Fresh spring rolls

The new New Zealand is mak­ing bet­ter cooks of us all

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CANVAS & BREAST CANCER FOUNDATION NZ -

The other day I jumped in the car, brav­ing Auck­land’s traf­fic to head over the bridge to a Korean food mar­ket in Al­bany. Ear­lier in the year a col­league turned up with the gift of a bunch of fresh shiso (per­illa) leaves and a stunning por­ta­ble Korean bar­be­cue pur­chased there, so I’d been hang­ing out to get up there my­self to check it out.

Walk­ing into the store was like be­ing in Kore­atown in Los An­ge­les. The sig­nage was all in Korean, the prod­ucts were all Korean, and ev­ery­one spoke Korean and hardly any English. I had no idea what half the stuff for sale was, but there were so many things I wanted to try. I came away with red rice (my lo­cal Korean take­away makes a fab­u­lous bibim­bap us­ing this tasty, nu­tri­tious rice), fresh kim­chi and a cou­ple of pack­ets of rice pa­per wrap­pers. I could eas­ily have stocked up on ev­ery imag­in­able Asian pantry sup­ply — and it was all so cheap.

More than 200 eth­nic groups are recorded as liv­ing in Auck­land and it is now con­sid­ered more cul­tur­ally di­verse than Lon­don or Syd­ney. With nearly 40 per cent of Auck­land res­i­dents born out­side New Zealand and nearly a quar­ter of th­ese iden­ti­fy­ing with one or more Asian eth­nic groups, it comes as no sur­prise that there’s amaz­ing Asian food and a huge range of Asian in­gre­di­ents here.

But it’s not just Asians who are chang­ing the face of the New Zealand plate. Half of the Mid­dle Eastern, Latin Amer­i­can and African eth­nic group pop­u­la­tions in New Zealand also live in Auck­land. Head to­wards Pen­rose and you will find some amaz­ing Le­banese food. San­dring­ham is a hub for all flavours In­dian, and wan­der­ing down Do­min­ion Rd you can pretty much eat the world. From all over the globe, im­mi­grants are bring­ing us the flavours and dishes of their home­lands, mak­ing our food scene one of the most dy­namic in the world. This is the new New Zealand, and it’s mak­ing bet­ter cooks of all of us.

Tast­ing a new in­gre­di­ent opens the door to a new cul­ture and, with it, new ways of look­ing at food. Be­fore long you find your­self ref­er­enc­ing th­ese new flavours in your own cook­ing, in new and fresh ways.

Rice pa­per wraps are a great ex­am­ple of the way a new in­gre­di­ent as­sim­i­lates and morphs into our Kiwi cul­ture. We buy them, not­ing how cheap they are, and, back in the kitchen, quickly es­tab­lish how easy they are to work with (there are just a cou­ple of tricks – watch me show­ing Niva Re­ti­manu the ropes at

We make some rolls, likely start­ing with the tried and true clas­sic Asian com­bi­na­tions. In such a sim­ple way our culi­nary lan­guage ex­pands and morphs. At home, th­ese in­gre­di­ents make everyday cook­ing so much more in­ter­est­ing. Like all of the Spring­board Recipes in my new book Es­sen­tial, once you know the ba­sic for­mula, you can change up the in­gre­di­ents to suit the sea­sons, your mood and what you’ve got to hand in the pantry. This is the new New Zealand food scene. Aren’t we lucky!


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