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Kiwi Kai — is it ka pai?

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Author Topic: Kiwi Kai — is it ka pai?  (Read 1256 times)
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« on: October 04, 2010, 01:49:21 am »

Kiwi kai a bit of pie in the sky

By REBECCA LEWIS - HERALD on SUNDAY | 6:30AM - Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sam Duck, 9, savours a hokey-pokey icecream. — Photo: Paul Estcourt.
Sam Duck, 9, savours a hokey-pokey icecream.
 — Photo: Paul Estcourt.

WE ACCUSE the Aussies of stealing the pavlova. But could it be (whisper this!) that it's we who are the food thieves?

As Kiwi kai steps on to the world stage with the opening of New Zealand-themed restaurants from London to Istanbul to Kuwait to Shanghai, the question is posed: What defines New Zealand cuisine?

It's not garlic and frog legs. It ain't curries. We're not known for chucking another prawn on the barbie.

Some of our favourite dishes are simply not Kiwi. The English invented fish and chips, even if New Zealand dramatically improved on them. The Belgians are known for steaming mussels.

So what, then, is Kiwi kai?

Ask a food critic or a chef, and they'll talk about the fresh ingredients, cooked with a light touch, gently stirring together the influences of hundreds of years of immigrants from around the world. Beef, lamb and seafood dominate our Asian-infused, Pacific Rim cuisine, says Herald on Sunday restaurant critic Peter Calder.

"But," he asks, "if I lived away from New Zealand for a year, what would I be hankering after when I got home? I couldn't wait to get my teeth around a mince and cheese pie, or a hokey pokey icecream."

Masterchef New Zealand judge Simon Gault, the owner of Euro restaurant, agrees it is too early to call Kiwi food a "cuisine" until we've had time to catch up to the countries that have been shaping their culture for hundreds of years.

Making something that is "New Zealand" comes down to how good the chef is. "We have some unique ingredients that are very good, and that's the one thing we have, but we are globally influenced from there on in," says Gault.

"We have good New Zealand produce so we can create something that is unique to New Zealand, like green-lipped mussels, for example. But then the French might argue that their mussels are better."

Anita Sarginson, president of the New Zealand Chef Association, believes we produce some of the best ingredients in the world, revered worldwide: scallops, Bluff oysters, fish, and of course our wines.

"We are great imitators — it is the sincerest form of flattery. In short, we have borrowed the best and put our own spin on it."

Being such a young country has allowed us to "pickpocket" the best bits from our past, she says. This includes taking indigenous food and the best of the South Pacific, influenced with the rite of passage that is the OE.

"Kiwi cuisine is as much about the way we eat as what we eat — Friday night fish and chips, the weekend barbecue with friends ... and having well-crafted food that is not too fussy or tortured."

Our foodies appear to be at odds over what constitutes the best Kiwi food, but a few classics spring to mind.

Sarginson says that controversial old favourite — the pavlova — stands out as her favourite Kiwi dish. "It evokes feelings of a time that has not gone past New Zealanders, a hint of white fluffy nostalgia, and the fact that it can also provide you with a timeless winning debate against an Aussie — it has to be a winner."

Gault suggests chefs could put West Coast whitebait on their menus if they want a distinctively Kiwi dish.

‘Tiki’ Toheroa Soup

And Rose Young, who helped curate Auckland Museum's Kai to Pie exhibition this month, says the tinned Tiki Toheroa Soup is an absolute classic.

The shellfish soup had factories dedicated to producing it in the 1950s, and the museum describes the unassuming tin can as the "haute couture" of soups. Internationally recognised, the soup was served to Winston Churchill and at the 24 Battalion Christmas dinner in Forli, Italy, during World War II.

Churchill once said: "My idea of a good dinner is, first to have good food, then discuss good food."

So, let the discussion begin: Again ... what is Kiwi kai?

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« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2010, 01:50:37 am »

Kiwis say ka pai to pie kai

HERALD on SUNDAY | 5:30AM - Sunday, October 03, 2010

Bacon & Egg Pie. — Photo: Nicola Topping.
Bacon & Egg Pie. — Photo: Nicola Topping.

NEW ZEALAND has decided, the votes are counted and the judges' verdict is in: Our national dish is not fish 'n' chips, pavlova, nor a pork and puha boil-up. It is the old-fashioned bacon-and-egg pie.

A staple of almost every Kiwi picnic, the bacon-and-egg pie has pipped whitebait fritters to take the title.

Last week, the Herald on Sunday asked readers to nominate the definitive Kiwi kai, a dish that we do like no one else. It was about finding a dish that evoked memories of home for Kiwis around the globe.

That is why, perhaps, the bacon-and-egg pie beat whitebait fritters. While those whose family and friends can catch whitebait love it, it can be difficult to find for others. Similarly, the boil-up may often be enjoyed on the marae, but less so in the cities.

When the votes were counted, roast lamb with mint sauce, the traditional meat pie, whitebait fritters, and bacon-and-egg pie topped the list.

A small judges' panel was assembled to choose the winner. MasterChef judge and Euro restaurant owner Simon Gault, Auckland Museum Kai to Pie exhibition curator Rose Young and the Herald on Sunday's Jonathan Milne applied various criteria (some more robust than others) and declared the bacon-and-egg pie the winner. It's popular, you can buy or make it just about anywhere, it's authentic and it evokes memories of summer at the beach like almost nothing else.

Lisa Smith from Northcote Point, one of the pie's nominees, says it is best served warm on an early evening picnic. "It's accompanied by a handful of fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden, and some home baking for dessert."

And Norma Mackie of Whitianga says: "I have never known a man, particularly, to say no to a piece of bacon-and-egg pie... I have always made them to take on picnics, on the boat."

If you're a vegetarian, or don't eat pork, you can always take the classic New Zealand asparagus roll on your picnic.

New Zealand's changing face is also reflected in nominations for lasagne and Indian butter chicken. And an honourable mention must go to the egg burger with beetroot.

Of course, there can be no argument about New Zealand's national dessert. The pavlova still reigns supreme.



Last week we asked readers to write in with their own Kiwi kai recipe, to be in with a chance to win a very special meal for two at one of the country's finest restaurants, Euro at Auckland's Viaduct.

And we have a winner: Marian Harkness from Orakei, Auckland.

Simon Gault, Euro's owner and chef, chose her recipe for whitebait fritters. Courtesy of Simon, Marian and a friend will enjoy a purpose-designed menu with wines matched to each course. He also commended Janice Schonewill's recipe for mussel fritters and Norma Mackie's recipe for bacon and egg pie.

Whitebait fritters

Serves 4.


  • 400g whitebait
  • 4 eggs
  • l Tbsp NZ butter
  • large pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and ground black pepper


  • Whisk eggs well. Add nutmeg and salt & pepper.

  • Fold in whitebait.

  • Heat frying pan. Add butter. When hot, drop in large tablespoons of mixture, enough for individual fritters.

  • Fry 2 minutes per side or until it colours.

  • Serve with lemon or mayonnaise.

NB: Note there is no flour in this recipe and the flavour comes through well.



Memories of soup

It provoked a real memory lane trip seeing your photo of the canned toheroa soup. I was living in Papua New Guinea, in 1971, a newlywed aged 19. The local supermarket had tins of toheroa soup but no one was buying it as most generally didn't know what it was. I made an offer to the manager for the lot and got it for 15 cents a tin. We padded out this delicacy with fresh locally caught seafood and many a fellow Kiwi dined well at our table. It somehow made home nearer too, having this comfort food available. In the 50s and 60s we would all be loaded into our uncle's big old Hudson Hornet car and drive over to the Dargaville beaches to dig for toheroa.

 — Julia Davey, Whangarei.

Can't beat a roast

Kiwi cuisine is the roast, normally lamb, with roast potatoes, pumpkin and sweet potato. This meal makes even the house cat shake its tail, and the kids to shut their mouths (or open them). It is traditionally served with a mint sauce.

 — Ash Naidoo, Epsom.

Flex a mussel

I think it would have to be the mussel fritter at the local fundraiser. Of course this has to be fried on the barbecue 'til crispy on the outside. Traditionally it is put on a slice of bread for easy eating at the school gala or rugby game and is even better with a bit of fresh watercress and/or a squeeze of lemon. Yum with beer for the boys or a cool sav blanc. For different twists, fresh coriander is delicious in the mix and serve with lime juice and chilli sauce! Divine!

 — Janice Anne Schonewille, Whitianga.

Eat it

The humble pie.

 — Thomas Mathew, St Johns, Auckland.

Beet it

Kia ora, my idea of one single perfect dish that best epitomises what it means to be a Kiwi in 2010 is a simple egg and beetroot cheeseburger (with sliced tomato, lettuce and grated carrot) served with beer battered wedges and a plain creaming soda milkshake (made with an actual egg in it) to drink.

 — Johnny Ray McAuley, Mount Albert.

Thanks for the fish

My favourite Kiwi-ism in food is the humble chocolate fish: The soft, pink, marshmallowy inside combined with the wrinkled chocolate outside, is scrumptious. We end up having to post them abroad to people who visit us and we always have a bowlful at home.

 — Xanthe-Jane Noble, Cockle Bay, Auckland.

Lamb and cricket

Every time I say we are having roast lamb the kids and their friends all turn up... and finally a game of cricket on the lawn or a cold beer for the less adventurous.

 — Josie Slack, One Tree Hill.

Sausages sizzle

The sausage sizzle is definitely one popular method of fundraising here. Although it is something that can be eaten anywhere in the world, when living in Italy their sausages did not compare to New Zealand-made. It was definitely a meal that made me feel right back at home when I returned.

 — Hayley Moore, Titirangi.

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