In New Zealand restaurants you'll
find little or no representation
of Maori or Polynesian
cuisines, but you can sample traditional
cooking methods at a hangi (pronounced
nasally as "hungi"),
where meat and vegetables are steamed
for hours in an earth oven then
served to the assembled people.
The ideal way to experience a hangi
is as a guest at a private gathering
of extended families, but most
people have to settle for one of
the commercial affairs in Rotorua
or Christchurch. Though you'll
be a paying customer rather than
a guest, the hangi will be no less
First the men light a fire and place river stones in the embers. While these are heating, they dig a suitably large pit, place the hot stones in the bottom and cover them with wet sacking. Meanwhile the women prepare lamb, pork, chicken, fish, shellfish and vegetables (particularly kumara), wrapping the morsels in leaves, then arranging them in baskets (originally of flax, but now most often of steel mesh). The baskets are lowered into the cooking pit and covered with earth so that the steam and the flavours are sealed in. A couple of hours later, the baskets are disinterred, revealing fabulously tender steam-smoked meat and vegetables with a faintly earth flavour.
You will enjoy your Hangi experience.
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