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"A traditional Hangi is prepared by digging a large hole in the ground"
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"A traditional Hangi is prepared by digging a large hole in the ground"

Eva MariaThere are many rivals to the claim of being New Zealand’s national dish, but few are more deserving than a traditional Maori feast, reports Eva Maria, 21, a Commonwealth Correspondent living in the Pacific nation.

Although I was born in Russia, and we still cook Russian food at home, New Zealand cuisine has been a bit of a mystery for me for some years.

Some say that the national food of New Zealand is lamb because of the fields of sheep you are likely to see when you travel across the country (apparently the amount of sheep to the population in New Zealand is about 15 to 1).

Some say it’s fish because of our famous lakes, Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean, with all their species like trout and snapper.

But if we were to take a second to dig back into the ancient culture of the Maori nation, there is no denying that the one certain traditional food native to New Zealand is the famous Hangi.

If you ever have the pleasure of coming to New Zealand, make sure you visit one of the older Maori towns such as Rotorua. You won’t be sorry. There they have countless tours that, after taking you around the city, end with a Hangi dinner.

A traditional Hangi is prepared by digging a large hole in the ground, and lighting a fire in there. This is to heat up the walls. Make sure there is coal in there, because once the fire is lit, and the coals are hot, you need to throw in large stones, enough to cover the fire and coals.

Once the stones are hot, large trays of food, covered with foil (in the olden days, it was probably covered with strong cloth) are put on top to heat up and eventually cook the food inside once they are buried for a few hours to let them cook ‘underground’.

The trays of food during these tours, and likely in the olden days, would be filled with meat and vegetables, such as lamb, beef, chicken, carrots, corn, potatoes and the famous sweet potato we call ‘kumara’. The trays are then lifted, foil taken off, and everyone enjoys the Hangi together.

The Maori peoples’ ‘meeting place’ – the Marae – is one where the village would congregate (and in some villages still do today). Schools are taken out for Marae sleepovers these days – as this was the way people used to sleep – all together under one roof. But don’t be fooled, you cannot eat inside the main hall, it is against the culture to do this.

Some Maraes are more free with this rule these days, but as a general rule, people would eat outside, or under the Marae’s roof outside, near where the food was cooked.

Are there other ancient cultures you know who would have taken a similar approach to preparing a feast like this?

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About me:

“I am a family coach, international speaker, social media expert and author of the bestselling parenting book ‘You Shut Up!’ Though Russian-born, I currently live in New Zealand, and today work with various groups, businesses and families.

“I am on a full-on mission to help improve 10,000,000 adult-youth relationships around the world.”

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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