If you’re someone who dreams of food day and night and attaches a lot of your travel goals to the dishes you’ll get to try in different countries, then it’s time to find out why New Zealand needs to be on your radar.
Much can be said about how stunning the country’s landscape is, but when it boils down to it, the quality of your trip largely depends on the meals you eat. Think about the last bad restaurant experience you had – didn’t it ruin an entire evening? Exactly. So, with that in mind, here are the 20 foods and delicacies that you absolutely must try when exploring this country!
Hangi : A traditional Māori meal, Hangi redefines everything you think you need to cook up a storm. This meat and vegetable dish is made by wrapping all the ingredients in leaves, placing them in a basket, and then lowering the whole thing into a hole in the ground filled with hot stones. The hole produces an oven-like effect, with the meat and vegetables imbibing a unique earthy and smoky flavour that no real oven can even hope to produce!
Green Lipped Mussels : Green lipped mussels are a local delicacy, with their coral-coloured juicy meat often used in chowder. Now, as is the case with most ingredients, you’ll find that green lipped mussels can be cooked in a variety of ways. However, while experimenting, we’d advice you to stick to mild recipes that include butter and garlic so that you can taste the flesh of the mussels, instead of a smatter of flavours that overpower it entirely.
Crayfish : If you think that New Orleans is the only place in the world that does justice to crayfish, think again! Crayfish, also called Crawfish in some parts of the world, is a lobster’s spiny cousin. Its succulent flesh makes it an absolute delight to the senses and you must try as many regional variants of this dish as possible. When in New Zealand, Kaikoura is a fantastic place to try some freshly caught crayfish cooked with local ingredients!
Lamb : While lamb sounds like a low-key generic ingredient that you may be exposed to time and time again, keep in mind that no one makes lamb like the Kiwis! One of the most popular recipes is a humble one, with rosemary and garlic, and salt and pepper.
Kina or sea urchin : If you’re a fan of cooking shows, you’ve probably come across sea urchins and are dying to try them. If not, don’t be alarmed by the spiky exterior! Chefs crack open this hard body to reveal a gorgeous yellow, almost yolk-like flesh that is a treat to the senses. While some people eat this raw (especially when it is served on a sushi boat), others prefer cooked varieties. No matter which side you lean towards, this is a dish that you cannot leave New Zealand without trying.
Kiwi Burgers : No, we’re not talking about burgers with slices of kiwi in them! Kiwi burgers are just what burgers in New Zealand are called thanks to the regional twist on this all-American dish. Apart from including a standard burger patty and other ingredients, New Zealanders love to add a fried egg and beetroot to their burger.
Whitebait fritters : Whitebait is a type of tiny, immature fish that is quite popular amongst the locals. This dish is akin to a fish omelet, with the flaky flesh combined with eggs, butter, lemons, vegetable oils, and salt and pepper. One of the best places to try whitebait fritters is on the west coast of the South Island.
Marmite : Although not technically a dish in itself, marmite is a black, tar-like spread made of fermented yeast. Now, before you scroll down thinking that this is way too gross, let us tell you that though it’s an acquired taste, it is simply delicious. Spread it on toast, crack a runny egg yolk over it, and chomp away. Pro tip: do not, under any circumstances, tell a proud New Zealander that vegemite is better!
Paua : Move aside, escargot! New Zealand’s Paua is here to steal the top spot as one of the best snail dishes in the world. Fleshy and succulent, these snails can be eaten raw or cooked in curries and fritters. You simply must try them once.
Pies : With flaky, crispy crusts and warm gooey insides, pies are easily one of the best comfort foods that you can try in New Zealand. The fillings can range from meats and vegetables to melted cheeses, so pick a different one each day.
Fish and Chips : New Zealand was once colonised by the British and though they’ve bid adieu to the country, they did leave behind a crucial part of their food culture – fish and chips! All you need to go with this is some tartar sauce and perhaps a light beer!
Manuka Honey : Manuka Honey is a variant of honey that’s only available in New Zealand and Australia. Though it’s greatly lauded for its health benefits, we think you should focus more on what you can pair it with. Get a stack of warm, fluffy pancakes and pour away!
Sausage Sizzle : A sausage sizzle is very popular snack in New Zealand. So popular, in fact, that it’s often sold at fundraisers, and the events themselves are typically referred to as ‘Sausage Sizzles’. What is it, you ask? It is fried sausages laid on white bread, splattered with ketchup or mustard and topped with caremelised onions.
Tuatua : Tuatua is yet another traditional Māori dish that everyone in this country loves. You’ll find a ton of Tuatua dishes at various restaurants in the form of chowders and fritters.
Afghans : Afghans are cookies that are exclusive to New Zealand. Made with cornflakes, butter, flour, sugar, and cocoa powder, and then topped with walnuts, these cookies have a very dense and rich texture. You’ll find Afghans at almost every bakery you walk into, and we recommend you pair them with hot chocolate or tea!
Lolly cakes : Ask any child in New Zealand about their favourite food, they’ll tell you it’s lolly cakes. This dessert is made with marshmallows, candies, butter, condensed milk, sugar, and malt biscuits and is a quintessential New Zealand dish.
Hokey Pokey : When you’re in the mood for some delicious ice cream, don’t order the flavours you’re accustomed to. Order a Hokey Pokey, an ice cream with a vanilla base mixed with caramelised sugar, baking soda, cream, egg, caster sugar and golden syrup.
Kumara wedges : A type of sweet potato that’s native to New Zealand, Kumara is an immensely popular ingredient found in almost every type of dish available in the country, especially Hangi. However, the Kiwi love for this doesn’t stop there. Try some Kumara wedges, chips and croquettes when you’re in the mood for your next snack.
Feijoa : Feijoa is a native fruit that’s also called guavasteen or pineapple guava. It has a highly aromatic flavour along with a juice flesh, making it a great fruit to try with your breakfast. While this is typically eaten raw, if you’re traveling to New Zealand in the winter months, you’ll find that many people stew it in sugar before eating it.
Māori fried bread : If you’re looking for a much healthier alternative to doughnuts, get acquainted with Māori fried bread. This dish is locally called Paraoa Parai and you should get it with a steaming bowl of soup or stew if you are in New Zealand in the autumn or winter months.
Now that we’ve got you covered for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, there’s no way you won’t think of New Zealand the next time to ponder over travel spots that offer great food!
Already salivating at the thought of eating these? Plan your trip to New Zealand by taking a look at our packages.