Photo by: Makayla M., CIS New Zealand
New Zealand is known for rugby leagues, kiwi birds, Lord of the Rings sets, and thrilling adventure activities. Somewhat lesser-known New Zealand attributes, but equally as impressive, are the mouth-watering fare and decadent wines.
Authentic New Zealand cuisine includes unique combinations of flavorsome produce sourced from the local land and fresh seafood caught from the nearby ocean (remember, it is an island country). New Zealanders, also known as kiwis, do not shy away from satisfying their sweet tooth by indulging in their legendary desserts and candy.
Tasting your way through the local food and drink scene is a great way to immerse yourself in the New Zealand culture while studying abroad in this popular destination. To ensure you enjoy the country’s tastiest and most authentic culinary experiences, I’ve compiled the below list of 10 foods and drinks you need to try while studying abroad in New Zealand.
Kiwis adore Pineapple Lumps -- so much that you’ll likely spot their yellow packaging on display in just about any grocery store or convenience mart. They’re a perfect choice for a late night study snack, and they make an ideal gift to send home to loved ones.
Manufactured by a New Zealand company called Pascall, Pineapple Lumps have chewy pineapple centers engulfed in a lump of New Zealand chocolate coating. The sharpness of the pineapple surprisingly pairs perfectly with the sweet thin layer of dark chocolate, and it is a combination your taste buds have likely never experienced before. Pro-tip: the best way to consume them is by allowing the chocolate coating to melt in your mouth before chewing the yellow pineapple core!
Pavlova is undeniably the most cherished New Zealand dessert. It has a meringue base, making it crunchy on the outside and soft in the center. Pavlova is usually topped with whipped cream and various fruits, such as strawberries and kiwi fruit.
Generally, Pavlova is reserved for special occasions (perhaps your last night of studying abroad!), so if you ever get the chance to try it, make sure you take it. Your taste buds will surely thank you.
Māori hāngi is definitely a unique experience, and certainly one you will think of when you reminisce about your time studying abroad. New Zealand's Māori people are the aboriginal people, and they are credited for developing hāngi.
Essentially, hāngi is a form of culinary technique where food is cooked in a hole under the ground that is lined with hot rocks, aluminum foil, or wire baskets. Typical food cooked through the hāngi method include fish and chicken, as well as various vegetables. The hāngi cooking process is long and arguably strenuous; however, the tender meat and smoke-infused flavors solidify it is well worth the time and effort. Hāngi is often intended to be a community experience, making it a perfect opportunity to meet and converse with the locals while you are studying abroad.
Wine connoisseurs from across the globe are enamored by Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Marlborough region. And it’s no wonder -- the region’s cool, maritime climate provides optimal conditions for growing white grapes. These ideal conditions produce light and fruity Sauvignon Blanc that is unlike any other Sauvignon Blanc you’ll ever taste.
The country’s winemakers are enormously passionate about the wine they create, and they are always willing to educate you on the winemaking process. You can even take viticulture and wine-making classes while you study abroad in New Zealand!
Additionally, the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc pairs perfectly with New Zealand’s handmade cheeses, which include blue cheese, vintage cheeses, and other soft cheeses.
L&P, short for Lemon and Paeroa, is a scrumptious soft drink that you will likely see locals sipping at restaurants, beaches, and basically anywhere else you can imagine. It combines spring water and lemon flavor, making it a super refreshing drink for any time you need to quench your thirst.
If you find yourself at a pub with some of your classmates on the weekend, you can order it as an ingredient in a mixed drink. A Southern Comfort and L&P is a popular and surprisingly delicious combination.
Fergburger, referred to by locals as ‘Fergs’, is a small, fast casual restaurant in Queenstown that specializes in burgers. As you walk up to the restaurant, you will likely see a long line -- but fear not, it moves quickly and is well worth the wait.
Fergburger’s burgers are believed by many food aficionados to be the best tasting burgers in the world. There are about 20 or more burger varieties on the menu and all are served in enormous portions, so sharing one with a study buddy is often a good call. You cannot go wrong with ordering the classic Fergburger, which is made up of New Zealand beef, lettuce, tomato, red onion, aioli, and tomato relish. Just remember to come hungry!
Kiwi Meat Pie
Meat and pie are likely not what you consider an appetizing food combination, but somehow New Zealand makes it work!
Usually made about the size of your palm, New Zealanders usually consume Kiwi Meat Pies as a snack. They are cooked with a crust base, gravy, and minced meat, and are topped with a splash of tomato sauce. The classic meat pie is made with beef, but you can also order them in other meat varieties, like lamb or chicken. You can find them at any grocery store or even some gas stations, but the best place to try one is at bakery or café where they are baked fresh. They make an ideal midday snack between classes.
If you are feeling adventurous while studying abroad in New Zealand, you need to try whitebait. Whitebait are highly coveted, minuscule fish that are caught from the rivers in New Zealand.
The way kiwis prefer the tender delicacy of whitebait is in the form of fritters (small deep-fried cakes made with eggs and milk batter). Because whitebait are so minuscule, several whitebaits are included in each fritter. Additionally, they are too small to debone, so the entire fish is included (e.g. head, fins, bones, and guts).
If you keep a journal while studying abroad, your experience eating whitebait fritters will make a memorable journal entry, as it’s definitely one of the more unusual must-try dishes on this list!
An Afghan biscuit is baked with the ingredients of a typical cookie, but also includes cornflakes and cocoa powder. Afghan biscuits are smaller than your average biscuit, appearing more like a cookie. They are also coated with chocolate flavored icing and topped with a walnut piece. The additional ingredients give it a dark brown coloring and an even sweeter taste. They are an awesome treat to bring to get-togethers (perhaps if a professor hosts a dinner party).
Forewarning: once you have one, it is very hard to say no to a second (or third).
Mānuka honey is created from bees that have pollinated a New Zealand tea tree known as the mānuka bush. Manuka honey contains a natural antibacterial that is used across the world to help heal a wide range of medical diagnoses, such as colds, infections, gingivitis, and digestive issues. Its flavor is rich and intricate, while also maintaining an earthy taste.
You can try mānuka honey in cakes at local bakeries, manufactured shortbread cookies, or by just buying a jar and coming up with your own use for it. I’d recommend stirring some into a freshly brewed mug of tea and enjoying it on your way to a morning class.
Studying abroad in New Zealand will allow you the opportunity to experience new thrills and foods you have never even heard of before your semester abroad, including many of the food/drink items listed above. That being said, do not be afraid to try foods that you have tried before. You may end up discovering an exciting and unique way to enjoy that food, and the new version could be even better!