Elevating TRENZ (short for the industry event ‘Tourism Rendezvous New Zealand’) cuisine with experiential elements and sharing the stories and history behind the flavours, will give event delegates a deeper understanding of Rotorua this week.
Destination Rotorua chief executive Michelle Templer says hosting travel professionals from around the world is the perfect opportunity to showcase the exceptional indigenous flavours, locally sourced ingredients, a blend of traditional Māori and contemporary techniques and storytelling interaction by chefs.
“Rotorua has an incredible story to share through food. We can communicate the importance of the elements around us, and showcase the produce from our fertile volcanic soils, with indigenous ingredients adding flavour.
“In New Zealand, kai is all about sharing, enjoying and socialising, so what better way to engage our visitors than by showing what makes this place remarkably different to any other food destination in the world?”
Leading the experience at the Energy Event Centre TRENZ bar was nationally recognised chef Natasha Whitewood who flew onto the foodie scene in 2017, when she and on-screen partner Hera Te Kurapa showcased their culinary skills on My Kitchen Rules (MKR).
Natasha served up hāngī wontons with horopito sweet chilli sauce, as well as ngāwhā (thermal) corn fritters, with beetroot, watercress, karengo kawakawa mayo, and nut dukkah, presented on a Farmers Market barrow to represent where the ingredients came from.
“The ngāwhā corn fritters are a fusion of Rotorua and my whakapapa. Rotorua is incorporated as the fritters are cooked at Whakarewarewa Māori Village in a ngāwhā which is a traditional cooking technique for Māori – it tells of who we are cooking-wise as a destination.
“The wider storytelling of my whakapapa is the incorporation of my style as I like to cook with indigenous produce such as kawakawa, utilising world flavours and whānau favourites. Corn fritters are a dish my dad cooked for breakfast when we were little.
“The whakapapa of the hāngī wonton canapé relates to Rotorua being the cultural heart of Aotearoa and known in tourism for a hāngī and concert experience.
“I have also travelled through Asia, so I have taken that personal experience to add a fusion twist to the wonton, bound by smoky hāngī flavours representing Rotorua.
“For the accompanying sauce, I have taken the Asian sweet chilli sauce and its similar indigenous partner – the Māori horopito chilli plant, to reflect Rotorua – a melting pot of culture with tourists coming in and adding to our own flavours.”
Local produce and cooking styles were also showcased at a function for media and TRENZ sponsors at the Blue Baths, in an evening embracing Rotorua’s elements with interactive chef and cocktail stations reflecting wai (water), hau (air), whenua (earth) and ahi (fire).
The wai station was an ice bar featuring the house chef filleting fresh fish ceviche style using mirror dory and king fish, frozen dressing and dry ice for effect. It was served with New Zealand-inspired salad.
The whenua element station focused on locally sourced, organic, sustainable, vegetables – both seasonal and fermented with clever twists.
Natasha's ngāwhā corn fritter recipe
Pinch chilli flakes
440g creamed corn
1 beaten egg
2 beaten egg whites (stiff)
3/4C cooked corn kernels
3/4C standard flour
1t baking powder
Handful of chopped coriander
1. Add creamed corn, cooked corn, S&P, chilli flakes, beaten egg, coriander and oil to bowl
2. Sift flour and baking powder in, stir
3. Fold through egg whites
4. Fry spoonfuls in a pan until golden
To find out more about Natasha, visit: www.natashawhitewood.com