Traditionally, Māori people cooked in earth ovens called ‘hāngī'.
What is a hāngī?
In traditional hāngī cooking, food such as fish and kumara (sweet potato), were cooked in a pit dug in the ground. Today, pork, lamb, potato, pumpkin and cabbage are also included.
Hāngī was traditionally wrapped in flax leaves, but a modern Hāngī is more likely to use mutton cloth, aluminium foil and wire baskets.
The baskets are placed on hot stones at the bottom of a hole dug into the ground. The food is covered with a wet cloth and a mound of dirt that traps the heat from the stones.
The Hāngī is left in the ground for about three to four hours, depending on the amount of food. The result of this process is tender meat and delicious vegetables, infused with smoky, earthy flavours.
Good food is central to the spirit of manaakitanga (hospitality). There are few experiences that rival sharing a feast cooked in a traditional Maori hāngī (earth oven), a centuries-old cooking method perfect for feeding a crowd and bringing a community together.
Where can you try a hāngī?
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.
Rotorua is a region rich in Māori culture and heritage. The unique geothermal properties of the area also mean local iwi (tribes) have a unique way of cooking hāngī - in natural thermal steam and water.