A Guide to Food in New Zealand

In this writer’s humble opinion, sampling the local food is an important aspect of any trip to a new country. New Zealand is perhaps most famous for its lamb, which is recognised globally as some of the very finest around, whilst the locals also make the most of being surrounded by the sea, and are spoilt with delightful seafood all year-round. The overall style of food has drawn inspiration from all over the world, as many of the classic dishes contain European, Asian and Polynesian influences.

The Kiwi Attitude to food

New Zealander’s relaxed and laid back approach to life generally translates to their food, and so the way they eat, rather than what they eat, is perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the Kiwi’s foodie culture. The fantastic weather in summer encourages eating outdoors, so barbeques are everywhere, making the most of the fantastic fresh fish, shellfish and meat found on the islands. It’s no surprise really, because living in a place steeped in natural beauty and fantastic landscapes would bring out the rugged caveman in us all. If I could see mountains from my garden, I would probably be inspired to cook on a fire more often. But I don't, I'm from London. The conclusion seems to be this then: Mountains, plus a penchant for a laid back lifestyle, leads to barbeques.          


A Guide to Food in New Zealand

With over 14,000 kilometres of coastline, New Zealanders have easy access to some of the best seafood in the world. Most popular perhaps are the Marlborough green-lipped mussels (famed for their health benefits), the Buff oysters and the whitebait caught off the west coast.  

Bluff oysters are raised in the pristine waters of Foveaux Strait and served all over the country once they mature. For an unforgettable oyster based experience; visit the Bluff Oyster and Food Festival in May, where there is plenty of fantastic food, live music and much more!

Another popular food found in Kiwi waters is whitebait. These tiny but tasty fish are most commonly found on the west coast of the South Island, and are caught en masse during the spring. They are served fried, and mostly used for New Zealand’s famous whitebait fritters. One final seafood delicacy which must be tried is the array of local scallops. Scallops are caught all around the Kiwi coast, and are best enjoyed at the Whitianga Scallop Festival, which is held every year in September, combining magnificent views of the Whitianga Marina Reserve with mouth-watering local produce.

Inspired by one of Britain’s national dishes, Kiwis enjoy the classic dish of fish and chips as much as the English. They’re best enjoyed wrapped up in newspaper and eaten with a wooden fork, overlooking a rugged New Zealand beach on a breezy summer’s evening. Instead of the slightly dull cod used in England, New Zealanders prefer freshly caught Snapper, Terakihi or Hoki.


A Guide to Food in New Zealand

Exported all over the world, lamb from New Zealand is simply unbeatable. This may well be because of the sheer amount of sheep that live on the two Islands. It is thought that there are around 20 sheep for each person in New Zealand, with the total population of the animals being at least 60 million. Traditionally a nice piece of lamb can be roasted, flavoured with garlic and rosemary, and served with seasonal vegetables, but it’s also great on, surprise surprise, the barbeque!

The Hangi

For a genuine taste of New Zealand’s Maori heritage, visitors need look no further than eating from a traditional Hangi. ‘Hangi’ means Pit Oven in the native tongue, and eating from one is an essential culinary experience whilst in New Zealand. In a method that has been used by the Maori for over 2,000 years, meat, vegetables and even some desserts are cooked underground in a large hole filled with piping hot stones and sealed with vegetation. The Hangi is drizzled with water and buried, before being left to steam for a few hours. A great place to experience a traditional Maori Hangi is in Rotorua, where you can book an entire day of cultural immersion, which culminates in a proper Maori feast.