Written by Insia, with many thanks to Rob who had to put up with waiting to eat until after I took a photo (or twelve).
Having just spent six months living in New Zealand, we feel pretty qualified to write about the food you can expect to eat while in the country. Generally, the Kiwi diet isn’t far from that of the American; you can easily find burgers, Chinese, and fast food. There are also some clear British influences like fish and chips and Irish bars. Before arriving we hadn’t heard much about New Zealand cuisine, but there are definitely a few gems like fresh local mussels, Marmite (if you’re into eating salt spread), and barista-crafted espresso drinks.
Here we list a few categories of food we consumed in NZ, with lots of photos to help you visualize.
Brunch. New Zealanders certainly know the value of a good brunch. Cafes are plentiful in every area we traveled to, and there was never a shortage of hot brunch items to order. These included the trusty big breakfast, fluffy pancakes and waffles, and even fancy scotch eggs (as seen above).
Barista-made coffee. Speaking of cafes, New Zealanders are fanatic about their coffee, and by coffee, we mean delicately-prepared versions of espresso. Even at Dunkin’ Donuts (in the Auckland area) and Starbucks (all over the country), the main menu items are the long black, americano, flat white, etc. Dunkin’ doesn’t even offer iced coffee! Iced coffees are usually frozen blended versions of the hot drinks. In any case, the flavors are more intense and getting a coffee feels more like a ritual than a rushed process. In fact, parts of the day are usually carved out, around 11am and 3pm, specifically for leisurely coffee and tea breaks.
Seafood. Being a nation of two main islands, seafood is plentiful in New Zealand, which is lucky for us as big seafood fans. Fish and chip shops are everywhere, and is usually the cheapest meal you can find. These shops will also fry almost anything – oysters, crab sticks, bananas, etc. Local mussels are grown in the Coromandel and Marlborough areas, and can be found in grocery stores for an affordable NZ$3-4/kg. Whitebait fish, a immature type of fish, are a specialty of the West Coast, cooked into delicious fritters and patties. The seafood chowders we’ve had are creamy and full of fish and seafood. Crayfish (not pictured above) are grown and harvested in the Kaikoura area.
New Zealand specialties. We enjoyed quite a few foods that were new-to-us, including:
- New Zealand wines: well-known around the world, especially pinot noir and sauvignon blanc.
- Peri peri chicken and chips: a spicy Portuguese chicken with a flavor that’s carried over into potato chips and other snacks.
- L&P: a soft drink that originated in Paeroa, where local mineral water was mixed with lemon flavor
- Marmite: a love-it-or-hate-it salty spread that tastes like you’re eating soy sauce. We’re not big fans.
- Sausage rolls and meat pies: meat served in flaky pastry; an easy afternoon snack or mid-day meal.
- Lamington: sponge-cake covered in either chocolate or raspberry and coated in coconut. Apparently it’s a point of contention between New Zealanders and Australians as to who invented the dessert.
- Banoffee pie: banana, toffee, and cream; it’s hard to go wrong with that combination.
- Sunday roast (not pictured): a tradition carried over from the English, Sunday roast is a hearty meal with a cut of roast and vegetable sides and mint sauce
Asian cuisine. We love Asian food just as much as seafood, and luckily the large Asian immigrant population means lots of authentic restaurants to get our fill. In Auckland, there are Chinese, Korean, Thai, and Japanese eateries, just to name a few. In other places, sushi and Chinese takeaway places are most common.
Other regional foods. To satisfy the American taste buds, burgers can be found almost anywhere, and they are always made with local New Zealand beef. In this part of the world, there is an obsession with beetroot (i.e. beets), so they are frequently added into burgers. Unfortunately beets are pretty slippery, and they decrease the overall structural integrity of the burger. There are also pizzas, tacos, crepes, and Italian dishes if you’re searching for them. Otherwise, there are always McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino’s, Subway, and Pizza Hut.
Fun fact: if you order a “hot dog” here, you’ll be handed a corndog. Specify “American hot dog” for the sausage-like product in a bun.
Kumara chips. We’re dedicating a whole section to kumara because they’ve become one of our favorite foods. Kumara is New Zealand’s version of the sweet potato, with a slightly less sweet but more interesting flavor. You can get kumara fries at restaurants as an alternative to potato fries, or purchase the frozen version at the grocery store for an easy dinner side.
Ice cream. With so many dairy cows in the country, New Zealand is bound to have great ice cream. A brand of ice cream called Tip Top is ubiquitous across the country at small shops appropriately called “dairies.” Hokey pokey ice cream is a New Zealand specialty; vanilla ice cream incorporating small bits of hokey pokey, a crunchy and sugary honeycomb toffee.
Well, as you can see, we certainly haven’t gone hungry the past few months.