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Dinner on the Rocks
Rotorua, the cultural home of the Maori, is the best place to experience a hangi, a traditional Maori feast for which the meal-to-be is cooked over steaming vents. Several local organizations offer the chance to try this slow-cooked treat, paired with a concert—an evening that may remind you of a Hawaiian luau. Don't pass it up!
As a manuhiri (guest), you'll get the full treatment, beginning with a powhiri, the awe-inspiring Maori welcome that generally includes the wero (challenge), the karanga (cries of welcome), and the hongi, or pressing together of noses, an age-old Maori gesture that shows friendship. If you're not comfortable bouncing noses, a simple handshake will suffice.
While the food cooks, a show begins with haunting harmonious singing, foot stamping, and poi twirling (rhythmic swinging of balls on strings). The performance might raise the hair on the back of your neck—but this will be assuaged with food, glorious food. The lifting of the hangi will produce pork, sometimes lamb and chicken, kumara (sweet potato), vegetables, and maybe fish and other seafood, followed by dessert.
Holiday Inn Rotorua. Attend an excellent cultural show and hangi for NZ$69. 10 Tryon St., Rotorua, 3043. 07/348-1189. www.holidayinnrotorua.co.nz.
Matariki Hangi and Concert. Starting at 6:30 pm in a hall almost alongside the Rotorua Lakeside Hotel, the show is informative and enthusiastic, with ample and delicious food. There is a free pick-up service from all local hotels. Tutanekai St., lake end, Rotorua, 3010. 0508/442-644. www.accorhotels.com. NZ$69 for food and concert, NZ$35 concert only.
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