Hangi - New Zealand’s traditional specialty

(VOVworld) – Have you ever eaten food that is cooked under-ground with no pan, no fire, and no spice? New Zealand people do that with Hangi - their traditional food. Let’s find out more about this special style of cooking with Amber Harris, a New Zealand teacher living in Vietnam, in this week’s Culture Rendezvous edition.

Q: Hello Amber Harris! Welcome back on VOV24/7’s Culture Rendezvous. New Zealand is famous for its special Hangi meal. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

A: Our traditional food is called the Hangi. We prepare it for special events every year. We have a Hangi for a wedding, or somebody’s birthday, we also have it for celebrations, if we welcome new guests or new friends to visit us, and also funerals as well. We have this meal always for special occasions with our friends and family. It’s usually for many people. You have to have a Hangi with lots of people because there is always so much food.

Q: How do you make it?

A: We actually dig a hole under the ground. In New Zealand, everything is very volcanic. So often, the earth is quite warm in certain places. What we do is we dig a hole about 1 meter deep. We fill it with very hot rocks from the volcanoes, which have been heating up for so long so they’re very hot. And then we place meat and vegetables in the hole in the ground, and we wrap them in banana leaves or coconut leaves so they’re protected away from the dirt. And then we put more hot rocks on top of them, and then more meat and more vegetables, and then more hot rocks on top of them, and then we fill in the ground. We put more dirt on top, so it looks like there’s nothing underneath there. And it’s cooked for about 10 hours. It’s just cooked with the heat of the rocks and the earth. It’s very warm inside the hole, and everything is slowly cooked. So when it comes out, it’s very tender and very soft.

Hangi - New Zealand’s traditional specialty - ảnh 1
The men pull the Hangi down inside the hole and leave it for 10 hours (Photo: hangipit) 

Q: How big is the hole?

A: Yeah the hole is really big. Sometimes we put a whole cow in there, a cow, a sheep, a pig, a whole animal. It’s about 1 meter deep, but it could be 2 or 3 meters wide. Over maybe 8 or 10 hours, it’s cooked in the ground. You just leave it, you forget about it, and you go back later.

Q: What’s your favorite stuff?

A: My favorite is chicken, so I just put the whole chicken inside, but you can have a sheep, or lamp. New Zealand is very famous for lambs. Lamb, and beef, and pork, and fish as well, and it’s cooked together with the vegetables.

Q: Is there any side-dishes to go with the Hangi?

A: We have a lot of root vegetables: potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, we have all these in the hole. We just put them in. We don’t chop them up. We just put everything in. Then when it’s cooked, we bring it out and then we cut it out. We have a very special drink. It’s called Kava. It comes from the root of a pepper plant. We have our own special pepper plant in New Zealand. We pull it out from the ground, and we grind it up, we make a paste from the roots, it’s very sticky. We put it in hot boiling water, and we soak it like tea. And then we drink it. It makes you feel very sleepy very quickly, and it makes you feel very happy. You’ll feel very warm, very sleepy, and relaxed. I think it’s a very strange thing to drink because you feel something straightaway when you drink it. We drink it after we have dinner, when some people are playing songs.

Hangi - New Zealand’s traditional specialty - ảnh 2
Kava, New Zealand's traditional drink, is creamy and looks like dirt (Photo: surfsimply.com)

Q: How do you eat the Hangi? 

A: When the men dig out the dirt and open up the hole, they pull everything out, and then they start to un-wrap the banana or the coconut leaves, and the meat is inside. The women will come and take all the meat away. There’s always a huge table, there’s a lot of breads and salads, and then all the meat and vegetables together on the table. And then everybody sits around the table, but on the floor. We don’t have chairs, we just sit on the floor.

Q: Is this special meal your tradition?

A: This has been a tradition from many years since the native indigenous people, the Maori, came to New Zealand. Now, in today’s modern time, everybody can take part in a Hangi. On New Year’s Eve, everybody always has a Hangi, and Christmas’ Day as well.

Q: Thank you Amber, for talking about Hangi, the traditional food of New Zealand. And that has been our Culture Rendezvous segment broadcasting every Saturday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Tune in VOV24/7 on 104 FM for more cultural aspects around the world. Visit our program at www.vovworld.vn. Thank you for listening and goodbye until next time!