The Maori word for food is Kai, and traditionally, Maori people in New Zealand lived a simple life where the food on their table was either from hunting, gathering or going to the stream to fish. Even though the world has evolved and modern food has taken over, Maori cuisine still stands out among people who want to live a long and healthy life.
Maori Cuisine in the Past
- Finding Food:
The Maori people came to New Zealand bearing many crop plants such as taro and sweet potatoes. When they arrived, they incorporated some of New Zealand’s indigenous foods such as fern root and huhu grub. They also ate worms known as Noke. They also hunted for birds and fish.
- Cooking Food:
-They cooked their foods on hangis, a type of earth oven made by placing stones on fire and wrapping raw food on leaves then put on top of the hot stone. An additional wet sack or cloth is gently placed to cover the food, and the whole thing is wrapped with wet clay to trap in the heat.
– Other ways of cooking included roasting over flaming heat or using natural hot springs to boil food.
-To preserve food, the Maori people would air dry them, especially vegetables and grains. Other methods used were smoking or covering the food in layers of far.
-They are among the few cultures all over the world that did not have alcohol featuring heavily in their cuisine.
Indigenous Maori herbs
- Harakeke: This is considered to be among the oldest spices in the Maori cuisine. The seeds and oils of this fragrant herb are used in flavouring soups and other dishes.
- Horopito: It is one of the herbs that rarely misses in Maori foods. This peppery herb can be used in beverages such as teas. It also makes as an addition to spice up soups, sauces and dressings.
- Karengo: This is a type of edible seaweed that is found in the Southern Island Maori. Even though it is a traditional herb whose history dates back to the second world war, it is very nutritious, and it is sold in a number of health shops in New Zealand.
European Influence on Maori Cuisine
The arrival of Europeans in New Zealand in the 18th century introduced new foods in the Maori diet. Pork and Irish potatoes were among the items that were immediately adopted by Maoris. Other foods such as mutton, fruits, sugar and wheat were also introduced.
When American sailors came to New Zealand, they brought with them new species and varieties of sweet potatoes that were more resistant, and they wiped the original variety that the Maori people had brought with them.
The Europeans are also the ones who introduced alcohol to the Maoris who for a long time referred to alcoholic drinks as wai pro (Meaning stinking waters).
Maori Cuisine in Present-Day Society
The Maori cuisine that is served in restaurants around New Zealand and other select eateries in contemporary society is a mix of the Maori traditional meals, old fashioned English meals and present-day recipes.
Some of the Maori dishes that you are likely to find now are pork, potatoes and dumplings. They also have puha (sow thistle) and pork.
Modern society, with foods such as fries and burgers, has penetrated the Maori cuisine, but there are still people who believe in following it strictly.