Traditionally, Māori cooked in a pit under the ground in ovens called ‘hangi’.
In traditional hangi cooking, food such as fish and chicken, and root vegetables such as kumara (sweet potato), are cooked in a pit dug in the ground.
In today’s modern society, pork, mutton or lamb, potato, pumpkin and cabbage are also included.
Hangi food or ‘kai’ was traditionally wrapped in leaves, but a modern hangi is more likely to substitute with aluminium foil and wire baskets.
The baskets are placed on hot stones at the bottom of the hole. The food is covered with wet cloth and a mound of earth that traps the heat around the food.
The food is in the ground for about three to four hours, depending on the quantity being cooked.
The result of this long process is tender, off-the-bone meat and delicious vegetables, all infused with a smoky, earthy fragrance.
Like all forms of cuisine, Māori food is evolving and some like to give it a modern twist - including one of New Zealand's top chefs, Peter Gordon, who has produced gourmet feasts based on the traditional hangi to celebrate Matariki / Māori New Year.
The gourmet hangi tickled traditional taste buds and featured local ingredients, native herbs and Asian spices, such as marinated pork loin with kawakawa (mint-flavoured native herb) or chicken marinated with New Zealand manuka honey.
Experiencing a hangi is a great way to interact with the Māori culture, as it is not only a means of cooking food, but also a social occasion to share with friends and family.
Many New Zealand tourist activities and accommodation include a hangi meal in their Māori culture experiences.
In the thermal region of Rotorua, there is also the opportunity to experience food cooked in natural thermal steam and water.
Indigenous Māori food ingredients