Hangi is a traditional Maori cooking technique utilizing hot rocks and water to steam food underground. Maori settlers in New Zealand pioneered the technique which is widely known for it's distinct flavor. The way that a Hangi is prepared is 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. The food is buried underground where it cooks for several hours. No, that wasn't a misprint. The food IS actually buried in the ground and totally covered with earth. If you ever visit New Zealand, experiencing a Hangi is an absolute MUST DO. You can't really 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 sourced as to provide the heat to cook the food. River rocks won't generally do the job because they can blow up during the heating process. Sourcing the right sort of rocks for this job is absolutely crucial 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 effect the taste of the Hangi for good or bad. Natural timber 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 can make you sick or poison your hangi. Step 3: Dig your Hangi Pit. Try to get as many spare hands around for this step as possible.Step 4: Pack your Hangi basket with a mixture of raw, but thoroughly defrosted, meat, vegetables, stuffing and 1-2 steam puddings. Hangi baskets are usually constructed of wire or steel. The floor of the basket is normally lined and the food has to be filled in a certain method for optimum cooking.Step 5: Transfer the hot stones into the pit. 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. As soon as this transfer has been completed quickly position the basket on top of the hot stones.Step 6: Cover the basket with soggy sacking cloth.Step 7: Use shovels to cover the Hangi again with dirt 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 generally 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 require with regards to your equipment, preparation and timing. If any one of these aspects is off your Hangi could be a total disaster.