Traditionally, the Māori people cooked in a pit under the ground in ovens called ‘Hāngī'.
Hāngī food was traditionally wrapped in flax leaves (similar to the Samoan “Umu”), but a modern Hāngī is more likely to substitute foliage with cloth sacks, aluminium foil and wire baskets. Hāngī packs are also popular – the food is put into individual foil takeaway containers and covered with cardboard lids before being cooked.
The baskets are placed on hot stones at the bottom of the hole. The food is covered with wet cloth and a mound of earth that traps the heat from the stones around the food.
The Hāngī food is left in the ground for about three to four hours, depending on the quantity being cooked.
In traditional Hāngī, fish, chicken and root vegetables such as kumara (sweet potato), were cooked in a pit dug in the ground.
Nowadays, pork, mutton or lamb, potato, pumpkin, cabbage and stuffing are also included.
The result of this long process is tender, off-the-bone meat and delicious vegetables, all infused with a smoky, earthy fragrance.
Experiencing a Hāngī is a great way to experience Māori culture, as it is not only a means of cooking food, but also a social occasion.
In the thermal regions of Rotorua and Bay of Plenty, you can try first hand this unique food cooked in natural thermal steam and water.