explore New Zealand

What to eat in New Zealand

In smaller towns food is always available at the local pub/’hotel’/’bistro’, although the quality tends to be of the burger-and-chips variety.

Fast food/convenience food is fairly easy to come by. Petrol stations often sell pies that can be heated in-store. Fast food is available everywhere, most of the larger chains are represented. There are a number of local burger chains as well; Burger Wisconsin and Burger Fuel are both worth trying.

Fish and chips are a local specialty. The fish is often extremely good quality, often supplied by local fishermen. The style is somewhat different to the English style: chips tend to be crisper, and vinegar is never used as a dressing. The menu consists of battered fish portions deep fried in oil together with chunky cut potato chips as well as a range of other meats, seafood, pineapple rings and even chocolate bar.

 Lamb is also abundant and often fresh from the farm.

New Zealand‘s cultural majority, mainly British, do not have a definitive and recognizably distinct cuisine that differs markedly from the traditional British cuisine. However there are a number of small differences

  • Roast kumara- the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) roasted in the same manner as potatoes and often served instead of or alongside. May also be deep fried like potato chips and known as kumara chips – nice served with sour cream but rarely done well as kumara cooks at a different temperature than potatoes, so it needs a skilled chef for the dish to be done perfectly.
  • Pavlova, or pav, a cake of whipped egg whites baked to have a crusty meringue-like outside but soft in the middle, topped with whipped cream and decorated with sliced fruit.
  • ANZAC biscuits- Plain hard biscuits made primarily from oatmeal bound with golden syrup. Originally made for and by ANZAC troops during the First World War. Also found in Australia.
  • Pies- New Zealanders eat large numbers of flakey-pastry meat pies, available from dairys, supermarkets, petrol stations and bakeries. By far, most popular flavours include Steak & Cheese (slow cooked beef with cheddar cheese), Mince & Cheese contain things like chicken, lamb, pork, potato, kumara, vegetables, and cheese. Some companies now market ranges of “gourmet” pies and there is an annual competition for the best pie in a variety of categories.
  • Kiwifruit- A plum-sized green fleshed fruit, with fine black seeds in the flesh, originating from China, selectively bred in New Zealand, and first known to the home gardener as the Chinese Gooseberry. Now commercially farmed, with production centred on Te Puke but in many orcharding areas. Slices often served on pavlova. Known by its full name of kiwifruit and never shortened to kiwi in New Zealand, as kiwi are endangered birds or New Zealanders.
  • Whitebait- The translucent sprat or fingerlings of native freshwater fish species that migrate from spawning in the sea each year. After being caught in coastal river mouth set or hand nets during November/December, this highly sought after delicacy is rushed to all ends of the country. Served in a fried pattie made from an egg based batter. May be seasonally available from a local fish and chip shop. Is served without gutting or deheading.
  • The hangior earth oven is the traditional way that Māori cook food for large gatherings. Meat, vegetables and sometimes puddings are slowly steam-cooked for several hours in a covered pit that has previously been lined with stones and had a hot wood fire burn down in it.
  • Kaimoana (literally: sea food) – particularly shellfish gathered from inter-tidal rocks and beaches as well as crayfish (rock lobster) and inshore fish caught on a line or with nets. Species such as paua (blackfoot abalone) and toheroa have been overfished and gathering restrictions are strictly enforced, while green mussels are commercially grown and sold live, or processed, in supermarkets. WARNING While it is extremely common to see people collecting shellfish, crustaceans and other kaimoana, there are a number of rules to be aware of, eg: minimum sizes or daily catch limits, which are usually posted on signs at the approaches to the collecting area. These rules are strictly enforced. If in doubt, check with a local. Rules may be seasonal or all-year catch limits set by the Ministry of Fisheries, or they may be that certain areas are reserved solely for tangata whenua (local Māori iwi), or a combination. At times, areas may have a prohibition for health reasons.

In addition to the above, New Zealand cuisine has taken a decidedly international turn over the past decade. Sushi is becoming increasingly popular (albeit in a somewhat different form to the Japanese original), as are many of the cuisines of the Pacific Rim.