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Maori hangi

Maori Hangi

Hangi is a traditional Maori cooking technique utilising hot rocks and water to steam food underground. The technique originated from early Maori settlers and is still practiced today because of the unique flavour it gives to the food.  The methods used to prepare a Hangi are truly unique. Preparation usually takes up to 1-2 days but is well worth it.  This article briefly explains exactly how a Hangi is prepared in the traditional way.

There is absolutely NO taste similar to a Hangi anywhere in the World. Hangi food is steamed underground atop hot rocks.  No, that wasn’t a misprint. The food IS actually buried in the ground and totally covered with earth. If you ever come to New Zealand, trying a Hangi is an absolute MUST try. You can’t honestly say that you’ve visited New Zealand if you haven’t tried a Hangi.

Here’s how it’s done:

Step 1: Special volcanic stones are found as a source of heat  for the cooking. Regular rocks won’t usually do the job because they can splinter during the heating process.  Finding the proper classification of stones for this job is absolutely critical to the successful outcome of ANY Hangi.

Step 2: These stones are positioned in the fire and heated for quite a few hours until they are white hot. The wood used can change the taste of the Hangi for good or bad. Natural wood is best and there are few special types which give a lovely smoky taste. On the other hand, treated timber or chemicals in the wood will most likely make you sick or poison your hangi.

Step 3: Dig the Hangi Pit. Try to get as many people around for this step as possible.

Step 4: Fill your Hangi basket with a mish mash of raw, but thoroughly defrosted, meat, vegetables, stuffing and 1-2 steam puddings. Hangi baskets are usually made out of of wire or steel. The base of the basket is normally lined and the food has to be filled in a certain way for optimum cooking.

Step 5: Transport the hot stones into the hole. This job requires speed and skill. This is where most Hangi’s are undone, as the longer the stones are exposed the colder they will become. Once this transfer has happened quickly put the basket on top of the hot stones.

Step 6: Wrap the basket with wet sacking cloth.

Step 7: Use spades to cover the Hangi again with soil until there is no steam escaping.

Step 8: Wait 2-3 hours and dig up the Hangi and ‘Hey Presto’, you’ve just cooked your very own Hangi!

Hangi food is typically served as a communal buffet. The food is spread out on a table and people generally help themselves as they please. Good Hangi accompaniments include Fried Bread or Rewena Bread (Traditional Maori bread). If you wish to cook your own Hangi there is a lot more precise information you need with regards to your equipment, preparation and timing. If any one of these aspects is off your Hangi may well be a complete disaster. If you need more information about this truly unique cooking technique visit www.howtohangi.co.nz for photos, specific information and video footage.

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