Cooking for a crowd – Māori-style!


Hāngi is an ancient New Zealand Māori method of cooking food using super-heated rocks buried in the ground in a pit oven. A hāngi is not generally intended to be an intimate dinner for two, it aims to satisfy a large group and will include lots of root vegetables and meat. These days “laying a hāngi” might be saved more for a special occasion due to the lengthy preparations that are required, but the general concept remains the same and every Kiwi across the country will have tasted food from this amazing method of cooking.

Unless you have ever been invited to a hāngi this word may not be familiar to you, but in New Zealand it is as well known as saying “roast”, “bake” or “fry”. Māori is an official language of New Zealand (along with English), and although there are relatively few fluent speakers of the language (around 157,000 people), there are certain words that every Kiwi knows and uses in daily life.

In case you are ever planning a trip to Aotearoa (the Māori word for New Zealand, literally meaning long white cloud), I thought I would share a few of these with you so you can always keep up with the whānau!

Lets start with the alphabet – Māori language is simple in the fact that it has 5 vowels and only 10 consonants. The vowels in Māori can be pronounced as either short or long sounds, so in written form, the long vowels carry a macron e.g. ā. Māori words always end in a vowel. Consonants are always followed by a vowel. A vowel can also follow another vowel. The Māori vowels are a, e, i, o, u with long versions ā, ē, ī, ō, ū. The Māori consonants are p, t, k, m, n, ng, wh, r, h, w.

The “wh” is said similar to an “f” sound, and the “ng” is is a nasal sound, like at the end of “thing”. Two consonants never appear together – “wh” and “ng” function as single consonants.

• Hui – a meeting of any kind; a conference or gathering (sounds like who-ee using Englsh sounds)
• Haere Mai! – Welcome! Enter!
• Kia Ora! – Hi! Hello! (a non-formal greeting)
• Tangata Whenua – the original people belonging to a place, local people, hosts
• Whānau – extended (non-nuclear) family – can be “extended” pretty far!
• Puku – belly, stomach (yours will probably be pretty full after the hāngi!)
• Haka – war dance with actions (made famous by the All Blacks rugby team, see the video below)
• Kai – food,
• Pākeha – New Zealander of non- Māori decent, usually European

For some great tips at pronunciation, here is a cool link with audio clips for each word so you can hear a native speaker: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/culture/maori-language-week/100-maori-words

Maori is a beautiful sounding language, and can be very poetic in its descriptions of people and places. As a perfect example, take a look at this word – currently in the running for the longest place name in the world: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu. This Māori mouthful translates into English as “the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as ‘landeater,’ played his flute to his loved one.” How romantic!

And just before I go, here is a video of the All Blacks performing the haka before a match, an awesome sight, enough to make any Kiwi feel homesick!

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2 thoughts on “Cooking for a crowd – Māori-style!”

  1. Pingback: Breakfast, Brunch and Brinner? - Lexiophiles

  2. The Maori translation is incorrect – this version of the name Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu doesn’t mention the knees or the mountain swallowing. The correct translation of the version given here is:

    Taumata-whakatangihanga-koauau-o-tamatea-pokai-whenua-ki-tana-tahu
    The summit where Tamatea the circumnavigator of the land played the flute to his beloved.

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