New Zealand‘s cultural majority, mainly British, do not have a definitive and recognisably distinct cuisine that differs markedly from the traditional British cuisine. However there are a number of small differences which include the flavours and influences of of European, Asian and Pacific cuisine.
Roast kumara is a sweet potato roasted in the same manner as potatoes and often served instead of or alongside. They can also be deep fried – like potato chips – and known as kumara chips. Often served with sour cream, they are rarely done well as kumara cooks at a different temperature than potatoes, thus requiring a skilled chef for the dish to be done perfectly.
Pavlova (or pav) is a cake of whipped egg whites, baked to have a crusty meringue-like outside but soft in the middle, topped with whipped cream and decorated with sliced fruit.
This dessert is also common in Australia and there is debate between the two countries as to where it was first invented.
ANZAC biscuits are plain hard biscuits, made primarily from oatmeal, bound with golden syrup. Originally made for – and by – ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) troops during the First World War. They are also found in Australia.
New Zealanders are fond of their pies and consume large numbers of non-flaky-pastry meat pies, containing beef, lamb, pork, potato, kumara, vegetables and cheese. Some companies now market ranges of ‘gourmet’ pies and there is an annual competition for the best pie in a variety of categories.
Kiwifruit is a plum-sized green fleshed fruit, with fine black seeds in the flesh, originating from China, selectively bred in New Zealand and first known to the home gardener as the Chinese Gooseberry. Now commercially farmed, production is centred on Te Puke. Slices are often served on pavlova.
Whitebait is the name given to 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. It is commonly served in a fried pattie made from an egg-based batter and may be seasonally available from a local fish and chip shop.
The Maori also have a distinctive cuisine, using the hangi – or earth oven – as the traditional method of cooking for large gatherings. Meat, vegetables and sometimes puddings are slowly steam-cooked for several hours in a covered pit that has previously been lined with stones over a hot wood fire.
‘Kaimoana’ is the literal translation of seafood, but refers particularly to shellfish gathered from inter-tidal rocks and beaches, as well as crayfish (rock lobster) and inshore fish caught on a line or with nets.
New Zealanders have a reputation for enjoying their beer. Although there are now only three major breweries, there are many regional brands, each with their own distinctive taste and staunch supporters.
Take care when and where you indulge in public. New Zealand has recently introduced liquor ban areas – that means alcoholic drinks cannot be consumed or even carried in some streets – such as city centres and popular beaches – at certain times of the day or night. Police can instruct you to empty bottles and arrest you if you do not comply.
The New Zealand wine industry has developed into a significant export industry. New Zealand is now known as one of the top producers of Sauvignon Blanc.
The Hawkes Bay region is well known for its Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and more recently Viognier varieties.
Marlborough is the largest wine producing region and famous for its Sauvignon Blanc. Waipara in North Canterbury specialises in Riesling and Pinot gris. Further south in Central Otago, Pinot Noir is produced in the most concentrated of styles. Many vineyards now offer winery tours, wine tasting and sales from the vineyard.
The minimum legal purchase age for alcohol in New Zealand is 18 and can only be supplied to under-18s via a parent or legal guardian.
Coffee-houses are a daytime venue in many of the larger cities and tourist destinations. The cafe culture is notable in downtown Wellington, where many office workers have their tea breaks. Most coffee styles – cappuccino, latte, espresso/short black, long black, flat white, Vienna etc. – are usually available.
Cappuccinos are probably the most popular and are usually served with a choice of cinnamon or chocolate powder sprinkled on top. Its usual to request which one you want. Fluffies are a small, frothed milk for children, sprinkled with chocolate powder.
Bottled water, both flavoured and unflavoured, is available in most shops, although tap water in New Zealand is regarded as some of the cleanest in the world.
‘L & P’ or Lemon & Paeroa, is a sweet carbonated lemonade style drink, said to be “world famous in New Zealand”. It is a sold in a brown plastic bottle with a yellow label similar to the traditional brown glass bottles it used to be sold in. It is generally considered to be a drink for children and is also drunk at parties as it mixes quite well with whisky. It is now manufactured in Auckland by Coca-Cola.
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