I had been asked to do a post on the foods of New Zealand a while back and I finally got inspired to do one today! I’ll preface this by saying that NZ is not known for its cuisine and the prospect of going out to eat is a bit underwhelming. Here, you won’t find your plate spilling over with food as you do in the U.S., nor do you EVER get a free starter to munch on while waiting for your main to appear. More often than not, in the starter section of the menu you can find bread on offer for around $6 to $10 USD. Wow…I know. We’re used to getting it free, aren’t we? I will say that recently I had one of the best seafood chowders in my LIFE (pictured above) that had fish, mussels and I believe clams (which are few and far between here). It came with two slices of bread and cost $13 USD.
But I’m not going to talk about restaurant food today. It’s about what you’ll find in the homes and on dinner tables of the locals. The one great thing about being here is that a lot of folks grow their own fruits and veggies. I love being able to do this. It’s not only therapeutic, but it also saves money on the sometimes very expensive produce at the store, plus you know it’s ‘clean’ and chemical free. I’ve just planted cauliflower, carrots, celery, spring onions and more lettuce. I’m pretty sure these should be cold weather veggies, as I recall still being able to pull carrots and cut off broccoli down in Middlemarch in the dead of winter.
I’ll categorize these and try to include photos where I can. I figured one of the best places to find some were in the grocery store flyers that seem to appear about 18 times a day in my mailbox. So here we go!
Ahh the good ole Vegemite! Can’t say I’ve actually tried it, nor do I have any intention to. You’ll find it in almost every home here and they spread it on toast or plain bread. Somehow, “concentrated yeast extract” just doesn’t scream out EAT ME!! But hey, they seem to love it.
I’m constantly amused by how cereals we know and love back home are named something completely different here. Rice Krispies are Rice Bubbles and Raisin Bran is Sultana Bran. You say “raisin” here and people just look at you funny. As I had eluded to in a previous post, the cereal aisles here are dismal. You can find Fruit Loops (at a premium) and Coco Puffs, Special K, Cheerios (but they taste nothing like the ones we have in the U.S.) then a bunch of other healthy type cereals I have no interest in. Which brings me to Weet Bix.
These are weird. They’re compacted, dry, crumbly bars that turn to mush immediately once milk is added. You see these in just about every household too. They now have different kinds and this has to be THE most popular cereal (as the blurb on the box suggests) I’ve ever seen here.
I’ll add in honey here since it’s also used on toast for breakfast sometimes. Back when I first arrived in NZ, I was introduced to creamed honey. I fell in love immediately. I wanted to take this bottle to my room and eat it all to myself. It’s basically honey whipped full of air and it is simply amazing. Manuka honey is also popular here which comes from the nectar of the manuka tree. It can be found in different price ranges from around $8NZ to $150NZ for a small jar. It has been used as a hospital grade product for combating nasty infections that can’t be healed by traditional medicine. There have been reports here recently of people stealing beehives that are known to produce manuka honey. It doesn’t taste that much different, but the properties of it are what make people nuts for it.
Fruits & Veggies
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Kiwi. There are a couple types here, the green and the golden. Always plentiful and delicious, packed full of vitamin C and other goodies your body craves. The golden kiwi are a bit sweeter and also more expensive. Kiwi’s grow on vines and you’ll see them set up like a grape vineyard, just a lot taller. I recently did a YouTube video discussing feijoa, kiwi berry and kiwi’s if you’re interested in watching it here.
Speaking of the feijoa, we have a tree bursting with them currently. They look like tiny avocados and have the texture of a pear. Very sweet smelling and easy to eat, they’re a nice sweet treat any time of the day.
Then you have the usual suspects…mandarin, orange, grapefruit, apple, strawberry, cherry, pear, plum, peach, lemon and sometimes lime. Our mandarins are starting to ripen now and we have a bumper crop!
On the veggie side, one of the first things that comes to mind are beetroots.They seem to be used in almost everything here. A strange little root here is called a kumara. First time I saw them was down in Middlemarch sitting in a metal bowl on the floor in a back room. They looked like little red bumpy carrots and I had no idea what they were. Can’t say I’ve ever tried them but they seem to be popular. They call zucchini “courgettes” and refer to broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower as brassicas (which technically is the scientific grouping of cruciferous veggies).
Prices vary during the year for things like tomatoes, which can reach $17 USD a kilo in the winter. This is when I become unhappy. Fruits skyrocket (might as well buy frozen) and I feel like scurvy is starting to set in.
I always get depressed when I go to the meat department. It’s still hard for me to convert NZD to USD on the fly so when I see a steak is $15, I scrunch up my nose and envision money flying out of my wallet. That translates to $10.32 USD which is still highway robbery. I’ve NEVER had a filet mignon here simply because two tiny ones…and I mean fit in the palm of your hand, cost about $17 USD. Meat is not a good subject for me which is now why I see sausages as being so popular here. I’m lucky enough to get chorizo here but don’t eat it very often.
And by the way, hot dogs are a no-go here. You can find what they call “American hot dogs” packaged like they do above, but they look even creepier than the ones back home. They do a LOT of sausage sizzles outside of hardware stores or for fundraisers which include grilled onions if you want them, wrapped in a slice of white bread with either BBQ sauce or tomato sauce (NOT ketchup) for about $1.75 USD.
PIES! Oh god…the pies. You’ll find these in every bakery, grocery store, gas station and the likes. Finding GOOD ones though is the challenge. You get to know where they are eventually, but a lot of the time it’s goopy filler and yucky crust. These are savoury pies, not fruit pies. Most of the choices go something like this: steak, steak & mushroom, steak & cheese, pepper steak, lamb, vegetable, chicken, pork. We have a little place that’s wildly popular on Saturday that sells jerk chicken pies. People come from miles to get them. They have a really nice steak and bleu cheese too. Those cost about $4USD and are a bargain considering how filling they are. I can eat one for lunch and not be hungry for 7 hours.
New Zealand is known for its lamb, but seriously, how could someone eat something that darling!?!? Not me! I don’t even want to talk about it.
I made the mistake once of buying corned beef without actually knowing what it was. I was looking for a normal beef roast and couldn’t find one but there were a TON of these silverside roasts. They weren’t exactly cheap either, so I went with it. Threw it in the crockpot and waited all day. Only to find it saltier than the dead sea. Learned my lesson. I actually did find a beef roast the other day which set me back around $11 USD and was only enough for 1.5 meals. It’s a splurge.
You’d think that being an island in the middle of nowhere, we’d have a wide selection of seafood, right? Wrong. I’m a die hard shrimp fan (or prawn, as they call it here) along with scallops and even a crab now and then. I have never seen shr…errr…prawn come out of NZ. EVER. It’s all from Australia or Asia and it’s expensive. AND they always have the head on so you’re paying for something you just throw to the cats. I’m completely over it and rarely buy it. Scallops are crazy pathetic. The “sea” scallops aren’t much larger than bay scallops and they always come with the roe attached and are also expensive.
You want fish or mussels? You came to the right place. During the summer, whitebait is really popular. These are tiny silver fish that are only used in patties and eaten whole. People go nuts for them here. I’ve seen them frozen in blocks all stuck together and they have cute little blue eyes. Sniff.
You can find mussel shells scattered all over the beaches here. Matter of fact, I have some shells at my feet. They are HUGE! No, I’m not at the beach. Don’t ask why they’re in my living room.
There are different kinds, green lipped (which are smaller) and these (no idea what they’re called). You can also find scallop shells, but not in the same numbers as these.
I buy breaded frozen fish because it’s affordable and actually very good. It’s usually Hoki which is a nice white flaky fish or Tarakihi. You can also find Gurnard and Cod…all good. Fish and chips obviously is the thing here with a lot of takeout shops wrapping it up in butcher paper. Unfortunately you are charged for very tiny packets of tartar (tartare here) sauce or tomato sauce (still no ketchup) and you’ll be lucky if they throw in a lemon wedge or two. But it’s extremely filling, rarely being able to polish off those fries (chips).
Last, but not least we come to the sweet section of New Zealand food…DESSERTS! I’m not exaggerating when I say there are at least 2 bakeries on every corner of any given town. If memory serves me correctly, I’d say there are at least 15 in my little town which includes coffee shops because they all have cases with bakery items in them.
You’ll always find “slices” which are basically some type of bar such as lemon curd, caramel, brownie and jam types. Dangerous little things. Anyone who knows me is aware that I’m a bakery freak. I dream about them, I frequent them and I drool over pictures of them. However, since coming to NZ, I’ve learned to just feed my eyes instead of my stomach. It ain’t easy, but my waistline thanks me. I rarely treat myself to anything anymore but I do pop in to take a good long look at what’s potentially available.
One of the most popular desserts here is Pavlova. It’s a meringue type cake that has different toppings on it (kiwi is usually present). It’s very light being that it’s whipped egg whites and crunchy. One slice is never enough. I think this particular pavlova was devoured in one sitting during Father’s Day down in Middlemarch when I was on the sheep farm. Very popular for Christmas also.
So that about wraps it up. Hopefully this gave you some insight as to what New Zealand food is like. Curry and Thai food is popular here as well and I’ve started making more of it at home because it’s really good. If anything, the lack of exciting food has taken me on more adventurous routes to different cuisines. Oh, you also won’t find Mexican or BBQ here which is a serious bummer for me. I’ll re-emphasize that you folks in America have it really good, so don’t forget it!!