New Zealand is a farming nation. Sheep give tender lamb meat, cows give extra creamy milk (because the grass is so green) and delicious steaks, fruit and veg are of high quality and cheap. If you are a vegetarian don’t worry there are many within New Zealand and all are catered for.
Kiwi Fruit is the country’s most famous export, although it is a fruit derived from the Chinese Gooseberry. Kiwi Fruit is packed full of vitamin C, and has enzymes which are useful for tenderizing meat. The Pavlova, (egg white meringue and fruit dessert) has been the object of a decades-long battle with Australia over where it was invented. “Hokey pokey” ice-cream is popular in New Zealand and consists of plain vanilla ice cream with small, solid lumps of sponge toffee. Hokey-pokey was a slang term for ice cream the 19th century in New York and parts of Great Britain, used by Italian street vendors, or “hokey-pokey” men.
New Zealand Wine
In recent decades New Zealand has earned itself well deserved recognition as a producer of internationally renowned wine. If you enjoy a glass of the good stuff, a trip to one of the many wineries is essential. One thing to remember: the legal drinking age in New Zealand is 18 and over.
The first vines are thought to have been have been introduced by missionary Samuel Marsden. Charles Darwin noted the winery in his diary when he visited Kerikei in 1835. Small vinyards were also planted by French settlers in Akaroa in the 1840s.
There are 10 major wine-producing areas in New Zealand, with Marlborough famed for its sauvignon blanc, Gisborne for its chardonnay, and Central Otago and Martinborough building a reputation for pinot noir and pinot gris. Hawkes Bay is known for its bold cabernets and Auckland’s Waiheke Island is home to one of the top 20 cabernet blends in the world. Marlborough and Hawkes Bay are New Zealand’s two premium wine-growing regions. Cat’s pee, green grass, gooseberry, blackberry, and tropical fruit are just some of the flavours and scents you will experience when you put your nose to a glass of NZ Sauvingion Blanc. An Otago Pinot Noir called ‘Wild Earth’ recently won the most prestigious wine trophy in the world against 30000 other wines.
In the Beer department, Steinlager came into being in 1958 as a response to budgetary cuts which limited beer imports and had the effect of creating a domestic market for beer of international quality. Steinlager is internationally famous perhaps due to the freshness of the water in New Zealand.
New Zealand ‘KAI’ (pronounced ‘KI’, meaning Food)
New Zealand food is similar to Australian food: both their roots are in British and Irish foods. There are differences, however. Maoris (indigenous New Zealanders) and immigrants from other Pacific Islands make up a significant proportion of the population. Consequently, there is a strong Polynesian influence in New Zealand cuisine. Ancient staples like “Kumara” (a sweet potato), play a large role in the Kiwi cuisine. Recently, other international flavors, especially from South East Asia, have been fused with more traditional New Zealand recipes.
Like other Polynesian people, Māori cooked their food in earth ovens, known in New Zealand as hangi, although the word umu was also used – as in other Pacific languages. The difference is that a hangi is done in a hole in the ground, while the umu is on top and more common in the Pacific Islands, such as Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, etc. Stones are fire-heated and food parcels, packed in leaves, are put on top, the packs are further covered with foliage and cloth, or, nowadays wet sacks, then earth. Other cooking methods included roasting and, in geothermal areas, boiling or steaming using natural hot springs and pools. Occasionally food would be boiled in non-geothermal areas by putting hot stones into a bowl with water and the food; and some food was also cooked over the open fire.
The Immigration Act 1987 completely abolished nationality preference for immigration, and immigration from East Asia and South Asia has skyrocketed after the law was enacted. Many of these immigrants have brought their different cuisines to New Zealand, and often opened ethnic restaurants and takeaway eateries, giving New Zealanders a chance to try more authentic editions of Japanese, Thai, Malay, regional Chinese, Indian, and other Asian cuisines. Over time these ethnic cuisines have been gradually accepted by Pakeha and Māori New Zealanders. Consequently, most New Zealand cities have a wide variety of ethnic restaurants, and foods such as kebabs, couscous, and sushi are served virtually everywhere.
Seafood (and eat it)
New Zealand is well known for its seafood. Seafood includes oysters, mussels, scallops, whitebait, salmon and much more. The Auckland Seafood Festival is late January/ early February – see Events.
Whitebait - The translucent sprat or fingerlings of native freshwater fish species that migrate from spawning in the sea each year. After being caught in coastal river mouth set or hand nets during November/December, this highly sought after delicacy is rushed to all ends of the country. Served in a fried pattie made from an egg based batter. May be seasonally available from a local fish and chip shop. Is served without gutting or deheading.
Lobster – Caught of Kaikoura mostly, lobster in New Zealand is the king of all seafood and the ultimate treat if you can order it.
Abalone – There is an extensive global black market in the collection and export of abalone meat. In New Zealand, where abalone is called pāua (from the Māori language), this can be a particularly awkward problem where the right to harvest pāua can be granted legally under Māori customary rights. When such permits to harvest are abused, it is frequently difficult to police.
Green Lipped Mussell – The green-lipped mussel has long thought to contain substances that can relieve arthritic symptoms. Maoris who eat them regularly have a low incidence of the disease. The “Mussell Mecca” is Havelock, where the restaurants proudly display a mainly mussel menu…