New Zealand cuisine: An introduction

New Zealand’s variety of climates allows the cultivation and harvest of an abundance of fresh produce.

Some of New Zealand's better-known crops are kiwifruit, apples, stone and berry fruits, kumara (sweet potato) and asparagus. However, producers have responded to the demands of local chefs and are now producing olives, walnuts, saffron, avocado oil, and baby and heritage vegetables.

New Zealand food is exported all over the world, especially to the Northern Hemisphere, where opposing seasons enable us to provide out-of-season produce.

Fresh seafood

Being surrounded by ocean means New Zealand’s seafood is sparkling fresh and plentiful. Favourite delicacies include Bluff oysters, green-lipped mussels, crayfish (lobster), paua (abalone), whitebait and snapper.

Kaimoana (seafood) is as important to Māori as the land. The sea is not only a major source of food, it has customary value as well. Kaimoana is an important way to express generosity at tribal gatherings and rates highly as a status symbol in Māori culture.

New Zealand’s meat and dairy products are sought after for their quality and dairy is the country's biggest export. Beef, lamb, cervena (venison) and salmon are commercially farmed. Organic food has become a significant industry, with many supermarkets selling organic meats and vegetables.

Love of flavours

New Zealanders are known for their love of travel, and when chefs return home they bring the ideas and skills they have developed overseas. This has produced a vibrant restaurant scene offering funky cafés, tea rooms, espresso bars with own-roasted coffee and fine dining establishments.

According to New Zealand chef Peter Gordon, who owns The Providores and Tapa Room and Kopapa in London and is executive chef of The Sugar Club and Bellota in Auckland, New Zealand offers great food in smart surroundings, with service that is professional and friendly.

He believes you can enjoy one of the most memorable meals of your life in a New Zealand restaurant. "A native paua cooked just so, drizzled with some lemon-scented extra virgin olive oil and topped with a little mashed kumara will make you feel good, both physically and emotionally," says Peter.

Traditional hangi

According to Māori legend, an abundant supply of food is considered a gift from the gods.

Māori traditionally cooked food in a hangi (ground oven). The cooking of a hangi involves a lot of time, planning and skill. Rocks are heated in a fire and placed in an earth pit. The food is placed on top in steel baskets and covered with foil. The pit is then covered over with wet sugar or potato sacks and then with earth to keep in the heat and cook the food slowly.

The Māori palate has evolved over the years, although the way they use food essentially has not changed. Traditional Māori flavours, including horopito and kawakawa plants, are being increasingly incorporated into dishes served at upmarket restaurants. One such example is a mix of kawakawa, horopito, chilli and lime to flavour mussels.

Māori chef Charles Royal is reviving the tradition of cooking with indigenous herbs, spices and flavours. Visitors to New Zealand can experience a day out with Charles, learning about sustainably harvesting indigenous foods from the forest or ocean and then enjoying a specially prepared meal.

More information:

New Zealand overview

New Zealand's South Island

New Zealand's North Island

New Zealand creativity

New Zealand events

New Zealand indulgence

New Zealand nature

New Zealand outdoors

New Zealand people

New Zealand sport

New Zealand wine

Visiting New Zealand - Information