We review the entire country and culture of New Zealand, one thing at a time. Today, Alice Neville critiques a curious culinary union.
Fusion cuisine gets a bad rap, but some of the finest dishes on earth are culinary mash-ups. Would you really want to live in a world where there’s no bánh mì, where you couldn’t sample tiradito or snack on a kimcheese toastie? Heck, even good old British fish and chips, which takes elements of Jewish, French and Belgian cuisine, is an early example of culinary fusion.
With that in mind, when I heard that Wellington had a new takeaway joint serving a curry/pizza hybrid called, fittingly, currizza, I was intrigued. Some people get rather het up about authenticity in food, but I take a more open-minded approach. Who’s to say a traditional Neapolitan margherita is better than a New York-style pepperoni, a Domino’s stuffed crust or, um, a Bill English spaghetti special? Different folks, different strokes and all that.
So no, I was not horrified by the concept of currizza. I love curry. I love pizza. What could possibly go wrong?
As luck would have it, I was returning to my hometown for a food-focused few days during Visa Wellington on a Plate. I knew that in between sampling the finest fare the capital had to offer, I must find time to try my very first currizza. The moment presented itself on a Sunday evening, after a day of somewhat strange, slightly hungover eating: potato hash with pickled onion, Worcestershire mayo, pickled mustard seeds and a slow egg from Shepherd was followed by fairy bread, popcorn, ice cream, a traffic light and a nitro cola at Six Barrel Soda’s “Nostalgia, Refreshed” WOAP event; and then, naturally, I had a beer. What better way to top it all off than with a lovely currizza?
Currizza’s menu is divided into “exotic loaded” and “value” pizzas, and naturally I went straight to the former. Six veg curry pizzas are joined in this section by 12 non-veg curry pizzas, with names like Bollywood Bomb, Hot Delhi-belly, Desi Pepperoni and Slum Dog. After much deliberation I opted for the Paneer on Fire – spicy tomato base, onion, capsicum, garlic, coriander, jalapeños, black pepper, seasoned paneer, mozzarella, hot peri peri sauce and chilli flakes. There’s certainly a lot going on in that list of ingredients, but I felt I could handle it. After deliberating over exotic chips (sprinkled with homemade masala), I instead opted for the intriguingly named “wonder bomb” side dish, whose ingredients were listed as potato, capsicum, cheese, corn and mild spices.
It was raining, I am lazy and Currizza is by the Basin Reserve, a good 20 minutes’ walk from my hotel downtown, so delivery was the only way this culinary adventure was going to happen. After trying and failing to order through the Currizza website I resorted to UberEats, and half an hour and a $13.99 delivery fee later (damn you surge charging), Ahmed rolled up to the hotel lobby on his bike and the currizza was mine. As I ascended the lift, still-hot pizza box in hand, my excitement was palpable.
Immediately upon entering my room, I opened the box to reveal a pizza that brought childhood memories flooding back – Eagle Boys, Pizza Hut, One Red Dog on special occasions; the common thread being thick-crusted pizzas generously laden with toppings, of a kind that would strike fear into the heart of any member of the AVPN but to a carb-and-cheese-fiend 90s child symbolised the peak of culinary sophistication.
I took a bite of my currizza and was immediately comforted by the fresh, doughy base. Something snapped me out of my Proustian episode, however: unlike those of my childhood, this pizza was spicy. The tomato sauce was thick, rich and flavoursome, with a nice level of heat and a definite “curry” vibe, bringing to mind a cheeky jalfrezi, perhaps. The paneer cubes, nicely firm and seasoned in a tasty spice mix of some sort, were joined by slices of red onion and jalapeños, all sitting atop a decent layer of mozzarella. Peri peri sauce added an extra, perhaps unnecessary, burst of heat. This was certainly a curry on a pizza, and it stained my mouth orange, the way a good curry should.
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The wonder bombs were not such a success – dumpling-esque balls with a disconcertingly gooey centre – but no matter, because the currizza was more than enough to sate my appetite. I ate half of it, and am sampling a slice cold from the mini bar fridge right now as I type. Cold pizza can go either way, but I am pleased to report the currizza stood up very well to the leftovers test – the big flavours have not been dulled by refrigeration, and the base maintains its doughy integrity.
Sure, the currizza won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if you fancy an old-school thick-crust pizza with a more-is-more approach to flavour, or if you’re hungover and can’t decide between curry and pizza, please do give it a hoon.
Good or bad? Good.
Verdict: A blessed union of two of the world’s finest foodstuffs.
The Spinoff’s food content is brought to you by Freedom Farms. They believe talking about food is nearly as much fun as eating it, and they’re excited to facilitate some good conversations around food provenance in Aotearoa New Zealand.