Te Matatini kai: Whitebait and pāua feed throngs of kapa haka fans

3:03 pm on 24 February 2019

It's not just kapa haka drawing crowds to Te Matatini.

A special delicacy has got people at the world's biggest kapa haka festival especially excited. Golden Whitebait fritters, fried in fat and placed on white bread with butter have been flying off the shelves and into the hungry mouths of spectators.

On the concourse of Westpac Stadium, hundreds of stalls have been selling kai Māori, kākahu, and pōtae.

Others have been painting tā moko on children's faces, or encouraging people to enrol to vote.

Leilani Vaka and Daniel Vaka

Leilani Vaka and Daniel Vaka Photo: Ana Tovey / RNZ

Many Māori health organisations have been urging people to get their health checks.

Te reo Māori has been a common theme throughout, with every stall having translated their signs into te reo, and some workers choosing only to speak Māori.

Kevin Lauvao said his whitebait fritters had been a popular choice at the festival.

"The taste I could probably describe as the ultimate, very satisfying."

The kai Māori at Te Matatini is in hot demand.

The kai Māori at Te Matatini is in hot demand. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

"I break a bit of an egg here in the jar, always try to get the biggest egg. Put in a little bit of whitebait [about a teaspoon], a bit of oil [in the pan], and I just pour that in so it cooks evenly.

"People usually like it half-cooked, so I let it set first on one side and then get ready to turn it over. And then I flip it back over and that's the process of making whitebait."

Waitangi Seafoods worker Harerua said it was the cream pāua people liked most.

Waitangi Seafoods worker Harerua

Waitangi Seafoods worker Harerua Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

The work gathering and preparing the kai was what made it special, she said.

"Kua whakareri, kua whakapau kaha a te whānau o Wharekauri ake, ngā whānau o Wharekauri, ki te ruku me te tiki ngā kaimoana mai i Wharekauri, ka mauria mai ki konei.

"Ki oku whakaaro, tērā pea he ahua reka atu ki etahi atu, engari koira noiho ōku whakaaro i tēnei wa."