For a food experience with a difference, being invited to a hangi is a great way to cook and enjoy a meal with friends and family. In Maori culture, it is traditional to cook food in a pit beneath the ground in ovens called ‘hangi’. The earth is a giver of life (in that food comes from the soil), therefore it is seen appropriate for food to cook beneath it.
Traditionally, fish, chicken and root vegetables are cooked with a few modern additions. Once wrapped in leaves, a hangi today is formed of wire baskets placed on hot stones, covered by a wet cloth and finally earth to trap the heat. Although a long process, taking around 3 to 4 hours, the end result is well worth the wait for tender, melt in the mouth meat which falls off the bone, and vegetables infused with smoky, earthy, fragrant yumminess. Where’s a bib when you need it…
Many hangi meals will be included in most Maori cultural experiences however they are becoming increasingly popular in hotels, particularly in the Rotorua region with both traditional music and dancing. With thermal activityat the heart of Rotorua, there is also opportunity to experience the taste of food cooked in natural thermal steam and water. The thought of cooking your meat in sulphureous odours may cause your nose to wrinkle but when the food resurfaces, you won’t be disappointed.
For an authentic Maori cultural experience, Wairakei Terraces in Taupo is smaller than other villages however less commercialised. In under four hours you will experience remarkable hospitality, spectacular scenery and a fascinating insight into the Maori way of life. A tour costs NZ $95 for adults and $47.50 per child. The Tamaki Maori village experience nestled in ancient Rotorua Forest includes a full tour of the village complete with traditional ceremonies, hangi and wharekai for a relaxed 3-course dinner, costing NZ $105 per adult, $20-60 for children with discounts for students and seniors. Alternatively a family group (2 adults and up to 3 children) can pay $250.
If a true taste of New Zealand is what you’re after, awaken your senses with a unique dining and social experience while learning some of the Maori culture which has helped shape the nation. Even those with a sweet tooth can rejoice, with steamed puddings on the menu!