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Kai - traditional Māori food

For centuries Māori - the indigenous people of New Zealand - have lived, worked, and loved the rugged yet fertile lands of their ancestors.

Traditional Māori believed that the earth was the giver of all life. From the soil, came food and that same food was cooked beneath the earth.

It was accepted that the people who were born on that land inherited the right to produce from it and to protect it for the benefit of all.

Kai - Māori food
Kai is the Māori word for food.

In traditional life, New Zealand's Māori people were hunters, gatherers and crop farmers who harvested their food from the forest, stream, sea and garden.

Contemporary New Zealanders still enjoy traditional Māori foods and delicacies, and Māori kai continues to develop.

Traditional Māori diet
The Māori diet was based on birds and fish, supplemented by wild herbs and roots.

In their tribal gardens, Māori also grew root crops including potato and kumara (sweet potato).

Māori hangi ovens
Māori usually cooked under the ground in ovens called hangi.

In thermal areas, particularly around Rotorua, Māori also used the natural hot pools and steam.

In traditional hangi cooking, meat and vegetables cook in a hole dug in the ground. Placed on hot stones at the bottom of the hole, the food is covered with cloth and a mound of earth trapping the heat around the food.

On special occasions, feasting still includes this traditional cooking method as well as ingredients. Many Māori tourism experiences and some hotels provide hangi-style food for guests.

Māori potatoes
Māori potato (taewa tutaekuri ) are an unusual deep purple potato. This potato variety is enjoying a renaissance in New Zealand cuisine, and was winner of the 'Slow Food 2000 awards' which promote the preservation of biodiversity.

Rewena pararoa or Māori bread is made from potatoes. It is sold at many weekend markets and in speciality bread shops.

Indigenous bush herbs
Rotorua-based Māori chef Charles Royal uses traditional bush herbs and indigenous foods to create his contemporary cuisine.

Royal's signature Māori food delicacies include: kuku patties made with New Zealand greenlip mussels, puha greens or salmon infused with manuka (New Zealand ti tree) honey, kelp (dried algae) and peppery horopito leaves.

He has begun commercialising dried herbs, and these are now available to professional chefs.

Māori food gathering
On Stewart Island, off the southern tip of the South Island, Māori still harvest and preserve the Rakiura mutton bird. With its distinct oily characteristic, it is considered an acquired taste.

Māori also continue to catch eels in fresh water streams, fish from the ocean, and gather shellfish and kina (sea eggs) from the sea.

Puha - a green leafy vegetable found growing wild - and kowhitiwhiti / watercress, are also harvested.

Māori wines
Tohu Wine is the first indigenous branded wine to be produced for the export market.

The grapes are harvested from the regions of Gisborne (east coast of the North Island) and Marlborough (top of the South Island). Members of the Māori tribe associated with Tohu Wine are involved at all stages from production through to marketing.

More information:

Indigenous Māori food ingredients

Māori chef: Charles Royal

Māori hangi - traditional Māori feast

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Related Links
Other Sites
•  Kaipara Kumara website
•  Kumara: Te Ara Encyclopedia of NZ website
•  Charles Royal: Kinaki Wild Herbs website
•  Maori Vegetable Growers website
•  Tohu Wines website
•  Maori food - Te Ara Encyclopedia website


Hangi - click for more.
Fresh food - hot from the Maori hangi oven.


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