“The Hangi has always been the way to celebrate the end of the year festivities in my whanau (family) and hapu (friends, extended family, neighbours). The Hangi is how we Maori prepare large amounts of food in an underground oven for a significant gathering of people.
My father would wake me early in the morning to help him dig out a pit that would be big enough to house white hot rocks and baskets of food to be cooked. The fire would be lit and it would continue to burn for up to 3 – 4 hours.
At about lunch time it was time to create the Hangi. Everything had to be done very quickly and be well-coordinated to capture as much of the heat as possible. First, the pit was cleared of all the ash by shovels and the hot rocks are left at the bottom. Then the baskets of food would be brought out and placed on top of the hot rocks. Then the soaking sheets would be layered over the baskets of food. Once the sheets were down then the soaking burlap sacks would be layered over that – everything is lost in a great cloud of steam. Once the burlap sacks were in place then the earth that was dug out to create the pit would be placed on top of the whole Hangi creation. The earth would effectively seal all the heat into the Hangi and that is how the food would be cooked – steamed to a culinary perfection. Then we wait.
In about 5 hours’ time, the earth would be shoveled away very carefully. The burlap sacks and sheets would be peeled back, and the steaming baskets of food would be revealed. The aroma of the Hangi as this process occurs is almost indescribable but it makes my mouth water just writing this. All the foods cooked in the Hangi have an earthy, smokey and extremely pleasing taste. The baskets of food would be brought to tables and a karakia (prayer) would be spoken before we ate:
Nau mai e nga hua
O te wao, O te ngakina, O te wai tai, O te wai Maori.
Na Tane, Na Rongo, Na Tangaroa, Na Maru.
Ko Ranginui e tu iho nei, Ko Papatuanuku takoto nei.
Tuturu whakamaua. Kia tina…Tina! Hui e, Taiki e.
We welcome the gifts of food:
From the sacred forests, from the cultivated gardens, from the sea, and from the fresh waters. It is the food of Tane, of Rongo, of Tangaroa, and of Maru
We acknowledge Ranginui – sky father, who is above us. Papatuanuku – earth mother, who lies beneath us. We affirm all of this as we gather and feast.
Affirmed!” -Shared by Paul, Power To Be staff.