Much of New Zealand’s cuisine, similar to the people themselves, tends to be straightforward and unpretentious. The country’s economy is largely based on agriculture, so not surprisingly the cuisine is based on fresh produce from the sea and the land. It isn’t all basic, the wave of immigrants from China, Korea and other parts of Asia have meant an explosion in ethnic cuisine.
The country was a British colony for much of the 19th century, and the influence can be felt in the food and drink. Most English visitors will feel completely at home in New Zealand, from the traditional Sunday roast, to the afternoon cup of tea. Such favorites as scones and porridge are popular and a meal of fish and chips wrapped in newspaper may not be healthy – but it tastes delicious.
The influx of immigrants as well as the Maori influence has given rise to what is known as Pacific Rim cuisine. The food draws its inspiration from Asia, Polynesia as well as Europe – creating a wide range of flavors and food. You might have a meal with hints of both French and Thai; or a dish that mixes Hawaiian with Greek – the numbers of options are seemingly endless. Somehow, this all seems to work and the end result is usually a memorable meal
Pacific Rim cuisine can be found all over the country, particularly in the larger cities and Auckland especially has a large concentration of such restaurants. Most first time visitors are pleasantly surprised at the quality and diversity of the food in Auckland – you can sample such exotic cuisines as Belgian, Russian and Turkish, among others.
New Zealanders are among the top consumers of meat, butter, eggs and ice-cream in the world. Throughout the country, you can find small farms or roadside stalls from which you can purchase delicious home made bread, pies, chocolate, honey and jam. In many of the coastal communities, fresh seafood is for sale by the roadside or down by the harbor. And don’t miss the local farmer’s markets, another excellent place to sample local cheeses, meat and wines.
The country also has regional food specialties, oysters are the attraction in the small town of Bluff at the tip of South Island. Dunedin has a distinctly Scottish feel to it, with food to match. The province of Canterbury is the place to go for an excellent rack of lamb and neighboring Marlborough is well known for taking its bounty from the sea – mussels and scallops.
New Zealand’s wines make an excellent accompaniment to any meal – be aware that if you are dining out and want a glass of wine, some restaurants are classified as BYO (Bring your own) And many vineyards run restaurants as well, employing world-class chefs and using fresh local produce such as venison, lamb and seafood – accompanied of course by a glass of the local white or red.
The country boasts several wine growing areas and it’s possible to organize a tour of the country around visiting vineyards. Varieties of grape have been chosen to thrive in the soil conditions and climate of each region. One of the best places to experience New Zealand’s wine culture is in the Wairarapa region, not far from Wellington. In addition to the many wineries in this area, you can also inspire yourself by attending classes at the famous Ruth Pretty cooking school.
If you fancy dessert after your meal, you should sample a Pavlova, the delicious meringue dessert that originated in New Zealand, or Australia, as some maintain. The dessert is usually enjoyed with a topping of whipped cream and accompanied by fresh fruit. Its often eaten on holidays or special occasions, although it can of course, be enjoyed any time.
New Zealanders are fond of their barbecues during the summer months; typically a barbecue will feature lamb, beef or seafood. One experience not to be missed is the traditional Maori meal prepared by cooking food over hot stones buried underground for several hours. You can experience the hangi, as it’s called, at several tourist locations in New Zealand including the Maori village at Tamaki.
Perhaps the food most associated with New Zealand is the kiwifruit. If you just can’t get enough kiwifruit, take a trip to the Te Puke area where hundreds of growers harvest and ship the fruit worldwide. And there’s even a theme park – Kiwi 360 – which offers a tour of the orchards and a kiwifruit dining experience.
There are many reasons to visit New Zealand – spectacular scenery, a fascinating culture, friendly people and undoubtedly, excellent food and drink.