot rice. It was scrumptious!
Marmite to the Kiwis is the same as the Vegemite to the Aussies. Every family has a jar or two in their pantry. It was available at our breakfast buffets in the hotel restaurants. We tried it once and were done. Probably this strange paste is something that you must start eating from early childhood. It is an acquired taste.
We stayed in Christchurch for three days between the two major earthquakes and saw a lot of destroyed buildings.
The earthquake of 2011 heavily damaged only New Zealand’s Marmite factory located in Christchurch.
The population of New Zealand was afraid to be left without its favorite breakfast food spread. After 15 months, the factory was up and running.
Hokey Pokey ice cream
Hokey Pokey ice cream is a vanilla ice cream mixed with either caramelized sugar or little balls of honeycomb. Everyone loves this ice cream, but it was too sweet for us.
Manuka honey is one of the best and healthiest natural products. We had it a few times during breakfast, adding a teaspoon to plain yogurt. You should buy a jar or a bottle of this honey and bring it home. Since we travel only with carry-ons, we could not do it.
Pavlova is a delightful dessert. It was invented in New Zealand (if you ask a Kiwi) or in Australia (if you talk to an Aussie). We enjoyed it without worrying too much who should get the credit for this extraordinary dessert, made with meringue, and topped with whipped cream and colorful fresh fruit.