Mega-Hangi being put down for 2011 Kawhia Kai Festival

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Aotearoas largest collective hangi will be being put down to feed the thousands expected at this years Kawhia Kai Festival being held on Saturday, February 5 as part of the nations Waitangi Day celebrations.

Hangi experts at four local K?whia marae are now preparing the huge fire pits, cooking stones, and food baskets to hold the mountains of pork, chicken, beef, and vegetables to feed the 10,000 visitors expected, says Festival organiser, Hinga Whiu.

Of the 25 food stalls offering traditional Maori kai this year, four are dedicated just to hangi food and are always the big favourites, says Hinga.

Using manuka wood which burns very hot, the hangi teams at each marae light the fires in the early hours of the morning to heat the cooking stones. Around dawn, the covered food baskets will be laid in the cooking pits, layered with the hot stones and finally mounded with soil to allow the food to steam in its own juices. Its a fine art to get the cooking time rightand the results are delicious!

The hangi food baskets are then dug up in time for lunch at the Festival site on Kawhias Omiti Reserve. Each portion of hangi is served in traditional kono food baskets which have been woven from local flax.

For many non-Maori, the Kawhia Kai Festival is the first time they have been able to experience the delicacies that come out of the hangi let alone the other traditional kai on offer, explains Hinga.

And those other traditional kai come from both the land and sea and include such delicacies as Toroi (marinated mussels and puha), Creamed Paua and Kina, Inanga (Whitebait patties), Kanga Wai/Pirau (fermented corn), Puha and pork spring rolls, Pawhara (smoked fish and eel) as well as the local Waikato delicacy – Koki (shark liver pate).

Visitors to the Festival will also be able to enjoy a full day of entertainment introduced by Te Arawa FM radio presenter Kingi Biddle. All coming from the Waikato region, the lineup includes six-piece band NRG Rising, Zionhill, Tasty Brown, Stingray, soloist Tania Smith, rappers Statik West and hip hop artists Shine Forum.

There will also be more than two hours of kapahaka performed by three Waikato regional kapahaka groups – Ngati Mahanga Wh?nui from Whatawhata, Nga Mauri Taniwha from Aramiro, and a young kapahaka group from Te Awamutu Intermediate School.

In addition to the 25 stalls offering traditional Maori food, more than 20 stalls will be displaying traditional M?ori arts & crafts such as weaving and carving.

Held on Omiti Reserve by the shores of the tranquil Kawhia Harbour on the west coast of New Zealands North Island, the Festival is a unique celebration of Maori cuisine and is rated by The Lonely Planet Travel Guide as one of the top ten must see Maori experiences for visitors to visit.

Attracting New Zealanders of all ages and backgrounds, the Festival opens with a mihi whakatau welcome and blessing at 9am. Gate entry will be $5 for adults and children over 5, while a family pass for two adults and up to four children will cost $15.

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