Kiwis say ka pai to pie kai

Bacon and egg pie. Photo / Nicola Topping
Bacon and egg pie. Photo / Nicola Topping

New Zealand has decided, the votes are counted and the judges' verdict is in: Our national dish is not fish 'n' chips, pavlova, nor a pork and puha boil-up. It is the old-fashioned bacon-and-egg pie.

A staple of almost every Kiwi picnic, the bacon-and-egg pie has pipped whitebait fritters to take the title.

Last week, the Herald on Sunday asked readers to nominate the definitive Kiwi kai, a dish that we do like no one else. It was about finding a dish that evoked memories of home for Kiwis around the globe.

That is why, perhaps, the bacon-and-egg pie beat whitebait fritters. While those whose family and friends can catch whitebait love it, it can be difficult to find for others. Similarly, the boil-up may often be enjoyed on the marae, but less so in the cities.

When the votes were counted, roast lamb with mint sauce, the traditional meat pie, whitebait fritters, and bacon-and-egg pie topped the list.

A small judges' panel was assembled to choose the winner. MasterChef judge and Euro restaurant owner Simon Gault, Auckland Museum Kai to Pie exhibition curator Rose Young and the Herald on Sunday's Jonathan Milne applied various criteria (some more robust than others) and declared the bacon-and-egg pie the winner.

It's popular, you can buy or make it just about anywhere, it's authentic and it evokes memories of summer at the beach like almost nothing else.

Lisa Smith from Northcote Point, one of the pie's nominees, says it is best served warm on an early evening picnic. "It's accompanied by a handful of fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden, and some home baking for dessert."

And Norma Mackie of Whitianga says: "I have never known a man, particularly, to say no to a piece of bacon-and-egg pie... I have always made them to take on picnics, on the boat."

If you're a vegetarian, or don't eat pork, you can always take the classic New Zealand asparagus roll on your picnic.

New Zealand's changing face is also reflected in nominations for lasagne and Indian butter chicken. And an honourable mention must go to the egg burger with beetroot.

Of course, there can be no argument about New Zealand's national dessert. The pavlova still reigns supreme.

* * *


Last week we asked readers to write in with their own Kiwi kai recipe, to be in with a chance to win a very special meal for two at one of the country's finest restaurants, Euro at Auckland's Viaduct.

And we have a winner: Marian Harkness from Orakei, Auckland.

Simon Gault, Euro's owner and chef, chose her recipe for whitebait fritters. Courtesy of Simon, Marian and a friend will enjoy a purpose-designed menu with wines matched to each course. He also commended Janice Schonewill's recipe for mussel fritters and Norma Mackie's recipe for bacon and egg pie.

Whitebait fritters

Serves 4

* 400g whitebait
* 4 eggs
* l Tbsp NZ butter
* large pinch of nutmeg
* salt and ground black pepper

1) Whisk eggs well. Add nutmeg and salt & pepper.

2) Fold in whitebait.

3) Heat frying pan. Add butter. When hot, drop in large tablespoons of mixture, enough for individual fritters.

4) Fry 2 minutes per side or until it colours.

* Serve with lemon or mayonnaise.

NB: Note there is no flour in this recipe and the flavour comes through well.

* * *


Memories of soup

It provoked a real memory lane trip seeing your photo of the canned toheroa soup. I was living in Papua New Guinea, in 1971, a newlywed aged 19. The local supermarket had tins of toheroa soup but no one was buying it as most generally didn't know what it was. I made an offer to the manager for the lot and got it for 15 cents a tin. We padded out this delicacy with fresh locally caught seafood and many a fellow Kiwi dined well at our table. It somehow made home nearer too, having this comfort food available. In the 50s and 60s we would all be loaded into our uncle's big old Hudson Hornet car and drive over to the Dargaville beaches to dig for toheroa.

- Julia Davey, Whangarei

Can't beat a roast

Kiwi cuisine is the roast, normally lamb, with roast potatoes, pumpkin and sweet potato. This meal makes even the house cat shake its tail, and the kids to shut their mouths (or open them). It is traditionally served with a mint sauce.

- Ash Naidoo, Epsom

Flex a mussel

I think it would have to be the mussel fritter at the local fundraiser. Of course this has to be fried on the barbecue 'til crispy on the outside. Traditionally it is put on a slice of bread for easy eating at the school gala or rugby game and is even better with a bit of fresh watercress and/or a squeeze of lemon. Yum with beer for the boys or a cool sav blanc. For different twists, fresh coriander is delicious in the mix and serve with lime juice and chilli sauce! Divine!

- Janice Anne Schonewille, Whitianga

Eat it

The humble pie.

- Thomas Mathew, St Johns, Auckland

Beet it

Kia ora, my idea of one single perfect dish that best epitomises what it means to be a Kiwi in 2010 is a simple egg and beetroot cheeseburger (with sliced tomato, lettuce and grated carrot) served with beer battered wedges and a plain creaming soda milkshake (made with an actual egg in it) to drink.

- Johnny Ray McAuley, Mt Albert

Thanks for the fish

My favourite Kiwi-ism in food is the humble chocolate fish: The soft, pink, marshmallowy inside combined with the wrinkled chocolate outside, is scrumptious. We end up having to post them abroad to people who visit us and we always have a bowlful at home.

- Xanthe-Jane Noble, Cockle Bay, Auckland

Lamb and cricket

Every time I say we are having roast lamb the kids and their friends all turn up... and finally a game of cricket on the lawn or a cold beer for the less adventurous.

- Josie Slack, One Tree Hill

Sausages sizzle

The sausage sizzle is definitely one popular method of fundraising here. Although it is something that can be eaten anywhere in the world, when living in Italy their sausages did not compare to New Zealand-made. It was definitely a meal that made me feel right back at home when I returned.

- Hayley Moore, Titirangi

- Herald on Sunday

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