Updated: Aug 18, 2019
Queenstown actually doesn't have a lot of Maori Culture historically and hence a Hangi is sorta hard to find. Probably because Maori didn't live here in permanent settlements back in the day. Nowadays, there are a few ways to experience a traditional Maori 'earth oven' style meal in Queenstown but it won't be as easy as you'd like it to be. There is a food truck option (super easy if they are in QT), a recipe to cook one in a slow cooker (easy and with medium authenticity), create your own Hangi Pit (difficult and super authentic) and a few other opportunistic possibilities. We will run you through them all in this post.
The Gourmet Hangi Kitchen- Maori, Polynesian and Kiwi Street Food
The least costly and easiest option is to head down to the Gourmet Hangi Kitchen which serves traditional Maori and Polynesian Food with a modern food truck spin. Alas they are only in town these days for events so there is no regular shop you can go to. They have a Hangi meal which has Hangi style cooked meats in a takeaway meal. Hangi cooked food should have a smokey (wood) earthy flavor.
Your best bet to find them is at events in or around Queenstown. If you're around during Winter Festival or over the Summer Period when there are a lot of events on then keep an eye out for them.
You can always message them and ask them where they are at the moment via their Facebook Page here. They also spend time in Franz Josef which you may be heading to in your travels around New Zealand so it's possible you can still find them.
DIY Hangi Recipe (slow cooker in a kitchen):
Are your an avid cook? Want a more realistic version of a Hangi? We've got a recipe for you. You will need access to a kitchen and a slow cooker but lots of hostels have those and you may be staying in one.
Serves 2-3 Hangi Packages
Per Hangi Package (slow cooker should hold 2-3 Hangi packages)
1 chicken drum stick 1 pork strip or chop 1 ball of stuffing 1-2 Potato pieces 1-2 Kumara pieces 1-2 Carrot pieces 1-2 Pumpkin pieces 2-3 Cabbage leaves Salt and pepper Smoked Paprika (optional) Manuka Smoke Concentrate Spray (optional - available from gourmet food stores)
Place meat, chopped vegetables and stuffing on a cabbage leaf, season with salt and pepper, smoked paprika and spray with Manuka Smoke.
Wrap up each parcel securely in tin foil. Put 6-8 small rolled-up balls of tin foil (or 2 ramekins upside-down) in the bottom of the slow cooker and pour in water to just cover the balls/ramekins.
Place foil-wrapped packages of meat and vegetables on top of tin foil balls. Cover with a damp tea-towel over the top of the crock pot with the sides hanging down outside and place the lid on top. Cook for 6-8 hours on High.
Do not lift the lid until the time is up.
Stuffing for Slow-Cooker
Serves 2-3 Hangi Packages
INGREDIENTS: Stuffing 4 Slices Bread 1 x Egg 1 x Onion 1 Tablespoon Mixed Herbs Salt & Pepper
METHOD: Tear bread into small pieces and place in food processor to create breadcrumbs Finely chop onion, add remaining ingredients and mix into small balls. IDEAS: You could use store-bought stuffing if you want, and you can make stuffing using your hands (don’t need a food processor). A great meal when you don't have a kitchen.
Build your own Hangi Pit (super traditional you legend!):
Wow, really? You're committed! I hope you don't have a bad back:P
A real and accurate Hangi is made in the earth, a pit is dug and hot stones are laid along with wood to use as a heat source. From there baskets full of food are lowered into the pit and then covered in earth to slow cook for hours.
The basic steps of a Hangi are noted here as described in more detail in this article from WikiHow,
Step1: Find some land to dig a hole. Be smart, ask before doing anything! Preferably not very rocky as you'll need to dig a 1m (diameter) and 30 - 60 cm deep hole to house your Hangi.
Step 2: Find approximately 25 volcanic stones to fill the hole and heat these not in the hole itself but in a separate fire and transfer to the hole for cooking. WARNING: If you don't find the right stones then you run the risk of them exploding in the fire which would be very dangerous for any spectators. Only build a Hangi if you are sure you know how to select the correct stones.
Step 3: Find around 45 pieces of hardwood to use in a fire which will eventually heat the rocks to the point where they can cook the food over several hours. Manuka is a good one. They need to be hardwood as they need to burn slowly for 3-5 hours in order to heat the rocks correctly. Wood should not be treated.
Step 4: Find some containers for the food once it is prepared. Commonly you can use chicken mesh or perforated tin containers. How many you will need depends on how many people you are feeding.
Step 5: Create a stack of wood using the hardwood. Stack the stones on top making sure to leave space underneath the hardwood in order for you to light the fire. You can add some paper and softer wood as kindling - wooden transportation pallets work well.
Step 6: Light it and let it burn for 3-5 hours. You'll know the rocks are ready when they glow white. WARNING: Someone should be watching the stack at all times as with a change of wind direction of a poorly stacked pile it could fall over. If there are combustibles nearby then obviously you risk starting an uncontrolled fire. Also in New Zealand, there is commonly fire bans so check with local authorities if it's ok to start a fire beforehand. If it has been a particularly dry season then this is NOT a good idea.
Step 7: Prepare the food necessary to go into the containers. Commonly lots of vegetables and meat. Think Pumpkin, Kumara (Sweet Potato), Carrots, Chicken and Pork as well as Lamb. 400 g per person is a good rule of thumb and a piece of each vegetable. Make sure to cut them to an appropriate size as otherwise they won't cook properly or burn. Around 13 cm is a good length for vegetables. For meat its common to have whole chickens of other large pieces in there. As long as they aren't too thin then they should be fine.
Step 8: Line the food containers with tin foil or banana leaves.
Step 9: Put food into the containers. Single layer means it will cook more easily. You can combine meat and chicken in one container but more commonly you separate them.
Step 10: Take the hot rocks from the fire and place them in the Hangi Pit with a shovel. You'll know the stones are done when they start to turn white with heat. Try to lay them quickly to avoid heat loss during the process and have as little gap between them as possible.
Step 11: Thoroughly soak about 5 sacks with water and slap them on the rocks to create steam. It will help the cooking process.
Step 12: Lower food containers into the pit and use the wet sacks and sheets to cover the containers completely (otherwise dirt will get in and ruin the food). Red meats should be on the bottom closest to the rocks and vegetables on top of the meat.
Step 13: Cover the sacks with earth and smooth it down. After 3 hours you can start to remove the dirt to retrieve the Hangi.
Step 14: Be careful when removing the sacks so that earth does not contaminate the food below. Be careful as the containers will obviously be very hot and heavy. Use tools and gloves to handle them. Two people if necessary for larger containers. Then place in an area where you can cut up and serve the food hot!
Check out this video from Massey University which is pretty thorough and authentic as Lewis and Michael have stubbies (really short shorts in New Zealand are called 'stubbies'), steel cap boots and great Maori Language skills and epic NZ accents to boot. Well done guys!
Other suggestions on how to find a Hangi:
If you can pull this off you might be in for an authentic earth oven meal of your dreams without all the hassle. This will make your NZ trip amaze-balls and be a great story for the cuzzies back home!
Sometimes local schools have Hangi Pits and will sometimes put one on if they are having a local fundraiser type event. Do some hunting around, find some numbers and send off a message or 3 and see what turns up. You might get lucky! Maybe there are other community events on that you could inquire about a Hangi at also. To be honest, this is not very likely but who knows, traveling is sometimes about serendipitous moments and we are romantics!!!