This weekend’s Te Ahi Kōmau festival will celebrate South Auckland’s fiery volcanic past and amazing local produce. Justin Latif visited the marae as the hāngī pits were being dug in preparation.
Not all superheroes wear capes and not all chefs wear a toque and apron.
Anthony Adlam is one such chef, described as the master hāngī cook by those at Papatūānuku Kōkiri Marae, which is hosting Te Ahi Kōmau – Food, Fire Festival on October 30 and 31 in Māngere, South Auckland.
Hāngī is in his blood, he says. “My grandfather did it, and my father after him and I started doing this about 10 years ago, when my dad wanted a rest,” says Adlam, who lives in Pukekohe.
He says the key to a good hāngī is the wood you use.
“We use macrocarpa,” he told The Spinoff. “It provides a dry, hot heat which means the kai gets well-cooked. In comparison, wet wood provides a cold heat. When smoking fish or smoking meat, though, plum tree is great as it mixes in a really nice flavour.”
Adlam is among a plethora of Māori and Pacific food and craft entrepreneurs showcasing their wares over the two-day event, to be officially launched by Auckland mayor Phil Goff this afternoon.
It’s all part of the month-long, city-wide Elemental AKL festival, and in keeping with the theme of fire, attendees will get to savour a variety of indigenous fire-cooked delicacies including hāngī, umu, mataahi (spit) and auahi (smoked). Along with the delicious kai, there will also be a light show, kapa haka, and Polynesian arts and crafts for sale.
Marae kaiwhakahaere Lionel Hotene says the food festival is also a good opportunity for people to see the vital role marae play in sustaining their communities.
“Te Ahi Kōmau is a celebration of Polynesian culture and we’re going to showcase our amazing kai and demonstrate how we use the element of fire to cook it. Attendees can also learn and understand how local marae grow, prepare and distribute nutritious kai for the wellbeing of our community.”
Among the treats on offer, Hotene recommends the spit-roasted pork which will be presented in a modern way, combining traditional Māori ingredients.
“People should check out our pork sandwiches, with nasturtium kawakawa pesto and watercress aioli, served on freshly baked fry bread,” he says.
“We’re hoping this becomes South Auckland’s premier food event and I think the dream would be for this to be South Auckland’s premier food space. If we get more people involved in the kaupapa – anything is possible.”
The event has been made possible by a collaboration between The Cause Collective’s Healthy Families South Auckland team, Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board, Auckland Council and the marae.
Mason Ngawhika, Healthy Families South Auckland’s kai ārahi Māori (Māori responsiveness manager), says prior to the urbanisation of South Auckland, the area was the food bowl of Auckland, particularly at Ihumātao and the surrounding areas – so it’s fitting for this event to be held in Māngere.
“Papatūānuku marae has been going for over 30 years – originally run by Nana Mere Knight. It has grown tonnes and tonnes of kūmara to feed the local community and it’s pretty much known as the kai marae,” he says.
“Māngere was a place of abundance but now it’s become a place of insufficiency – and instead the abundance is the amount of foreign-owned fast food restaurants. But we want to return to that narrative of this place having an abundance of good food.”
The idea to hold an event showcasing Māori and Pacific-style food was the brainchild of Canadian chef and restaurateur Eric Pateman, who was brought to Auckland a couple of years ago by the council to help identify the city’s cuisine story.
Says Ngawhika: “We were asked to show Eric Pateman around. We took him to Ihumātao, before the protests kicked off, which for 800 years was a place that grew kūmara, taro and yams in abundance. We also took him to Papakura marae and finally we took him here [Papatūnuku Kkiri marae]. He said it reminded him of Compton in Los Angeles, due to the lower-income community with a high density of takeaway stores, but what he saw here was a beacon of health.
“And part of his recommendation was that Auckland shouldn’t copy other countries, instead we need to further develop Māori and Pacific food as our offering to the world.”
Head to the website for more information and to pre-order your meal, as there is a limited supply of certain dishes.
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