18 must try New Zealand food experiences

The best way to immerse yourself in a new country or culture? Sampling the local food and wine of course. Now, there are far more delicious dishes and tasty treats to try that the 18 we've picked for this list, but this is a good start for your trip. 

We have some of the best wine in the world and our coastlines offer an abundance of fresh seafood.

It's all about fresh, and the flavours of this country will give you a taste for what we are all about and a hunger for more!

1. Fresh Green Lipped Mussels and Scallops

If you enjoy seafood, you can't go passed a pot of fresh Green Lipped Mussels, or half a dozen juicy scallops in a half shell. We are blessed in this country with fresh seafood, as you are never more than 128km from the coast wherever you are. The Coromandel Oyster Company is a must-visit for lunch if you are travelling up the coast.

2. Fish and Chips

Grab a scoop of chips and some fresh snapper, gurnard or tarakihi, a squeeze of lemon, dash of Watties tomato sauce, head to the beach of wharf and enjoy! Our local pick for this classic Kiwi nosh is Raglan Fish on the wharf at this little west coast town. Get in early or ring ahead with your order though, the word has spread and it's not just the locals enjoying the crispy, salty goodness!

3. Traditional Māori Haangi

If you are lucky enough to get the chance to try a haangi while you are here, take it! This traditional way of cooking food uses the steam from hot rocks buried underground with the food (meat, stuffing, fresh vegetables, potato, kumara) for several hours. The result is beautifully tender meat and veges with a distinct smokey flavour.

4. Whitebait fritters

Every year, from August to November, you can spot locals lined up along river banks, wading out with giant nets. They are fishing for a local delicacy - whitebait. You might be lucky enough to drive past a road side stall selling it, then all you need is a few eggs, some butter and a pinch of salt and you have yourself a tasty whitebait fritter. 
(Photo credit: Fraser Clements)

5. New Zealand Lamb

A Kiwi favourite around the dinner table, our lamb with a dash of mint sauce is hard to beat, just like this succulent looking dish from Lake Taupo Lodge. You can pick up some lamb chops at any local supermarket or butcher, then you just need to make friends with someone who has a barbecue. Goes well with a few bottles of Kiwi craft beer. 

6. Manuka Honey

New Zealand's Manuka honey is distinct in flavour and has multiple health benefits. It's a big exporter for us. Ask your guide on your Nature & Nosh Tour and they'll point out a Manuka tree - not to be mistaken for it's cousin the Kanuka tree - although you will also find Kanuka honey in specialty stores around the country. Visit Bee NZ in Katikati in the Bay of Plenty and learn about their hive to bottle business and sample their yummy range of New Zealand honey.

7. Wine tasting

Photo: Chris McLennan

It's no secret that we produce some of the world's best wine thanks to our unique climate and soil. Some our best wine producing regions include Marlborough for it's crisp Sauvignon Blanc; Central Otago, for its Pinot Noir; and the Hawkes Bay for its chardonnay. There are many more regions to explore though. Although the Waikato region is not renown for producing wine, visit Vilagrad Winery - a 5th generation family-owned winery and sample some of their award winning wines. Our pick is the Charminer for those with a sweeter palate. (Photo: Chris McLennan)

8. Kiwifruit

This iconic fruit actually originated in China as the Chinese Gooseberry. Brown and furry on the outside (perhaps a little like our national flightless bird?!), it has a unique taste and has a long season, grown 240 days of the year. Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty is the Kiwifruit capital of New Zealand, but you can get your hands on this fruit fairly easily throughout the country.

9. The Kumara

More commonly known as the 'sweet potato', the humble vege was a staple of our first Polynesian settlers. Although there are many ways to cook it, you really can't go past a punnet of Kumara chips with sour cream from your local takeaway shop!

10. New Zealand Cheeses

It's no surprise that we produce some quality gourmet cheeses with the large dairy industry in New Zealand - and the Waikato region is no exception! Our local favourite is Over the Moon Cheese (hint: you MUST try their Triple Cream Brie!), and if you book a Heart of the North Tour or One day Explore and Taste Experience with us, we'll take you to their deli where you can sample to your heart's content!

11. Bluff Oysters

From the cool, deep waters of Southern New Zealand, these plump oysters might just be the world's best! But don't take our word for it, if you are visiting in May, you'll be lucky enough to find them on many a restaurant's menu. (Photo: Matthew Crawford)

12. Farmers Markets

There's a real movement back to buying and eating fresh, local, produce, and supporting local farmers and producers. There's something satisfying about knowing exactly where your ingredients have come from. There are local Farmer's market throughout the country most weekends. If you are in Hamilton, try the Sunday Farmers Market at Claudelands - try a local coffee from Manuka Brothers and you wander around sampling the fresh produce!

13. L&P

World famous in New Zealand, L & P stands for Lemon and Paeroa, Invented in 1904 after its maker tasted some mineral water near the town of Paeroa in the Waikato, and mixed it with lemon to make this refreshing and sweet fizzy drink (or soda). 

14. Hokey Pokey ice-cream

Best with apple pie - who are we kidding, best with anything OR on it's own! - this creamy vanilla and honey comb ice-cream is a crowd favourite. Although the flavour might not be unique to New Zealand, the name sure is! The flavour pictured is from our friends at Kowhai Creamery and is their special gourmet 'Kowhai Hokey'. YUM!

15. Flat White Coffee

We take our coffee VERY seriously here. We take for granted that most cafe's in New Zealand do a fairly decent flat white. Although our climate isn't suited to growing coffee bean plants, our coffee culture is thriving with more coffee bean roasters per capita than any other country in the world. Our local pick for the best cup, and trust us, it's a hard decision as there are so many good options, would be Rocket Coffee in Hamilton.

16. Meat Pie

Our love for the meat pie runs as deep as our rivers and oceans. Golden pastry packets of delight filled with meat and gravy, our mouths are watering at the mere thought. Pies are such a big deal here in Aotearoa, that we have annual awards to honour the best pies and pie makers in the country! Our local bakery in Kihikihi, Viands Bakery, took out not one but three medals last year: A gold medal for its steak and gravy pie, a bronze for its chicken and vegetable pie and a bronze for its gourmet fruit entry of vanilla, ginger, pear and caramel. If your lucky, on the Heart of the North Tour, your guide can make a short detour for a wee taste! (Photo credit: Pie Awards NZ)

17. Whittakers Chocolate

If it's good enough for Nigella, it's good enough for us! Taking a block of this heavenly chocolate to family and friends back home is sure to earn you some serious brownie points. The Whittakers peanut slab is an old New Zealand favourite. You'll quite often find a snack bar of this choccie tucked away in your packed lunch on our hiking tours!

18. Pavlova

So Australian's will fiercely claim this sweet meringue dessert as their own, but we don't listen to them. It's a Kiwi dish through and through. Usually topped with cream and strawberries or kiwifruit, you'll barely see a New Zealand family's Christmas feast without one! You see, it's as pretty to look at as it's sweet to eat! This delicious looking pavlova is by one of our Kiwi kitchen goddesses - Annabel Langbein. Here's the recipe if you feel like giving it a go! Photo credit: www.annabel-langbein.com


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