About the food of New Zealand

Beach at Punakaiki, New Zealand. Photo by Ville Miettinen.

With her long line of rugged, scraggly mountains, New Zealand looks like the backbone of the world. Perhaps this is why she was chosen as Middle Earth for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and continues to capture the imagination of people all over the world. If I were a hobbit New Zealand is definitely where I’d choose to live. Even if I were not a hobbit (which I’m not), I’d love to explore this beautiful land. Of course, I might have to wait a few months as it is winter Down Under right now and I’m rather enjoying my Oklahoman summer.

View from Hooker Valley. Photo by Christian Mehlführer.

Once you settle in, a long list of nummies await you, many of which are also beloved in Australia. The food is a combination of Pacific Rim (see map) and European, particularly British. For starters, there’s an incredible love of all things barbecue, whether it’s fresh seafood, lamb, burgers (don’t forget the pickled beets), or something as simple as grilled asparagus or sweet potatoes.

There’s just one thing. They don’t call sweet potatoes “sweet potatoes.” Known instead as “kumara,” these spuds were introduced by the Māori people when they first came from Polynesia. (Incidentally, this was so very long ago, Māori are considered the original New Zealanders.)

Auckland. Photo by Christian Mehlführer.

If you’re feeling really bold, go hunting and cook up wild boar (something I’ve always wondered: is there any other kind of boar than wild?). This is exactly what Anthony Bourdain did on his New Zealand No Reservations episode; he remarked that there are government incentives to hunt this animal which can be destructive to other wildlife. Perhaps slow cooking the meat in an underground oven like the Māori would suit you? Or putting it in a meat pie?

The Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki (New Zealand) approximately one hour before high tide. The seawater bursts through one of the blowholes. Photo by Christian Mehlführer.

No meal from New Zealand is complete without a kiwi or two.

*UPDATE: not a kiwi, a kiwifruit! (read the comments for the explanation)*

This beautiful lime green fruit with white and black center can be enjoyed on it’s own, as well as atop desserts like pavlova.

If you’re not in the mood for fruit, opt instead for the hokey pokey.

And I don’t mean the dance.

Hokey pokey is a crispy sweet, something like puffed up peanut brittle without the peanuts.

It’s ultra good with vanilla ice cream.


Maps & flag courtesy of the CIA World Factbook.


  1. Arika says

    Mmmm. Kumara. It is one of the foods I miss most about NZ. They have regular sweet potatoes, but the kumara variety is not something I have not found in the US. It is smaller, purple-skinned, and yellowish-fleshed. Tastes earthier than the big orange ones, and is much easier to bake one up for dinner for a single person! I used to buy them weekly from the farmers’ market in Wellington. I also miss feijoa ice cream (which is something I could make! Our grocery store occasionally has them). And fruit tarts.

    • I hear you on the missing real kumara and feijoa. The farmers market in Wellies is still the best and I miss the variety and the buzz, not to mention buying fresh fish straight off the boat

  2. bdubz says

    Sweet potatoes in the UK are also unlike proper kumara. Oh feijoas. I miss them too! Have just planted a few, we’ll see if they fruit…

  3. SPT says

    I did a bit of a double-take when you said you were going to eat a couple of kiwis. Here in NZ, kiwis are our national bird, endangered and are not regarded as a food item 🙂 What you call kiwis, we refer to as kiwifruit.

    • Sasha Martin says

      uhoh! I just updated it. I definitely don’t want to eat endangered birds!

  4. Kate says

    I second SPT on the Kiwis – I know kiwifruit are known as kiwi elsewhere in the world but here they are a brown flightless bird that we definitely don’t eat!

      • Anna says

        Hi, yup a nickname for the people too. I am a kiwi and I have just discovered your website and I LOVE it so thankyou!!!

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