Cooker gives real hangi ex­pe­ri­ence

Taranaki Daily News - - Business - Deena Coster

A de­sire to re-cre­ate the au­then­tic taste of hangi, with­out the has­sle of hav­ing to pre­pare the tra­di­tional pit, is the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind one Waitara man’s in­ven­tion.

Af­ter about 18 months of work­ing on the idea, John Tipene, of Ngati Awa and Tainui de­scent, has come up with a square­shaped hangi cooker, which uses gas-heated river stones to cook the food. ‘‘The suc­cess of the prod­uct is in the ko­hatu, in the stones,’’ he said.

Al­though he said the prin­ci­ple of heat­ing stones might sound sim­ple, it had taken him a lot of time to per­fect the process in or­der to get con­sis­tent re­sults.

The stones, which are lo­cated at the bot­tom of the stain­less steel container, are heated by a blower, which can be at­tached to any reg­u­lar gas bot­tle. Tipene said it took about an hour or so for the rocks to heat up. ‘‘They’ll glow white hot,’’ he said.

Once the rocks are heated, the kai bas­kets are then put in and left for about two to three hours to cook.

Tipene said he ini­tially used old kegs to make the cook­ers, with the first 40 sell­ing within days on Trade Me. But since mov­ing to the box shaped model, he had al­ready made and sold 100 of them around New Zealand and in Aus­tralia.

The 51-year-old, who also owns a civil con­struc­tion busi­ness, said he made all of the cook­ers at his home-based work­shop.

‘‘Ini­tially it took three days to make one. Now I can make three in one day,’’ he said.

With a mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tional plan now in place for the busi­ness, in­clud­ing help from Ven­ture Taranaki and Te Puni Kokiri, Tipene said he ex­pected the hangi cooker would be pop­u­lar with in­creas­ing num­bers of cus­tomers.

He said it ap­pealed to people who lived in ur­ban ar­eas or in rental prop­er­ties who wanted to have hangi, but who were not al­lowed to dig holes or light fires on their sec­tions.

Tipene said he be­lieved the en­dur­ing love for hangi recog­nised not only Maori tra­di­tions, but it was also some­thing which com­forted people. ‘‘When we eat a hangi some­where else, it re­minds us of home,’’ he said.

The prod­uct, known as Te Ko­hatu Hangi Cooker, was of­fi­cially launched at Waitara’s Cainz Cafe last Fri­day, along with a web­site and on­line in­struc­tional video.

Pho­tos: DEENA COSTER/FAIR­FAX NZ

Unique de­sign: Waitara’s John Tipene has de­vel­oped a mo­bile hangi cooker which uses heated river stones to cook the food.

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