New Zealand food

I have a question for GuanoLad and any other Kiwis out there. I’ve had exposure to stuff like Vegemite and Marmite (not to my taste, personally, but hey) and of course, kiwifruit is quite common here in the States now, but I was wondering about some of the other native New Zealand food that we simply don’t encounter here in North America.

Take, for example, “Poor Man’s oranges”; do they taste any different from, say, Florida oranges? What are “rock melons”, and what do they compare to, insofar as taste goes? (All I can imagine would be cantaloupe…maybe I’m totally wrong.) Or “tree tomatoes” and “black boys”? Are these some sort of peach, or what???
I’ve heard rumors of a thing called the Maori potato that is bright purple when cooked----is there really such a thing?

I guess what I need is input from somebody who’s familiar with both N.Z. and American fruits and vegetables, who can make comparisons for me. I’m just really curious about this.

I’m not a great one to ask about food, because I don’t eat. But I’ll say this:

The ‘Maori potato’ is called a Kumara, and it’s a native sweet potato. It is just as you’d imagine: a root vegetable, kind of misshapen, does all the potato things, the skin is purple like a turnip, and the flesh is yellowish to off-white. Tastes sweet and tangy.

What the heck are ‘Poor Man’s Oranges’??? And ‘Black Boys’??? Yipe.

Tree Tomatoes I’ve heard of, but my mind has gone blank.

Rock Melons? Don’t you have those in America? I think they’re Australian actually…

Sorry I wasn’t much help, but I’m limited in knowledge in this department.

Oh wait! Tree Tomatoes are also known as Tamarilloes.

Not that that helps you any, I bet. :wink:

Tree tomatoes = tomatillos, a staple in Mexican cuisine (think of green salsa). Look and taste similar to small, unripe tomatoes - but unrelated. Can find them in the specialty section of any West Coast supermarket.

Kumaras are found in different forms around the Pacific, and similar varieties are known as camote (Philippines, usually yellow orange; or ube, purple) and Okinawan sweet potato, for example. Look in an Asian shop, you might find them; try 'em yourself, don’t take our word.

My experience with New Zealand cuisine was that it was very like what I had eaten all my life in the U.S. The biggest difference was the absence of fast food (this was 20+ years ago). The ubiquitous (in America) hamburger stand was a fish and chips shop instead. In my opinion a vast improvement.

The only uniquely NZ veggies I recall were silverbeet (the beet top was eaten, looked and tasted a lot like spinach) and the kumara, discussed above. Incidentally, the kumara isn’t indigenous to NZ, the Polynesians brought it with them.

The highlight (for me) of NZ cuisine was trifle, a cake and fruit dish, but it’s not unique to New Zealand. Best overall meal was undoubtedly a hangi, the Maori equivalent of a luau.

There were a few notable omissions for my American palate – Mexican food was generally unavailable, as was maple syrup and real ketchup. Root beer was another unavailable item.

Instead there was more Indian food (curry was not uncommon although I think it’s an Aussie import to NZ), treacle, to-MAH-to sauce, and ginger beer.

Finally, I spent some time among the Samoan community in Wellington, NZ. They have their own cuisine – boiled green bananas, taro root, etc. They made this raw fish dish (marinated in lemon juice and coconut milk, I think) that was to die for.

That was more exotic but the things I really miss are the fish and chips and trifle. My wife makes a trifle now and then, bless her heart, but it’s not the same. For real fish and chips I have to go to British Columbia. Best spot I’ve found is White Rock, a tiny coastal resort town just over the border. But once again, it’s not the same.

Thanks for making me homesick for NZ! Please send large amounts of cash or frequent flyer miles to the Pluto Return to New Zealand Fund, ASAP!

“non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem”
– William of Ockham

Tamarillos are not tomatillos. Whence I was in Texas we could get both at the grocery store. Tomatillos are a type of pepper. They are pretty spicy (not as much as habaneros or green chile (New Mexico Mexican food, YUM). A tamarillo is fairly sweet and doesn’t taste like anything else out there. See the following links: http://www.wegmans.com/kitchen/ingredients/produce/fruit/tamarillo.html and http://www.wegmans.com/kitchen/ingredients/produce/vegetables/tomatillo.html

thank you,
SC


“People’s Poet don’t die, we’ll kill ourselves if you do, but first we’ll take off all our clothes.” The Young Ones

An update on New Zealand chow:

The way it was explained to me when I arrived is that New Zealand has “no native cuisine.” Bullshit, right? Well, only partly.

New Zealand has the dubious honor of having food Most Similar to the United States, as far as I was concerned. Fast food has taken over virtually all urban areas on the South Island, and Americans will find them disturbingly familiar: Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell can be found in some combination about every six blocks in Christchurch. Obviously Pepsi is attempting to take over. (And don’t wear a goatee if you’re visiting–I was mercilessly called “Colonel Sanders” for the majority of my visit. Damn that culture seep!) Thai, Japanese, and Mexican were also popular.

Ask a Kiwi about fruit and you’re just as likely to get a blank stare as an answer. Most of the folks I ran into thought that fruit was something that got in the way of all the mutton, venison, beef, veal, and the occasional “lobster” that served as the entrees and main courses. Pork and chicken just might be considered vegetables there.
Want to go to the friendliest place on earth and be shunned? Ask for a vegan dish at any fine restaurant.

But anyway, to get back to my point, if I had one. “No native cuisine” is in a way sort of true. Kiwis are more than happy to try anything new and formerly ambulatory. I did have the chance to try whitebait (minnows) and muttonbird (no kidding–it really does taste like mutton), but these and other “native” dishes have for the most part taken a traditional role in the average Kiwi’s diet and might show up on Christmas and Easter alone for those who do not actively pursue their Maori heritage.

Now if we could just talk them into keeping some Tabasco around…

An update on New Zealand chow:

The way it was explained to me when I arrived is that New Zealand has “no native cuisine.” Bullshit, right? Well, only partly.

New Zealand has the dubious honor of having food Most Similar to the United States, as far as I was concerned. Fast food has taken over virtually all urban areas on the South Island, and Americans will find them disturbingly familiar: Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell can be found in some combination about every six blocks in Christchurch. Obviously Pepsi is attempting to take over. (And don’t wear a goatee if you’re visiting–I was mercilessly called “Colonel Sanders” for the majority of my visit. Damn that culture seep!) Thai, Japanese, and Mexican were also popular.

Ask a Kiwi about fruit and you’re just as likely to get a blank stare as an answer. Most of the folks I ran into thought that fruit was something that got in the way of all the mutton, venison, beef, veal, and the occasional “lobster” that served as the entrees and main courses. Pork and chicken just might be considered vegetables there.
Want to go to the friendliest place on earth and be shunned? Ask for a vegan dish at any fine restaurant.

But anyway, to get back to my point, if I had one. “No native cuisine” is in a way sort of true. Kiwis are more than happy to try anything new and formerly ambulatory. I did have the chance to try whitebait (minnows) and muttonbird (no kidding–it really does taste like mutton), but these and other “native” dishes have for the most part taken a traditional role in the average Kiwi’s diet and might show up on Christmas and Easter alone for those who do not actively pursue their Maori heritage.

Now if we could just talk them into keeping some Tabasco around…

Oh yeah! Muttonbird! Mmmmmmmmm, boy do I ever miss that!

Actually they’re called the Sooty Shearwater, and they’re found, amongst other places I’m sure, on a group of islands south of NZ called The Muttonbird Islands (clever, huh?), or the Titi Islands, either one.

My Father used to catch them when he was younger. They live in underground burrows, can you believe it? They aren’t flightless, they just live in a hole like a rabbit. And basically you trap them or catch them by reaching in and nabbing the things.

Or so I’ve been led to believe.

Kiwis are not native to New Zealand. They are native to China:

Actinidia deliciosa - Kiwi, Chinese Gooseberry Vine. Native to eastern Asia (according to Sunset Western Gardening book). I hear they were named kiwis because the round fuzzy fruit looks kind of like the round brown feathered body of the Kiwi bird.

Tomatillo - Physalis ixocarpa. Related to tomatoes and deadly nightshade. Fruit yellow to purple and very sweet when ripe, but usually picked green and tart (they are sold here still in their papery husklike calyx).

Tree tomato, Tamarillo - Cyphomandra betacea (C. crassicaulis).
Winter fruit is red, 2-3 inches long, egg shaped, edible, has acid, slightly tomato like flavor. The book also says that Aussies stew these fruits with sugar to cut the tartness.

I forgot to add: Both tomatillos and tamarillos are related to tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and deadly night shade. All are in the Solanaceae family. Also, SqrlCub, no offense but i have never tasted a tomatillo that was spicy :).

Okay, lets get something straight here:

Kiwi’s are birds also known as Apteryx! They are native to New Zealand, flightless, about the size of a chicken, round body with a long thin beak.

Kiwifruit which is what they are meant to be referred to as but some stupid American PR people fucked it up, are what was originally known as Chinese Gooseberries. New Zealanders basically commandeered them as their own because we grow the things like you wouldn’t believe, and established a marketing coup! Called them Kiwifruit because it was catchy and we claimed ownership. Cheating and lying, true. But we don’t claim them as being native.

GuanoLad: I said “i heard” not “they are” :).

Anyway, most people assume since the plants are grown widely in NZ, they must be native. Same thing with Macadamis and Hawaii.

Bah! i mean, macadamias.

That’s okay, Doobieous. I was ranting generally, not at you.

It’s just kind of annoying that, since we have adopted the Kiwi as our national symbol, Americans think we are referring to the fuzzy non-native fruit and not the unique birdy.

Kiwi equals fauna.

Kiwifruit equals flora.

Where’s Old Zealand?

The main island of Denmark is Zeeland, but that couldn’t be it.

Yes it is.

New Zealand was originally Nova Zealandia or something. After Zeeland in Holland/Denmark/wherever it is. That’s because the discoverer of NZ, Abel Tasman, was from there.

Australia was originally New Holland. Same reason.

Oh, by the way, New Zealand’s true (?) name is Aotearoa. It means “Land of the long white cloud.”

And from what Robert Heinlein wrote (in Tramp Royale about New Zealand food in 1954, it may be the one place where it was an improvement!