NZ Food: Chocolate Fish, Pineapple Lumps & Hokey Pokey

Besides the “is this real life?” views and the fact that it’s normal to go barefoot, New Zealand isn’t all that different. As evidenced by this post, our culture shock level has remained pretty low. 

But after analysing the very important topic of coffee orders early into the blogging venture, I’ll comment on an equally vital issue… the slight differences in FOOD.

After Brett picked me up from the airport back in September, he took me to the cutest beachfront cafe in Takapuna. It was the perfect setting – slightly upscale with amazing views. But beyond the beverages, I couldn’t decipher what nearly anything on the menu was. After close to 24 hours of travel (and emotions running high) I was too tired to Google every ingredient, and too hungry to take my chances. So we ended up going someplace more mainstream.

But what I didn’t realise then, was that a lot of produce have different names here. If only I’d known those unfamiliar words were veggies and not strange meats. Now I’m sure I’d really enjoy much of that menu — we’ve since been back but only for iced coffees and ice cream.

Here’s the rundown of some of the new Kiwiana vocab we’ve learned:

Vegetables with different names:

  • Capsicum – Bell peppers
  • Courgettes – Zucchini
  • Beetroot – Beet
  • Cos – Romaine
  • Kumara – Sweet potato
  • Agria – Type of common potato
  • Kiwifruit – A kiwi is a New Zealander or the bird

Other foods with different names:

  • Muesli – Granola
  • Toastie – Grilled Cheese
  • Lollies – Gummy candy (any non-chocolate, really)
  • Candy floss – Cotton candy
  • Tasty cheese – Cheddar
  • Tomato sauce – Ketchup’s equivalent (Watties is their version of Heinz)
  • Mince – ground beef, and commonly served on toast
  • Iced Coffee – elaborate coffee creation with ice cream

NZ-specific foods:

  • Chocolate Fish – marshmallow-covered chocolates in the shape of fish
  • Pineapple Lumps – pineapple-flavoured chewy (Starburst-like) substance, covered in chocolate
  • Feijoa – popular fruit that apparently tastes like a pineapple-guava hybrid
  • Cuppa – As in cuppa tea, cuppa coffee, etc.
  • Hokey Pokey – A special type of toffee, especially popular in ice cream
  • Pies – Hot pies are everywhere! Similar to a chicken pot pie, they come in a million flavours, but almost all savoury
  • L&P – Lemon & Paeroa soda… “World Famous in New Zealand”

More differences…

To add to the confusion, “entree” means appetizer (which actually makes sense!), and “mains” are entrees. Takeout food is called “takeaways.” And along those lines, if you order a coffee you’ll likely be asked “for here or for takeaway?”.

My favourite Kiwi-ism is that there’s no need for extra words to indicate the container you’d like your food in. “I’ve already had two wines” means that you’ve had two glasses of wine. Or if you want to go out for a scoop of ice cream, don’t bother saying “some” or a “cone/cup of” – “I’ll have an ice cream, please” will suffice.

Other than the names of foods, there’s really not that much difference in actual cuisine. Beef and dairy taste different (I say “gamier”) because it’s fresher and grass-fed. On some menus, you’ll actually see “grain-finished” touted as the premium choice! We do miss: American pizza as crust leaves something to be desired here (and I don’t appreciate scallops or lamb as a topping – seriously, check out the NZ Domino’s menu); and elaborate sushi rolls for dinner (it’s a lunch thing here, and you generally pick it by the single piece vs. rolls).


Bottom line, Auckland is a big, international city with tons of good food options. It’s no San Francisco, Chicago, or DC, but it holds it’s own. We’re enjoying discovering new restaurants (on Zomato, Yelp’s equivalent), establishing our locals, and eating our way through this city!

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