The food in New Zealand is top quality, delicious and fresh. There’s no shortage of lamb to fill your Sunday roast platter, and with 14,000km of coastline there are plenty of fishy friends about too. A nationwide sweet tooth has led the delicious Hokey pokey - creamy vanilla ice cream strewn with pieces of honeycomb - to be the nation’s favourite, as well as pavlova, but more on that later.
With all that water it’s hardly surprising that fish and chips are a local speciality in New Zealand. Freshly-caught snapper, terakihi and hoki are the most common types of fish used, which are then battered and deep-fried.
Sushi is also really popular, although with a New Zealand twist to the Japanese classic. Whitebait is another top fishy dish. After being caught in the coastal river mouth set or hand nets during November and December, the highly sought-after delicacy is rushed to all ends of the country. In New Zealand the whitebait is usually served in a fried pattie made from an egg based batter.
Roast kumara is also really popular among the kiwis. Make sure to try kumara chips – sweet potato roasted line potato chips, but better, and delicious with sour cream.
Pavlova is another popular food in New Zealand and if you really want to annoy a kiwi, tell them it was invented in Australia – there’s a (friendly) rivalry between the two countries as to who got there first. Pavlova is absolutely delicious and made from 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 were first made for and by the ANZAC troops during the First World War. They’re plain hard biscuits made primarily from oatmeal bound with golden syrup.
Pies are another popular dish in New Zealand, and can contain anything from beef, lamb, pork, potato, kumara, vegetables, to cheese.
The Māoris are the indigenous people of New Zealand and have their own distinctive cuisine that you definitely need to sample on your gap year. The hangi or 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 (sea food) is also popular among the Maori people, in particular shellfish gathered from rocks and beaches as well as crayfish and inshore fish caught on a line or with nets. The famous Marlborough green-lipped mussels are also really popular, but don’t be tempted to go out and gather your own, there are loads of restrictions to protect the sea life, and you.
Eating out isn’t quite as popular in New Zealand as in Australia, it’s generally reserved for special occasions as the prices add up. Local pubs, hotels and bistros serve the usual British-influenced suspects like burger and chips, roast lamb, or salmon. Fast food is easy to come by and all the worldwide large chains have a presence on the islands.
One of the best things you can do as a backpacker to save money is to make delicious food in your hostel. You can gather up your ingredients from the local farmers’ markets or supermarkets and whizz up a storm in the hostel for a quarter of the price.