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In this week's feature, reporter Melissa Nightingale takes her love of food to the streets...

BELIEVE IT or not, there are reasons to love working in a candy shop besides being surrounded by lollies and fudge all day, every day.

For Thistle Sweet Shop owner Sharlene Millar, it's about the people.

"Everyone who comes in, they're in buying something they enjoy. It's a real happy place. Happy customers," she said.


Thistle, which has been around for 80 years, is known for its fudge, which Mrs Millar and her family and staff have a lot of fun experimenting with.

"For us it's a lot of really playing around. We try things and you come up with a flavour and everyone loves it and you know to continue that. That's why we have so many flavours now.

"Most of the ones out there we've actually sort of created. They used to have a maximum of 12 flavours. Since we took over it's nothing for us to have 26 flavours out there."

Mrs Millar recalls finding a recipe for a fudge named 'OMG'.

The chocolate-based fudge was also made with peanut butter, Oreos, marshmallow and caramel sauce.

"We made it, and the kids are like: 'You're too old, you can't call this fudge OMG, it doesn't sound right.'"

So the fudge sat in the store unnamed for a week, until customers began trying it and saying, "Oh, that's seriously good," Mrs Millar said.

Seriously Good is just one of the flavours they've played with.

"We look at what's popular in the market."

When Jelly Tip icecream was making waves, Mrs Millar brought out a Jelly Tip fudge. They also tried a salted caramel fudge.

"Goody Goody Gumdrops was my children wanting that one."

Mrs Millar said they would follow what was happening with icecream flavours.

Other interesting flavours include blueberry cheesecake and jam donut - which she said has "really taken off".

Mrs Millar's favourite part of fudge-making is "coming up with new ideas and watching people's reactions, the enjoyment they get out of eating it". On average they make two batches of fudge a week, which comes out to six trays.

However, they understandably see a boost in fudge sales around Christmas, as well as Mother's Day and Father's Day.

Over the Christmas period they were cooking up batches of fudge nearly every day, Mrs Millar said.

It take three to four hours in the fudge maker for each batch to be made.

She said the secret to great, smooth fudge is "basically just doing everything to the recipe, and making sure that you don't take any shortcuts".

"Giving it the time it needs" was also important.

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FOR TAESU and Mijin Kim at Tokyo Roll Black, the secret to great sushi is a special recipe passed down from Taesu's grandmother.

"You have to make the sushi rice with traditional sushi vinegar," Mr Kim said.

"My grandmother is really good at making sushi."

He said he used his grandmother's handmade vinegar to get his rice the perfect consistency, but can't put into words what that consistency feels like.

"Not sticky, not dry. I couldn't explain to you," he said.

The couple first came to New Zealand from in 2007 on their honeymoon, then moved here from Seoul, Korea, in 2012.

Sushi in New Zealand is somewhat different to what would be found in Japan or Korea, Mr Kim said.

"Japan sushi is very small, very tiny. And they normally put just one ingredient. No chicken, just fish, raw fish. We don't put all together, we just make separate."

He tried to make traditional sushi while working for a year in the United States, but people didn't eat it.

He said sushi was Japan's equivalent of fish and chips in New Zealand.

"We like New Zealand sushi. I can put every ingredient which I like. Especially spicy chicken, I never made before."

Mrs Kim struggled to pick her favourite flavour, but settled on two: salmon and teriyaki chicken, adding the latter is the store's bestseller.

She buys fresh ingredients every morning, and they spend three hours preparing them before starting to make sushi about 9.30am.

They found New Zealanders weren't particularly adventurous with their sushi eating, and had to take octopus off their menu as they were throwing too much away. But Whanganui was a good place for a sushi restaurant, as it didn't have as much competition as a larger city.

When asked whether they'd like to say anything else, Mr Kim laughed.

"We want to say a lot, but we can't speak English."

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WHAT GOES into making the perfect pizza?

According to Stoked Pizza owner Maree Baggott: water, flour, yeast, oil, and "lots of sweat".

"Not literally," Mrs Baggott adds as she sits in her pizza bus - the only one in New Zealand, she says - with the woodfire pizza oven crackling away behind her.

Eighteen months ago, Mrs Baggott and her husband Russell decided they wanted to do "something different".

"I wanted to get into food because I like food. At the end of the day, I'm a business person, I've got to make money. We thought we'd do woodfired pizzas because they're so yummy."

When they started out, the Baggotts knew little about making pizzas, but dove into researching different recipes, settling on an Italian neapolitan style.

"We made our own recipes from scratch, created our own menu . . . when we started, our pizzas weren't great. Now, they're great. We've mastered them."

Mrs Baggott uses only manuka wood in her pizza oven, which she says is the only wood that should be used, "because of the flavours and the heat and the clean burning".

"We cook straight on the stones, we don't use trays or anything like that."

The Baggotts start their work day buying fresh ingredients and preparing them. The fire is lit about two hours before they begin making pizzas, and it cooks them in two minutes at 310 degrees.

"That's how hot the oven is, that's the sort of dough we use."

During the flooding in June, Stoked Pizza gave "heaps" of free pizzas away, and often gave free pizzas to the police.

"We ring them, say 'hey, man, we've got 20 pizzas for you, come and get them'."

Mrs Baggott said it was not long before someone would show up to collect.

She finds their Meateor pizza is the bestseller out of the 16 flavours on their menu, which includes two dessert pizzas.

"People trip out at those," she said of the dessert pizzas, one of which contains mixed nuts, chocolate sauce, mozzarella cheese, white chocolate and a salted caramel swirl.

The other is made with stewed apple and mozzarella cheese, cinnamon, brown sugar, and a custard swirl.

"It's a passion. We live for this now. Creating something, that feeling of satisfaction, of 'voilà'. Also people, because I love people. It's long hours and it's hard work, but it's worth it."