Considering that New Zealand produces ten times more food than we can consume, it’s a little absurd that food here is so expensive. So to travel in Aotearoa on a reasonable budget you’ll need to think outside the box, and to do this, all you need is an old pair of shoes and a butter knife.
With that in mind, we hit the road to our local Waitara beach in Taranaki, in hopes of finding a few paua (abalone) to cook for dinner. Kai moana (maori for seafood) is not only easy to find (look for any beach with rocks), it’s a special kiwi experience to add to your New Zealand visit.
Look online for low tide times and ask a local (holiday park owner or information centre) where to find the most ideal beach for paua. It’s quite safe to eat seafood from New Zealand waters (there will be a sign at the beach if algae has left the seafood inedible), but we really look after our natural resources here.
You can gather 10 paua of 12.5cm in length for every person who joins in the hunt, even if they don’t find any on their own. If you find any that are too small, try to stick them back under the rock, they’ll be easy prey if you just toss them back into the ocean. We hunted ours on the west coast of the North Island, on the East Coast they’re larger.
To prepare them, scoop the flesh out with a spoon, disposing of the internal organs, and you can either cut out or pop out the teeth.
We fried ours in butter for just a couple of minutes, but there are some really interesting recipes out there. They taste like a meaty mushroom, not fishy in taste at all.
Wash out the shells and keep them – they’re really pretty on the inside, the shells sell in tourist shops for $15-20 and you’ll see them as jewellery all over NZ.
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