Day 63:Truly Living off the Land

A ‘hangi’ in New Zealand can be a pit that is used to cook food by heating stones, the food that is cooked in such a pit, or the meal or gathering where hangi food is cooked in a hangi pit :-). Hangis are a Maori tradition – the food is cooked by digging a pit in the ground, heating stones in the pit, putting baskets of food in, and covering everything with earth. A few hours later you uncover the baskets and dinner is served.

I have not been to a home-made hangi yet because nobody I know has hosted one but I’m hoping that I’ll get to this Christmas since the whanau (family) does them sometimes. Cooking in an earth oven isn’t uncommon among Pacific Islanders and you’ll see variations of it in Hawaii, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, the Cook Islands, etc.

There are several places in NZ that do commercial hangis. Tamaki Village in Rotorua does a pretty good job with theirs – it is a bit touristy but not too bad and they are really respectful of Maori culture and heritage. Tamaki’s evening entertainment includes a bus ride to their village, a welcome ceremony, very tastefully done interactive shows/discussions of Maori culture, and then a hangi meal with dancing and singing. Before you eat, they show you the hangi pit and uncover dinner so you can see how it was cooked. There are some pictures below of the pit and dinner which included pork, chicken, carrots, stuffing, potatoes, kumara, and Maori rewena bread. Dessert was a steamed pudding (cooked in the hangi) with custard and pavlova. I haven’t blogged about pavlova yet but one day!

The Whakarewarewa Village in Rotorua also has a hangi meal. I’ll write about the village another day but the hangi itself is a nice comparison to the one at Tamaki. Whakarewarewa’s is cooked in a pit with natural steam not rocks since the town is built in a geothermal area. It’s great fun to see where the food is cooked and the hangi has a different flavor from the steam. The food was more moist as well. But Whakarewarewa serves their hangi in a typical restaurant style with no dinner entertainment – so it is nice but if you are going to make room for just one hangi I would stick with Tamaki.

Just about any place that offers a ‘Maori cultural experience’ will offer a hangi. The Waitangi Treaty grounds has one (only in summer I think though) and there are other places in NZ that advertise them. We also sometimes see vans or parks in towns that advertise ‘hangi plates’. We haven’t tried one yet but they are often cheap (as low as $5 NZD) – some are for fundraising efforts but often they are for personal gain and the council is starting to crack down on them.

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