Popular Food In New Zealand
Author Inspiring Journeys
Date 7 June 2022
Countries New Zealand
Exploring New Zealand Food
LET us ask you a couple of questions.
Do you read a menu long before arriving at a restaurant? Does a food truck update on Facebook make your heart race? Do you set a holiday itinerary according to restaurant reviews? Is your Instagram feed full of foodie influencers?
If you have answered yes to any of these, then congrats, you’re a fully-fledged food tourist and part of a group that proudly let tastebuds dictate travel plans.
And you’re certainly not alone, with facts recently released by the World Food Travel Association noting 80 per cent of holidaymakers research food options before embarking to a new destination.
But the grand food tour isn’t new. Travellers have been embarking on trips for decades, guided by nothing more than a well-researched list of places to eat and feast on fabulous flavours while discovering far-away lands.
A ramen crawl across Tokyo’s neon-lit suburbs, savouring soup dumplings in Shanghai and spring rolls in Saigon, putting paella in the spotlight during a Spanish sojourn, crossing New York’s five boroughs one pizza place at a time, embarking on an indulgent pasta-and-gelato itinerary around Italy.
New Zealand is another perfect place to indulge in a gourmet getaway, with a long list of unique food to excite your tastebuds – from home-grown lamb to hokey pokey ice cream – making it a must-do destination for those that favour sweet and savoury delights.
If you’re tempted by tantalising treats that will make the tastebuds tingle, then read on for a list of the best food to eat in New Zealand.
1. SEAFOOD THAT’S SURE TO BE SENSATIONAL
With 15,000km of coastline – and the deep blue of the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea lapping at the land – there’s nothing more certain than the fact Kiwi menus will be packed with fresh seafood that includes everything from salmon sashimi to scallops and sea urchin.
Try green-lipped muscles from the Marlborough Sounds, The Coromandel, Golden Bay and Stewart Island. Pop into any fish and chip shop between Surville Cliffs and Stewart Island to sample the popular New Zealand delicacy that is paua, with the dark abalone meat a key ingredient in a creamy chowder, or try the classic whitebait fritters.
Snapper – or tamure as it’s called in Māori – is arguably the country’s favourite fish. Blue cod is abundant during winter, making it another favourite for fritters and chowder, and Bluff oysters are world-famous thanks to their intense flavour – these are best sampled between April and December.
2. GOING CRAZY FOR CRAYFISH
A must-do stop on any gastronomical getaway is the scenic seaside settlement of Kaikoura, with this village on the South Island’s wild north-east coast “a mecca for seafood lovers” and the place to sample the famous Kiwi cray.
While there are lots of options when it comes time to dine – Cods & Crayfish, The Whaler Bar & Restaurant, The Pier Hotel, Bernie’s Diner – the star of the Kaikoura crayfish show is Nin’s Bin which is an old blue-and-white caravan parked between the asphalt and sand 20km from town.
The family-owned business that’s been trading since 1977 is known for offering the freshest locally-caught seafood including crayfish and muscles, with most customers picking up a snack and finding a quiet spot close by for a waterside picnic.
3. FOOD TRUCKS A NEW TEMPTATION
Everything changed in Christchurch when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the South Island settlement at 12.51pm on February 22, 2011, and that included the innovative food scene in the country’s second-largest city.
New digs were sought when so many buildings were damaged, with many chefs shifting to food vans and putting the first foundations of a street-food scene that now showcases the best local ingredients and flavours.
There’s everything from woodfire pizza and Belgian waffles to fried chicken and fruit smoothies, with the next chapter in the food-truck story coming in early 2022 when a collection of vans began assembling in the car park of the Port Hill’s community centre every Sunday afternoon.
4. KIWI FRUIT IN KIWI COUNTRY
While the humble fruit can trace its ancetry back to China’s Yangtze Valley – when it was called the Chinese gooseberry and sunny peach – there’s no doubt the fruit is now as New Zealand as the All Blacks.
The country provides the perfect climatic conditions for growing the fruit – tepid summers and cold winters – with 240 days of sunshine warming orchards right around the North and South islands guaranteeing a season from April to November.
5. HARNESSING HISTORY TO COOK IN THE EARTH
A visit to New Zealand isn’t complete without joining a Hāngī, and the traditional Māori style of cooking underground in an earth oven is not only a peaceful way to sample locally-grown ingredients but a chance to slow down with the land’s first custodians.
Traditionally it was fish and sweet potato that formed the foundation of a Hāngī, but today pork and pumpkin are likely to feature, with the tasty morsels wrapped in mutton cloth or aluminium foil and placed in wire baskets above hot coals before being buried beneath soil or sand.
The Hāngī is left buried for hours, sometimes three or four, depending on the amount of food, resulting in a feast of tender meat and tasty vegetables infused with smoky and earthy flavours.
6. THE GREAT PAVLOVA DEBATE
There are a few ways to get Australians and New Zealanders debating. Raise the issue of the underarm bowling incident of the 1981 World Series Cup, talk about Russell Crowe’s heritage, or inquire about the origins of the humble pavlova.
Both countries claim they were the first to create a delicious dessert dedicated to the famed ballerina Anna Pavlova and it wouldn’t be right to visit the land on the eastern side of the ditch without sampling New Zealand’s take on the tempting sweet treat.
While the base remains the same on both sides of the Tasman – a meringue that’s crusty on the edge but sticky inside, topped by a thick layer of cream – the topping varies, with the Kiwis favouring a vibrant fruit salad or simple spread of gloriously green and gold kiwi fruit to offset the sweetness.
7. NEW ZEALAND WINE IS A WINNER
Any list of the most popular flavours in New Zealand isn’t complete without adding an extraordinary drink.
New Zealand has come a long way since the first vines were planted by Anglican missionary Samuel Marsden in 1819. The Kiwi wine industry is now celebrated as one of the world’s best, producing both heritage and new-world varieties that rival those coming from the Northern Hemisphere’s traditional grape-growing regions.
There are 700 wineries and vineyards dotted around 13 unique wine regions – from Northland crowning the North Island to Central Otago deep in the heart of the South Island – with the Sauvignon Blanc grown a stone’s throw from the Cook Strait in maritime Marlborough easily the most prominent.
8. COFFEE IS KING IN KIWI LAND
Coffee is serious business in the Land of the Long White Cloud, with the cute capital city Wellington home to more cafes per capita than New York City.
Wellington is the country’s coffee capital – with CNN putting it on the list of the world’s top eight espresso destinations in 2014 – with Cuba Street the place to go for a barista-made boost. Businesses like Flight Coffee and People’s Coffee are investing in plantation projects, as part of a quest to perfect a flawless bean, and eclectic Caffe L’affare boasts a colourful 30-year history in the Te Aro neighbourhood.
TASTE THE BEST FOOD IN NEW ZEALAND
Inspiring Journeys is not only famous for sustainable travel, expert journey directors, thoughtful itineraries and premium accommodation but authentic food experiences with genuine paddock-to-plate encounters also enhancing the company’s story in New Zealand.
The Inspiring Journeys’ Kiwi collection comprises a selection of trips ranging from between eight and 19 days to explore the iconic attractions and hidden gems set between the Bay of Islands and Dunedin – a favourite for those looking to indulge in eating and drinking is The Southern Drift.
This 12-day tour is a round-trip journey from Christchurch that starts with a ride aboard the TranzAlpine Train before taking in the Franz Josef Glacier, Queenstown, Milford Sound and Fordland National Park with time to sample Central Otago wine in Arrowtown and craft beer in Dunedin.
Travellers keen to experience the delights of the North Island before exploring the lower latitudes of the South Island could embark upon Inspiring New Zealand. This 10-day adventure from Auckland to Queenstown stops at Rotorua, where there’s a Hāngī in the itinerary, and a two-night stay in Wellington includes a walking tour of the local laneways to meet brewers and baristas.
For an all-encompassing traverse from South to North, The Long White Cloud travels from Christchurch to Auckland over 19 days, including the chance to walk a section of the famous Milford Track and enjoy a luxurious vintage car tour through Art Deco Napier and surrounding areas.