It helps that New Zealanders like to eat. Auckland is a city of barely 1.5 million people, comparable in size to San Antonio, Tex., yet narrowing down a list of the top 50 restaurants, as the magazine Metro does each year, is a struggle. (Depot, a solid Auckland stalwart that is often heralded as a classic example of modern New Zealand cuisine, this year slid off the list.)
In this year’s list, you find food from Andalusia, France, Italy, Japan, Korea, Lebanon, the Philippines and Persia. (This is not exhaustive.)
“New Zealanders are curious,” said Jacobs. “They’re very aware of what is around them and what is actually beyond them. New Zealanders will try all sorts of things.”
She gives the example of the steamed hangi buns — frozen Taiwanese-style bao filled with meat cooked in a traditional Maori style — that fly off the shelves of her local supermarket.
It is only fairly recently that, after 150 years of being ignored by non-Maori chefs and food writers, Maori cuisine has begun to be given its due outside Maori communities. Gradually, native ingredients like kawakawa or fiddlehead ferns, as well as traditional cooking techniques, have inspired non-Maori New Zealand chefs like Al Brown or Ben Bayly. More recently, a new cookbook about Maori cuisine by Christall Lowe, “Kai,” has been astonishingly popular.
“She has absolutely captured, in my mind, where New Zealand food has come to,” Jacobs said. “And it’s the first time we’ve seen it in a mainstream cookbook.”
All of this — and we didn’t even get to New Zealand’s craft beer scene. Perhaps another time.
Now for the week’s stories.