Unique taste of New Zealand

Travelling around New Zealand reveals that the locals have some intriguing favourite nibbles. Chocolate fish anyone?

Spectacular scenery is just the beginning of the New Zealand experience - aside from the landscape, some of New Zealand's best kept secrets are of the culinary kind.

For an authentic taste of New Zealand, the intrepid explorer should also be prepared to engage the tastebuds and discover the unique flavours and quirky treats - from chocolate fish to golden kumara - that Kiwis love to come home to.

Kiwi fruit

When it comes to New Zealand treats, it must be noted that the term kiwi does not just refer to the flightless native bird. It also serves as the nick-name for a New Zealander, and a furry fruit that has become known as the kiwifruit.

First commercialised in New Zealand, the kiwifruit originally came from China. New Zealanders used to refer to kiwifruit as the Chinese gooseberry but when growers began exporting the fruit it was renamed to better reflect its Kiwi origin.

The original kiwifruit, which is valued for its high Vitamin C content, has a brown furry exterior that protects the flesh of a deep green fruit. Modern kiwifruit also come in golden and miniature varieties.

Kiwi sweet tooth

For Kiwis with a sweet tooth, the indigenous chocolate fish has been a long-term favourite. The chocolate-coated marshmallow fish comes individually wrapped in the full size version or as a bag of smaller minnows.

The Pineapple Lump is another favourite New Zealand treat. A square pineapple candy coated in chocolate, the Pineapple Lump has been on sale since 1935. 

The humble Jaffa, a hard coated orange flavoured candy with a soft chocolate centre, is a must for every kiwi lolly jar. Each year thousands of Jaffas are raced down Dunedin's Baldwin St, the steepest street in the world, as part of the Cadbury Chocolate Carnival.

Any care package sent from home to a travelling New Zealander will almost always feature a packet of Jet Planes. Soft, fruity, chewy and delicious these airborne sweets come in a variety of colours and tantalise the tastebuds of candy lovers all over New Zealand.

Liquid gold

The curiously named L&P is a New Zealand-made soft drink that was originally made from lemon juice and carbonated mineral water.

The mineral water came from the small North Island town of Paeroa, in the northern Waikato region - hence the name L&P which stands for Lemon and Paeroa. A giant L&P bottle stands in the middle of Paeroa, marking its birthplace and providing some good photo opportunities.

L&P is an excellent addition to the ultimate Kiwi supper - fish ‘n’ chips smothered in Watties tomato sauce.

Indigenous delights

New Zealand's indigenous Maori people were the source of some interesting foods that figure in Kiwi cuisine.

The kumara is a root vegetable that's also known as sweet potato. A staple in the diet of early Maori, it has survived the centuries to become a popular ingredient in contemporary Kiwi cuisine, and a "must" for any Sunday roast dinner.

Huhu grub is another Maori delicacy. Found in rotting wood in the forest, the huhu grub provided valuable protein in the Maori diet. Huhu connoisseurs describe the taste as like peanut butter, and it still turns up as a curiousity at local wildfood festivals.

Kiwi pavlova

No quintessential Kiwi dinner or barbecue would be complete without a pavlova. This meringue dessert is crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and is usually served with a mountain of whipped cream and strawberries or slices of kiwifruit.

Not just a delight, the pavlova is also the source of a trans-tasman controversy that's raged for years over whether it was invented in New Zealand or Australia.

However - as the saying goes - "the proof of the pudding is in the eating", and a pavlova recipe found in a 1929 New Zealand magazine, appears to have settled the argument. It is believed the dessert is the brainchild of a Wellington hotel chef who named his creation after the Russian ballet star Anna Pavlova who visited New Zealand in 1926.

Hokey pokey

Generations of Kiwis have been caught under the hokey pokey ice-cream spell.

This caramelised sugar - known as ‘honeycomb’ or ‘humbug’ elsewhere - is often eaten on its own, but the New Zealand version is mixed with vanilla ice-cream and known as hokey pokey.

First sold in 1940, hokey pokey became a national favourite when the Tip Top Ice Cream company began heavily marketing it in the 1950s. New Zealanders devour five million litres of hokey pokey ice-cream each year.