New Zealand Kiwi Hāngi

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(Photo Attributed to Author: Malcolm Jacobson)

(Photo Attributed to Author: Malcolm Jacobson)

New Zealanders are often referred to (by themselves as well as others) as “Kiwis”. And this New Zealand Kiwi Hāngi meal is as old and traditional to the Kiwi people as is the length of time human beings have lived there.

This majestic and stunningly beautiful island was the last large mainland to be inhabited by humans. In fact, there were no mammals at all until the first people arrived. Prior to that, New Zealand was dominated by birds.

Polynesians first landed on New Zealand and began to settle there around 700 A.D., and before the end of the 8th Polynesians Arriving at New Zealandcentury, the British had arrived. England came to terms with the Polynesians, and colonized New Zealand as a British property – granting the “native” Polynesian full British citizenship rights.

We have just started a new page started here on Ethnic Foods R Us, devoted to Kiwi Cuisine. Click here to go to it. The page is being loaded with lots of recipes that have evolved over the centuries. Foods that naturally reflect the cultural preferences of the Polynesians and the British, and that have blended into a cuisine that is unique and original.


New Zealand Kiwi Hāngi

Hāngi (Photo Attributed to Author: Einalem)

One of the most unique traditional meals prepared there is this New Zealand Kiwi Hāngi (pronounced: “han-jee”). Attributed mostly to the Polynesians, who are lovers of foods cooked over open fires, the Hāngi is very similar to the American rustic camping meal called the “Hobo Dinner”. For a read on how to make a Hobo Dinner, check our post on Gourmet Open Fire Cooking.

But let’s now get right into how to prepare this real, authentic and traditional meal that is a national favorite to the Kiwi people, okay?

How to Prepare a New Zealand Kiwi Hāngi 

Traditional New Zealand Kiwi Hāngi Recipe-
  • Meats: chicken, beef, pork, wild game, etc. (just about anything that you like works well – you can even use Hangi Ingredients Photo Attributed to Author Sarah M Stewartseafood), chopped into large bite-sized chunks
  • Vegetables: potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, squash, onions, garlic, kumara (sweet potatoes), cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc. Again, anything goes, really. Just wash and peel the veggies as you prefer, and chop the larger ones into large bite-sized chunks. Small potatoes can even be left whole.
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • vegetable oil and/or butter

You will also need:

  • Tin or aluminum foil, to wrap your foods in. Or, for a more traditional method, large cabbage leaves or (even better if you can get them) plantain leaves.
  • Twine, soaked in water, to wrap up and seal tight the wrapping material around the food items.
  • Lots of hardwood to burn; some tinder and soft wood to get the fire started.
  • A good size pile of rocks: large rocks and small rocks. Note: for best results, and if you want to have a store of rocks to reuse for making New Zealand Kiwi Hāngi, get volcanic lava rocks. They will not crack and degenerate (and even sometimes explode!) with use over intense heat like commons rocks will.
  • Wooden branches, soaked in water, to spread over the pit.
  • Moist leaves, moss, any leafy vegetation matter, to form a layer over the wrapped foods being cooked.
  • Some clean but dispensable cloth towels and/or sheets, soaked thoroughly with water.
  1. Build a large fire, with tinder to start, then a layer of soft woods, then layers of hardwood. Plan on keeping this fire going as hot as possible for 4 to 5 hours.
  2. Place the rocks in and around the fire, and let them get white hot.
  3. While the rocks are heating up in the fire, if you have not already, dig a pit into the ground that is large enough to hold all the rocks, with a few inches to spare as far as depth. Keep the soil piled right next to the pit, on hand to spread back over the cooking Hāngi.
  4. Spread out your food wrapping material, and spread some cooking oil and/or butter over it, whether using leaves or foil.
  5. Layer on the foods you are cooking. Place the meat chunks on first, and sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste. Next layer on the harder, more dense vegetables chunks, again apply seasoning, and then the softer veggies, with one last sprinkling of salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Now fold up the wrapping over the layered foods, and wrap the bundle up tightly sealed with twine that has been soaked in water.
  7. When the rocks are white hot, quickly shovel them into the pit. Large rocks first, with the smaller rocks on top. Be very careful! Wear gloves and do not drop them or come into skin contact with them in any way!
  8. When the rocks are in the pit, slap them with the wet towels, several times, to get some steam started.
  9. Moving fast, spread the moist branches over the pit, to form a grid. Place them quite close together. Lay the wrapped up food bundle in the center of the branch grid, with the meat layer being on the bottom (meat will take longer to cook, so it needs to be closest to the heat source).
  10. Keep moving fast. Spread a thick layer of the moist vegetable matter (leaves, moss, etc.) over the food bundle and the branches. Lastly, cover the entire assembly with soil, about 3″ to 4″ thick.
  11. Now sit back and wait. Let the Hāngi cook for about 3 hours. The entrapped rocks will stay hot for a long time in the pit, and the moisture from the vegetation and wet branches will drip down onto the hot rocks, creating the steam that will slow cook your meal. And the earthy hint of soil will mix with the flavors of the foods, creating a meal that you will long remember and want to do over again, believe me!
  12. After about 3 hours, carefully scoop away the mound of soil, and the vegetable matter, exposing the Hāngi bundle. Wear gloves, because it will be very hot, pick it up and shake loose any soil or other matter clinging to it. Carefully unwrap the bundle, and spread the delicious contents out on a serving platter.
  13. Serve your New Zealand Kiwi Hāngi while still nice and hot. It is a complete meal, so no need for side dishes, but in true Kiwi style, you should enjoy it with some good, cold beer.

Got it? Good! Enjoy cooking up your own authentic New Zealand Kiwi Hāngi. And check back here soon, if you enjoy Kiwi cuisine. There will be coming in the next couple days a whole page and several sub-pages devoted to the foods recipes of New Zealand.

Chow y’all, please leave a comment, I will respond to all comments, questions, and suggestions. And if you do make a New Zealand Kiwi Hāngi, please share your experience with the rest of us, okay?

My Best Always, Your Friend,

Marvin D Wilson

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10 thoughts on “New Zealand Kiwi Hāngi

  1. Hangi [pronounced ‘Hung-ee’…(say it fast)] is normally a group activity for a very large family or groups of families or particularly a social gathering. These days not so much banana or cabbage leafs used, the wrapping is now tin foil mainly. The covering using vegetation is also strictly correct, but it is a pain in the arse….old wet ‘sacks’ (not synthetic!!) are used to make an easy 100% covering, over which the dirt is thrown to cover it all, using several inches of dirt. Inspect and correct any steam leaks. Steam leaks make cool spots where the food won’t cook as well as it should. Cooking time is variable depending upon the size of the various meats used, and the size of the cuts of meat. (put chicken 1/2s and whole fish in foil at one side or corner of the hangi, so they can be quickly removed before the main event…
    3 hours, or about 4 or 5 cans of beer tending the hangi after the food is put in, would be a minimum time. Larger pieces ie legs of pig or sheep would take a lot longer…. various similar methods exist throughout the Pacific islands. In most places, it is not the everyday cooking method due to the amount of food cooked, and the labor involved constructing a decent fire pit and preheating the rocks. After the hard work has been done, you will notice all your forgotten old friends starting to arrive!!! NOTE: Larger whole animals (pigs, sheep)can be used also….line the ‘guts’ cavity with plenty of damp leaves…and then put hot rocks inside the cavity also. Mango leaves are a favorite among some Islanders for that purpose. This way it cooks from inside out, as well as from the outside in.

    • Peter, thank you so much for all of this information! I appreciate it, coming from someone who obviously has first-hand personal experience. If I have your permission, may I use this info to update the post?

  2. Thanks for this, it definitely sounds like a fun and tasty way to prepare a meal. Looking forward to the page on New Zealand cuisine, too. I have some Polynesian in-laws, and man oh man can they whip up some tasty foods!

  3. That really does seem to be much like the hobo dinner I love so much. Seems the love of earthy steamed underground meals is a favorite in more than one culture, huh?

  4. Great sounding ethnic adventure, Marv. Looks like quite a bit of work, but I’ll bet it is bloody well worth it, eh?

  5. Hubby and I love hobo dinners when rustic camping, so this Hangi thingy sound right up our alley. But hubby dear will definitely be handling the white hot stones, lol.

  6. I’m all over this one! I have a fire pit in my large back yard, and all the natural resources to build the hangi cooker. Sounds great, Marv. I will definitely try it out and come back with a full report, ok?

    • Zane, for sure, please do come back and let us know how your hangi turned out. Would love to hear from you. I tried it, it is so similar to our American hobo dinner, that it was a snap. And super yummy!

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