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Kia ora! Last week I introduced you to some traditional New Zealand cuisine, from both the indigenous Maori and those of European descent. Both were for meats, so this week I will look and explain some vegetable dishes, all of these dishes will culminate in a few weeks time in how to prepare a ‘hangi’; the Maori version of the Hawaiian laua feast, where large amounts of foods are cooked in a large pit in the ground. All of these dishes leading up to it can be made and used to add to the hangi food, for a feast of epic proportions!

Most vegetables were introduced to New Zealand by the European ‘settlers’, so many of the Maori vegetable dishes are fairly new in historical terms. The main ones adopted and used most though are the potato, cabbage, carrot and pumpkin. But there are a few native ones that were used such as:

  • puha or rauriki (a sowthistle): which has all cooking properties of spinach
  • five finger tree (cordyline australis): the young outer leaves were used
  • aruhe: a fern root which requires labour intensive work to be edible
  • mamaku tree fern: from which the pith was used
  • ti-tree or cabbage tree: from which the pith was also used

and some native flora were surprisingly not used until after the early ‘settlers’ arrived like the native, wild New Zealand spinach.

I have tried this first dish many times and I am afraid to report I have not been able to get past the smell and appreciate this dish. Join me next week for a selection of seafood dishes and recipes, until then . . . bon appetit!


This literally translates as ‘corn water’, but means a water cured corn dish. Maori food has its roots in their tradition, culture and also out of necessity; making use of foods readily available, in season or finding ways of preserving them for future use.‘Kaanga wai’ certainly comes under the latter, it is also known as ‘rotten corn’. It has a very strong and unpleasant smell to it, which if you can get passed (and most non Maori can’t), it is not a totally unpleasant flavour.

Originally the shelled white corn was placed in flour sacks and tied to stakes in running streams, but these days it is more often than not just placed into a drum of water and the water changed daily, for two months. By then the corn is really soft and mushy (not to mention smelling very ripe!) This is then cleaned, mashed or minced.

Two parts corn to 6 parts water is then simmered on the stove until a porridge / grits / oatmeal type dish is produced (best done outdoors or with the windows open very wide!) This is then served with cream and sugar added to taste. A baked custard is also made with it by adding cream, eggs and sugar to the Kaanga wai and baking in the oven. If you are ever game to try it . . . bon appetit!


A more palatable dish is Roroi, which can be eaten as a vegetable dish or as a dessert, much the same way as pumpkin pie with whipped cream is. It uses kumara, which is a New Zealand sweet potato, but any variety of sweet potato can be substituted





brown sugar







  1. Peel and wash the kumara
  2. Grate 4 of them and thinly slice the remaining two
  3. Butter a shallow baking dish, cover the bottom of the dish neatly with some of the kumara slices and sprinkle with a little water
  4. Cover with some of the grated kumara, sprinkle with sugar and flecks of butter to taste
  5. Complete another layer of each and finish with a layer of sliced kumara, lightly sprinkled with sugar and butter
  6. Cover with tinfoil and bake at 180ºC for 45 – 60 minutes

Chef's Tip

Personally I like to add some freshly grated nutmeg or some mixed spice to each layer.

Enjoy and bon appetit . . . . .

Chef's terminology:

litres   tsp = teaspoon
millelitres   tbs = tablespoon
kilograms   sq = sufficient quantity (add to taste)
grams   pc = piece, meaning a whole one of

Recipe from professional
Chef Tallyrand