In New Zealand, hospitality is not just industry jargon, it is at the heart of the nation’s indigenous culture. For Māori, manaakitanga is one of the most important tikanga (customs) and is the foundation of the unique hospitality that makes a visit to New Zealand so memorable.
While the concept of manaakitanga contains many layers of meaning, at its heart the term refers to the need for reciprocal hospitality and respect between different people, groups, or cultures. Visitors to New Zealand are likely to experience manaakitanga is a variety of ways, but one of the most common is through the provision of kai (food).
There are few experiences that rival sharing a feast cooked in a traditional Māori hāngī (earth oven), a centuries old cooking method perfect for feeding a crowd and bringing a community together.
In traditional hāngī cooking, food such as fish and kumara (sweet potato), were cooked in a pit dug in the ground. Today, pork, lamb, potato, pumpkin, and cabbage are also included.
The hāngī food is left in the ground for about three to four hours, depending on the quantity being cooked. The result of this process is tender meat and delicious vegetables, infused with smoky, earthy flavours.
Alongside traditional cooking methods, one of the biggest movements in New Zealand food is the embrace of Māori indigenous ingredients in menus. New Zealanders are proud to showcase and share local delicacies to visitors. Don’t know your pāua from your horopito? Here’s a curated guide to some of the tastiest indigenous ingredients that you might be served during a visit to New Zealand.
Experiencing Manaakitanga in Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand
Photo by: Camilla Rutherford
Sweet, delicious shellfish such as pipi, tuatua, tuangi (cockle) and diamond shell clams. Eat freshly shucked straight from the shell; steamed and tossed with butter, herbs, and lemon; or in pasta and fish dishes. Best place to try them? Depot Eatery in Auckland.
A unique and prized export to the world, the green-lipped mussel is served simmered in wine and herbs or baked on the half shell with a tasty topping of bacon, onion, and buttery crumbs. Taste their deliciousness at The Mussel Pot in Havelock in the Marlborough region.
The dried leaves and seeds of this native bush have a peppery sensation and are prized by Māori for a wide range of traditional medicinal uses. The spicy, earthy aromatic taste adds flavour to a wide variety of spice rubs, stuffing and meat dishes. Look for Dovedale’s Horopito bread in good food stores.
Another native bush whose leaves and berries are used for medicinal purposes but also for spicing up food. Kawakawa tea is most refreshing, while the succulent leaves may be wrapped around foods or used as a base for soups and stocks. Find it flavouring the dressing for fish dishes at Hiakai.
Sweet potato is one of the main kai ingredients; it’s an essential at hāngi and is served at all traditional feasts. The three main sweet-potato varieties – purple, golden, and red – are all deliciously sweet whether roasted or steamed. Try kumara fries at fish and chip shops everywhere.
New Zealand spinach/kōkihi
This very versatile native green (kōkihi) is found in coastal areas. The succulent leaves – when well washed and trimmed – can be used in salads and soups and are an excellent addition to stews and braised dishes.
Pāua is a highly prized seafood gathered from the deep waters around rocky outcrops on the seashore. The inky black meat found in the spectacularly colourful shell (which is often used in jewellery and as a decoration) is chewy and flavoursome. Find it in fritters, or in the famous pāua pie at Amisfield winery near Queenstown.
These delicate, curled-up, bright green fern fronds are generally used as an attractive edible garnish, but can also be served steamed, boiled, or added to a stir-fry.
Kai moana (food of the sea) is central to all Māori feasting. Apart from treasured shellfish, the most desired fish are two oily/meaty species, kahawai and mullet, and the larger kingfish and hāpuku. Try them smoked or fried whenever you see them on a menu. One of the best places to sample sustainable kai moana is at Auckland’s new kingi restaurant in the Britomart Hotel.
These savoury potatoes were a staple crop for both eating and trading, and can be found in several varieties, usually with a purple or coloured skin and a creamy or blue interior. Moemoe and urenika are the most popular, but the brilliant blue tūtaekurī is also worth tracking down. Look for them on the seasonal menu at Peter Gordon’s Homeland on the Auckland waterfront.
Karengo and other seaweeds
High in nutrients, there are many delicious varieties of edible seaweed including rimurapa (bull kelp), karengo and sea lettuce. Enjoy them in soups and salads or dried and used as flavourings.
Great food deserves great wine.
While trying some local delicacies, make sure to wash these down our world-famous wines, from silky pinot noir to crisp sauvignon blanc.
Most of New Zealand’s wine regions are found on the eastern coastlines of the North and South Island and are sometimes connected by touring routes such as The Classic New Zealand Wine Trail.
The people you’ll meet have an intense passion for wine, matched by an immense knowledge of how it’s made. There’s a good chance that the winemaker will be the person pouring your tasting and bringing your New Zealand wine experience to life.
Source: NewZealand.com All images used with permission from Tourism NZ.
Experiencing Manaakitanga at Chard Farm in Queenstown, New Zealand
Photo by: Graeme Murray
Next week: Learn how you can Connect with Manaakitanga.