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An Introduction to New Zealand Food


Moroccan Lamb Roast

Moroccan Lamb Roast

S. Wongkaew

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 Recently, other international flavors, especially from South East Asia, have been fused with more traditional New Zealand recipes.


With an abundance of fresh seafood, meats, dairy and vegetables, New Zealanders put a large emphasis on using local and seasonal produce.


New Zealand is also well known for Kiwifruit. Although kiwifruit is not native to New Zealand, it is a very popular fruit crop. Kiwifruit, also known simply as “kiwi”, came from China and, for a time, were known as “Chinese gooseberries.” Kiwifruit was adopted as the new name for the fruit when New Zealand began to export them in the 1950’s.


The “Tamarillo,” or “Tree Tomato” is a red or yellow subtropical fruit that is highly popular among Kiwis. Tamarillos, interestingly, are both sweet and tart. They are used in chutneys, eaten with ice cream, blended with mayonnaise (their uses are almost endless).


Chicken is the most widely-consumed meat in New Zealand. However, it’s not for its chicken that New Zealand is known. New Zealand lamb is world-famous. Much of the country is ideal for raising sheep and cattle with an abundance of pastoral land. New Zealanders also have a taste for venison.

Lamb plays a large role in the Kiwi diet where the Sunday lamb roast is a family institution. The lamb that is eaten today however is much leaner than lamb that was consumed by earlier generations. The taste for hogget and mutton, both with higher fat contents than lamb, has been replaced with the taste for a sweeter, milder meat.


As an Island nation, it should not be surprising that the New Zealand diet is rich in seafood. “Pipis” are a type of small clam. Other native shellfish include “Paua” (abalone), the famous “Bluff oysters,” also known as “Flat Oysters” or “Mud Oysters,” and New Zealand’s Green-lipped mussels. The “Koura,” a native freshwater Crayfish, is prized for its delicate, sweet flesh.

New Zealand’s lakes and streams also brim with trout (Rainbow, Brown and Brook) in both the North and South Islands. New Zealand Whitebait are also common and very popular -- they are smaller and sweeter than their English and Chinese counterparts.

Marine fisheries include Yellowtail Kingfish, Snapper, Blue Maomao, Marlin, Swordfish, John Dory, Trevally, Kahawai (Australian Salmon), Grey Mullet, Blue Cod and Bass. There are also several Tuna fisheries including Albacore, Skipjack, Bigeye, Yellowfin and Southern Bluefin.

British Beginnings

Like Australia, New Zealand’s traditional food finds its roots in the humble country cooking of the British Isles. Settlers brought with them recipes like mutton pie, scones, potted meats and rock cakes.

Polynesian Influence

Before the arrival of settlers from the British Isles, Maoris prepared food using methods such as steaming, smoking, roasting or drying.

Despite limited cooking resources they were adept at preparing “Hakari”, huge banquets, where feasts would be cooked for hours on hot stones using the traditional "Hangi.”

Maoris were highly skilled at hunting, fishing and grew crops of potatoes and “Kumara,” also known as the sweet potato.

Upon the arrival of the settlers, Maoris were quick to adapt new methods of cooking and explore the uses of foreign flavours.

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