Hangi (pronounced hung-ee) is a unique Maori way of cooking that is native to New Zealand. "Good tucker" aptly applies here, which means "good eats," and "good eating." A hangi is an event and a process. As an event, it's a reason for a social party revolving around the presentation and eating of food.
The hangi method is steaming and smoking meats and root vegetables and can be done two ways. Hangi food -- lamb shoulder, lamb leg roast, pork roast and a muslin bag of squash, onion, potato, kumara (a sweet potato), herbs, salt and pepper -- is wrapped in huge cabbage leaves and placed in an underground pit with hot rocks, where it is covered and cooked.
Considering we drank beer every day on our three week vacation (like the Kiwis we were with), a beer-related hangi seemed apropos. This updated modern hangi happens in, you guessed it, a revamped beer keg. According to our hosts, Paul and Marie Whiting of Simpsons Beach, the beer keg hangi saves a lot of headaches. They had attended hangis using the underground method where the (drunk) cooks on duty opened the cooking pit too early. Once all that precious steam and heat escapes, there is not another chance to re-do it, which leads to undercooked meat and hungry, frustrated guests. Other factors effect the underground hangi: changes in weather, and not getting the rocks used for heating hot enough.
A propane tank is the heat source for the keg hangi. Next comes two kinds of New Zealand tree sawdust that are mixed and added to the keg base. The hangi is lit and heated for 30-45 minutes. Water is then poured on the dust, which provides the steam action. Veggies should be halved and the cabbage leaves rinsed. A basket will hold the hangi cabbage (first layer), followed by meats and veggies. The veggies pick up a meaty smokiness to them from laying on top of the meat.
How did the hangi taste three hours later? Smoky, tender, juicy, and hearty. The meats all had the texture of braised pork, and were succulent. It was a simple, straightforward meal. My favorite bites were of farm fresh lamb, onion, and kumara. Of course, every gathering needs a sweet ending. Ours came in the way of a pavlova made by the hosts' 78-year old Mum, and a carrot cake by my aunt.
Oscar and I stayed late enough to watch Merle Haggard and other country western legends on a DVD from the early seventies. Paul couldn't believe we "young folks" knew many of the songs. He was having so much fun, he offered a room for us to stay in, which we should've done. I was too hung up on having a tooth brush, face medicine, and jammies to accept. I'm guessing we missed a chance to continue drinking, listening to music and talking. I wish we had stayed over.