Meet the Attards

The Good, the Bad, and the Weird…Foods of New Zealand

Friday marked my last day of work at The Green Room Cafe. Can’t believe 10 months went by that fast, but it was great work experience and I feel confident working with a legit espresso machine now. I really enjoyed working with the ladies there while getting to know the locals and each one’s “usual coffee.” It’s surprising how many individual coffees one brain can memorize if you give it enough time!

We have enjoyed the opportunity to try news foods during our trip and I have plenty of recipes coming home with me to add to my collection. This post is all about the foods and drinks we’ve tried and what we thought of them.

Up first is our favorite Kiwi dessert: Pavlova! New Zealanders and Australians still debate on who can stake their claim on creating this delicious dessert, but if you ask me, the word ‘Pavlova’ sounds Russian. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was named after a Russian Ballerina who visited NZ and Australia back in the 1920’s…either way, it’s a giant meringue that you will want to eat all by yourself. Crunchy on the outside, marshmallow gooeyness on the inside. YUM!

My first authentic Pavlova

Afghan biscuits (or cookie for the U.S. folks) is a chocolate crunchy cookie that is a favorite down here. I was going to include Tim Tams (cookies) in this post, but technically they are Australian in origin so you will just have to try them for yourself. For my Florida readers, I’m pretty sure a few Publix grocery stores carry Tim Tams in their International section! The recipe for Afghan biscuits actually uses cornflakes to get that satisfying crunch in every bite. They are fairly easy to make so I’m looking forward to whipping up some when we get home.

Cheese Rolls. New Zealand kids (and adults) are obsessed with these things and I’m not really sure why. It’s like half a grilled cheese sandwich but with a few very important differences. First, the cheese sauce in the middle is a mixture of cheese, evaporated milk, and usually dry onion soup mix. That mixture is spread on one piece of bread and then rolled up and cooked in a sandwich press. New Zealand has some pretty awesome cheese, but I don’t understand why they insist on adding all the other stuff. They’re ok in regards to flavor, and I can see the convenience of them, but I’ll stick to my Colby Jack grilled cheese sammies along with some tomato soup.

L&P Soda is one thing we will miss. We do not indulge in sugary soda often, but this was a nice treat every now and then. L&P stands for Lemon and Paeroa and got its start around 1908.  It has a light, lemon flavor and was traditionally made by combing lemon juice with carbonated mineral water from the town of Paeroa on the North Island. It’s now owned and manufactured by Coco-cola unfortunately, but not sure if we will be able to find it in the U.S. I do love their comically pretentious advertising slogan though, “World famous in New Zealand.” 

Whitebait fritters. Michael didn’t care for these much, but I thought they were pretty good. We shared a whitebait fritter for lunch on our trip to Arrowtown to pan for gold. Whitebait are juveniles of five species of native fish that are considered endangered as adult fish, which is why the Department of Conservation has strict regulations on how much fisherman can collect. It’s considered a delicacy and the collecting season only runs from August-November. A whitebait fritter is basically just whitebait, a little flour, egg, salt and pepper fried until golden brown.

Green-lipped mussels. This is another one that I loved and Michael didn’t care for, but he is not the biggest fan of eating bivalves anyways. On our last day trip to Dunedin to see the albatross we stopped for dinner at a Thai restaurant. Michael ordered his favorite, Pad Thai, and I ordered a delicious seafood soup that had these mussels along with octopus, prawns, and fish.

Marmite. Either you love it or you hate it…there is no middle ground on this one. Marmite is the NZ version, Vegemite is Australian. This stuff is made from yeast extract, a by-product of beer brewing. To describe the taste, imagine yourself eating a beef bouillon cube. Yep, very salty and very potent stuff…a little bit goes a long way! I had it on toast with slices of tomato, which made it edible. Loaded with B vitamins and iron it’s actually quite good for you, and the locals swear by it to keep the sand flies away. They say it works by just eating it on your toast, but this stuff is so potent I bet if you slathered it on your skin it would stop a charging bull elephant in its tracks!

Thanks to my wonderful chef friend at The Green Room Cafe, Michael and I had the opportunity to try another NZ delicacy: Pāua. In the U.S. and Australia it’s known as abalone and most commonly known for their beautiful iridescent peacock-colored shells often used in Maori art and sculptures, and contemporary jewelry. Pāua (pronounced Pah-wah) is a large sea-snail and the meat is actually black. This can be a little off-putting for some, and the texture is quite chewy. The most common preparation and best way to eat Pāua is minced and formed into small fritters. Michael didn’t care for them but I would eat them again if given the opportunity. Unfortunately, unless you can go out free-diving and collect your own, the meat is very expensive (around $70 per kg(2.2lbs)). There are strict regulations to protect them from being over-harvested or harvested as juveniles, but there is an extensive black market for their meat that keeps fishery officials busy.

 

Overall, I’d say we’ve had some tasty cultural experiences over the past year here in NZ. We are looking forward to some of our favorite foods back home, like a Publix sub or an actual iced coffee! This is the one area that NZ is lacking…and if they DID decide to make a proper iced coffee then I definitely would never leave.

Anyways, this weekend we are getting ready for our congregation barbecue on Sunday, and then heading out on our 9-day road trip around the South Island on Tuesday. We will both be busy packing and preparing for the road over the next couple of days. Still heaps of pictures to be taken between now and the time we leave the country, so I will try to post again before we take off 🙂

Thanks for reading!

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