Food Culture and Tradition

Food, People and Culture Resources

New Zealand Foods Glossary and Food Terms


Aruhe, Parara, or Ruma: a fern-like shrub, one of the first “greens” used by the Maoris. The steamed roots were pounded into cakes said to be both medicinal and nourishing.

Biscuits: cookies.

Chips: french-fried potatoes.

Colonial Goose: a stuffed, boned leg of lamb, roasted and served like goose. Probably originated as the pioneer’s version of a holiday dinner, since they had no geese.

Corn Flour: cornstarch.

Essence: used to describe flavoring extracts, as in “vanilla essence.”

Fell: the thin membrane covering cuts of lamb, usually cooked by roasting. Removing the fell helps to make carving easier as it is a thin but tough membrane; however, removing it before roasting may cause the roast to lose both shape and moisture.

Golden Syrup: light molasses, a frequent sweetener in cooking.

Hangi or Haangi: the Maori method of earth-pit cooking. A wood fire is kindled in the bottom of an earth pit. then smooth stones are arranged over the embers and allowed to reach red-hot heat. Prepared joints of meat, fish, and seafood wrapped in leaves or placed in (lax baskets and finally vegetables are set on the top. Water is sprinkled in to create steam then the whole thing is sealed over with straw mats. After a prescribed cooking time (usually about two hours) the food is removed and the feasting begins. This method of cooking is still enjoyed by Maoris and also by Pakehas (Europeans), especially for outdoor entertaining.

Hogget: lamb aged nine to twenty months, not as tender as younger lamb. Best used in ground meat dishes, casseroles, and stews.

Jam: jelly made from sweetened cooked fruits or berries.

Jelly: commercial or home-prepared gelatin desserts.

Kiwi: also called “Chinese gooseberry,” this brownish-skinned fruit is about the size of a lemon with a vivid green soft pulp. Each kiwi contains only about 30 calories, and is rich in vitamin C. They are used in many fruit desserts, eaten from the skin as they are and are also considered as a steak tenderizer because of their acid juice.

Koura: a type of crayfish.

Kumara: Maori name for the yam or sweet potato, a favorite and staple crop in New Zealand, used as a vegetable and in making breads.

Lamb (Weaned): name used to refer to young lamb four and one half to nine months old.

Lollies or Sweets: candies.

Manuka: popularly called the “tea tree”, a native shrub with fragrant leaves used by the early European pioneers as a substitute for tea. The Maoris use the fragrant Manuka twigs to make a fire for grilling fresh-caught fish.

Mutton: New Zealanders make a distinction between young mutton (twenty months to two years) with as pinky-red flesh and firm fat, and mature mutton which may be from two to five years, strong in flavor and with red flesh and brittle white fat.

Paraoa: Maori name for bread, baked in many varieties, both leavened and unleavened and made essentially from wheat flour.

Paraoa Takakau: probably the earliest form of Maori bread prepared simply with flour and water and shaped in large flat rounds.

Paua: a local type of abalone whose tough chewy flesh requires much pounding to tenderize before cooking.

Pavlova: favorite dessert in both Australia and New Zealand. It is made from a crisp baked meringue shell filled with fresh or cooked sweetened fruit and whipped cream. The dessert is said to he named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who enjoyed triumphant tour of New Zealand and Australia in 1926.

Pikelets: tiny flapjacks or pancakes served with preserves and whipped cream or lemon butter.

Pipis: tiny New Zealand shellfish similar to cockles.

Puha: a well-known New Zealand weed of many varieties, the coastal species being the best and used as both herb and vegetable. Can be lightly cooked and used much like spinach.

Savories: appetizers or dishes that are not sweet. Usually made with eggs, cheese or fish, and served for tea.

Spring Lamb: designates the youngest lamb. Most succulent and tender, aged from twelve to eighteen weeks, with very pale pink flesh and creamy fat.

Steak and Oyster Pie: cubed beef is browned and cooked in a thickened gravy then poured into a prepared piecrust. Fresh shelled oysters are arranged on top then covered with pastry and quickly oven-baked. A great favorite in a country where the more than three million population consume 100,000,000 oysters annually.

Tamarillo: also called tree tomato. May be eaten as a fruit or as a salad vegetable.

Toheroa: a bivalve native to areas of New Zealand’s western shore. The flesh is very tough and is only edible when minced or finely chopped.

Toheroa Soup: famed New Zealand soup prepared from the finely minced flesh and green parts of the Toheroa. The smooth green soup is considered a special delicacy.

Tuatua: a smaller and more plentiful version of the larger Toheroa. Both are delicious fleshy bivalves enjoyed in season.

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