Life at No.22, New Zealand

Eat like a local: Kai with Soul

Ahhh, food.

It is a subject dear to many people’s hearts and souls.

Especially mine!

It brings people together in wonderous and in not so jolly times.

Perhaps one feijoa ice-cream at a time.

Let me share with you a few snippets about just a few old-style local kai [food] that seems to be still as popular as ever.

Here in Aotearoa/New Zealand, we do boast about having a thriving agricultural economy.  Which accounts for our love of fresh products from the land to the sea.

Our food is influenced not only by Maori. It has also been infused by many an immigrants culture from nearby to far abroad, as in Australia, English, European, American and Southeast Asian cuisines.

Here are just a few food products that have stood the test of time and are still enjoyed by many of us Kiwis and visitors to our shores.



It sounds like it originated from the Arabic country, doesn’t it!  The Afghans I’m talking about are a crunchy chocolate biscuit and a chocoholics dream.

Very kiwi and are so easy to bake for a morning tea treat.

The biscuits are made of flour, cornflakes, butter, sugar, and these ingredients are mixed with cocoa and coated with chocolate icing.  The original New Zealand crunchy chocolate biscuit and the original recipe can be found in the classic Edmonds Cookbook which was homemakers bible when I was growing up.  Here’s the recipe.

Though can’t be called a proper Afghan without the walnut half on top of this texture thick chocolate iced biscuit. To be found in many good local homes via a biscuit tin, supermarkets or bakeries around New Zealand. Best accompanied with coffee, in the form of expresso or flat white.  If pushed then a cup of gumboot tea, or raspberry herbal tea.



Hāngi is a Maori cooking method. In that it uses steam to cook chicken, beef, pork, potatoes, and other root vegetables. These food items are usually wrapped in leaves and placed in a basket, which is then laid on top of heated stones inside a deep hole.

Some call hangi an “earth oven.” Whatever you call it, this method of cooking gives the food a unique smoky taste. The whole process can be a speciality, taking as long as seven hours. Today, hangi food cooking can be used as part of traditional celebrations. Several speciality restaurants offer hangi food in their menu.

More chefs are taking on traditional Maori ways of cooking [Hangis] to traditional foods [native flora and fauna], giving that food a modern twist.  One such chef, Monique Fiso, [MO HIAKAI | ABOUT HIAKAI] is trying and succeeding in many convincing people that Maori food can be just as luxurious as French food, and doing that without ingredients like butter and truffle oil.  She makes a good point in that nothing compares to that smoky, earthy flavour as it is a taste you can’t recreate another way.  I find this subject exciting and one to keep an eye on now and in the future.

During my growing up years and beyond, the chance of having a “feed” from a hangi was never turned down.  A plate piled high with vegetables and succulent meat.  I can still remember my first taste.



Australia has Vegemite, New Zealand has Marmite.

These food pastes are both made of yeast extract combined with various herbs and spices. Amusingly the taste varies from country to country.  The notable difference is that Marmite is has a thick texture compared to Vegemite which is more syrupy.

In New Zealand Marmite, was first produced in New Zealand in 1919, is traditionally eaten with bread or crackers. Also known for its robust taste, it is usually spread thinly and then layered with butter or margarine.

In 2012, an earthquake hit the city of Christchurch, which damaged the country’s only Marmite factory. It caused a nationwide panic when a Marmite shortage was declared.



Since our country is surrounded by waters, seafood is a popular choice by many of us. This includes indigenous shellfish like the tuatua, which has a milder and softer texture compared to other kinds of shellfish. Eating tuatua is believed to be a Maori tradition, but these tasty shellfish are presently enjoyed by New Zealanders all over the country.

You can find them served as chowder or invite yourself to a small town locals kitchen and have a feed of fritters.

Hokey Pokey


As a Kiwi kid, there was always a bowl of Hokey Pokey that was enjoyed during warm summer days.  What is it?  A mixture of vanilla ice cream mixed with caramelised sugar.  Yummy!

You can make your version of this favourite dessert using these ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 Cage-Free egg yolks
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2 cups cream

Even better here is the recipe Foodlovers – Hokey Pokey Ice Cream

Meanwhile, if you can’t wait for the ice cream to set.  Take a walk down to the nearest supermarket or ice cream parlour if you happen to be in New Zealand.  Approximately five million litres of Hokey Pokey are consumed in the country each year, proof of its popularity among us all here in New Zealand.

Fish and Chips

We have the British and perhaps the Dutch for our love of fish and chips.  Though we do this takeaway meal far better, not that I am biased or anything!

Best eaten wrapped in newspaper with a slot opened up at the top to allow the steam to escape and wide enough for your hand to grab that first chip and a bit of battered fish.  Most seaside public places are alcohol-free, so you may have to wait until you are at your accommodation or home to have that quintessential local beer.

Some of the most common fishes used by takeaways and restaurants are snapper, hoki, and tarakihi. If you wish, you may choose to have a serving of squid rings and scallops to go with your fish and chips.

It is a treat that doesn’t appeal to everyone.  If you are one of those, do go down to a local wharf, buy fresh fish and cook up a storm in your own kitchen.  We do it regularly.



The Feijoa is usually found in many supermarkets, due to it’s poor shelf life.  Though it grows in many kiwi backyards.  Oh, how I have missed my annual indulgence of this favourite egg-shaped fruit when living overseas.  Boasting a unique aromatic flavour and a juicy flesh, it can be eaten raw or cooked.

When I do have the opportunity, I usually cut them in half and spoon the flesh out until there is nothing but the skin is leftover.  If I do have a surplus, chutney, jam, muffins feijoa and apple crumble, just to name a few choices.

It is also an excellent alternative ingredient for juices and smoothies because it is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, as well as fibre and potassium. You can easily find feijoas in supermarkets and local fruit shops.

What are you waiting for, an invitation? It’s in the post. Come for a visit, not just for the scenery alone.  Just remember the selection of food I have written about is only but a small portion of what is on offer.

Who needs scenery when there is such fabulous food?



30 thoughts on “Eat like a local: Kai with Soul”

  1. My mouth is watering right now! Yet, most of the items you mention that I like, I eat in moderation, whether it be ice cream or fish and chips. But, marmite is one thing I’ll probably never try again!

    In French Polynesia food fests were called kai kai as well. I hope to never have to choose between food and scenery! They go well together. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Everything looks delish! I even like Marmite and Vegemite. I guess the hokey pokey is a bit like a crunchie bar? We get a Cornish ice-cream with honeycomb which is very nice too. And also excellent fish and chips 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ironically, I was just talking to my friend about the food in New Zealand. Like you say, Suzanne, “land to sea.” I especially loved all of the local ice cream. We pretty much tried everything you list, except for the Feijoa. I will have to make a return visit. Your post brought back many great memories. Great photos!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes to hokey pokey ice cream. Though that’s not on our menu any longer as we are both diary product free. I might to experiment with coconut cream and hokey pokey. It will be fun trying it out.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s