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Taste of traditional kai cooked in 21st century hāngī cooker on Māngere Mountain

Riria Dalton-Reedy, Te Rito Journalism cadet

A new hāngī pit is now open for whānau wanting to cook traditional Māori kai in a 21st century style pit in Māngere.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Ko Te Pane o Mataoho te maunga.

Ko Te Mānukanukatanga o Hoturoa te moana.

Te Ākitai Waiohua te iwi.

Te Pane o Mataoho is the mountain.

Te Mānukanukatanga of Hoturoa is the ocean.

The Akitai Waiohua people

Located on Te Pane o Mataoho/Māngere Mountain, the pit was officially opened yesterday.

The hāngī pit is a partnership between the Tūpuna Maunga Authority and Auckland Council.

Renowned Māori chef and Hāngī Master owner Rewi Spraggon (Te Waiohua, Ngāti Hine) says he started the pit design almost two years ago.

“The whole idea of this was to help the community.”

Spraggon says the name hāngī is translated in two parts:

- the essence of life and ngī - the internal spark of Papatūānuku (Mother Earth).

Mahi kai is in Spraggon’s blood - a whānau affair as hangī knowledge was passed down through the generations.

“All of the tikanga [protocol] that I’ve learned is through [my dad] and through his father.”

‘When I cook, I cook with my ancestors’

Spraggon never met his grandfather but continues his legacy by using his hāngī rocks.

“When I cook, I cook with my ancestors.”

The chef describes this lifelong journey as amazing.

“I always say you can pick what you want in life and sometimes something picks you. For me, hāngī has picked me [and] that’s been my main goal is to teach people, promote it and make it normal again.”

Groups can book in to experience the hāngī process from preparing kai to heating rocks over mānuka, learning the rich history of the whenua and the sweet smell of the Māori earth oven.

The pit can cook up to 400 hāngī at once which Spraggon says is fit for community events and fundraisers.

“Basically, we’re giving people the experience of [a] true hāngī.”

The new facility allows those living in the city to make a traditional hāngī in a safe environment.

“This is a registered council environment [which complies with] food safety standards as well. [People] will still be under my staff, so that the food safety and everything is done properly.”

Food is said to be the gateway to many cultures.

“For me it is soul food - especially the hāngī - and it brings everyone together. The whole connection [and] intertwining of the whānau is in the process of cooking hāngī.”

Spraggon has taken his culinary talents to the world stage and fused many kai with traditional hāngī.

“I’ve cooked everything from sea lion, buffalo [and] crocodile in the [hāngī] pits.”

However, even the hāngī master himself has limits with the famous kai - a meal he cooks almost daily.

Exploring other cultures and flavours in traditional hāngī

Spraggon jokingly admits, “I don’t eat the hāngī because I’m over it.

“[But] you can’t beat mutton bird in the hāngī it’s just so delicious. [If I] cook mutton bird I’ll always eat [it].”

Spraggon hopes to explore other cultures and flavours within this hāngī pit and encourages all ethnic groups to fuse their traditional kai here.

“It’s not just about the normal hāngī styles - we’re crossing cultures and using this methodology to actually cook some of the best Greek dishes, some of the best Italian dishes in the hāngī.”

Spraggon says his company Hāngi Master is expanding its horizons to the South Island, setting up a hāngī pit in Queenstown.

The hāngī pit in Māngere is open for members of the public to book via the website.

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