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Taste New Zealand | Finding The New Zealand Cuisine
Try not falling in love with New Zealand. It’s Mission Impossible! I can’t even begin to articulate what I love most about the country. After four trips, including this one with Fonterra, I still can’t get enough of her great outdoors, the way dawn breaks and spills a watercolour palette over the skies. The young yet intriguing history that gives the people such a distinct Kiwi character. At the heart of every trip was undeniably the food. Every supermarket trip was an eye-opener. I’m embarrassed how much time I can while away in the aisles! The meals there provided much culinary inspiration for both my home cooking and what I would love to bring to The Soup Spoon.
Yet, this question still stumped me: What exactly is the New Zealand cuisine? Is there even one to begin with?
Talk about Korean cuisine and you’ll think of kimchi, gojuchang and its spicy jjigae. Speak of Italian food and you’ll start slurping up al dente spaghetti in your mind. Singaporean fare, as we all know, is the collective representation of our multi-racial tapestry, our immigrant history. But when it comes to New Zealand cuisine, I will confess that my mind struck a blank, void of distinct associations.
I suppose the simple answer to this is that there might not be one characteristic Kiwi cuisine! It may not be as distinct as we would like it to be, but the beauty of such a cuisine, to me, means every dish is a surprise and often, such a delight. The New Zealand Anchor Food Professionals team even scooped a silver at the 2016 Culinary Olympics, a giant leap in bringing Kiwi cuisine to the world.
Recollecting the glorious food I’ve had here, indeed each dish is marked by a seamless fusion of a medley of indigenous, colonial and global influences, capitalising on the proud freshness of the foods the country produces. And that’s a distinction not all cuisines can boast of!
My travel companions once joked that what was on our plates could probably be found in the farm not too far away, or freshly plucked from our neighbour’s backyard. How true that is! Honouring the pureness and volume of flavours in the local produce, home cooks and chefs in New Zealand have also embraced their great biodiversity to create foods that are equal parts cosmopolitan and Kiwi.
The indigenous backdrop of New Zealand also means a unique, traditional Māori hangi experience that can be offered to locals and tourists alike. The labourious ways in which food is gathered, prepared and preserved also bears testament to the unparalleled diligence and warmth of the country’s first inhabitants.
I’ve particularly enjoyed slowing down to one-too-many teatime breaks in New Zealand’s much lauded vibrant café scene. Many locals are deft bakers, springing an evolution of tea rooms that serve exceptional mince pies, rolls and lamingtons. Just look at the gems we’ve had!
This trip with Fonterra was a window into an intimate side of the country I’ve come to love so very much. Thankful, as always, for the opportunity to meet the people who have made the dairy industry what it is today. To many, the farming life is a romantic notion of green pastures and dreamy sheep, but the reality is it’s a life built on passion, perspiration and protection. Farming and dairy is the backbone behind the country’s dining and living habits, an industry that needs us, as consumers, to respect and support more.
And I’m glad that in the search for authentic New Zealand cuisine, I have found much, much more.
Read about SouperChef Anna’s unique travel stories in New Zealand on our e-magazine! Download here.