Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Traditional Kai - Karengo

Karengo is a member of the Porphyra species of edible seaweeds and is eaten throughout the world. It is closely related to Japanese nori and Welsh laver and is highly prized by South Island Māori. It is listed as a Ngāi Tahu taonga in the Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998 and during World War II, dried karengo was sent to the Māori Battalion in the Middle East and soldiers chewed it while they were on the march.

 I visited Onuku marae, near Akaroa recently, where karengo is a seasonal delicacy.
Every spring, between July and september, the locals on the kaik, go down to the rocky shore and gather the brown seasweek off the rocks. A bulk harvest of karengo was traditionally dried in the sun. But if they want to eat it the same day, they pan dry it. To cook it hinu (mutton fat) or butter, is added and it's cooked slowly,  with small amounts of water added over a two hour period. “Karengo is not easy to cook. It’s tough and it takes a long time to make it soft but it’s worth the effort,” the locals say.
The day I visited, they added cream to the cooked karengo mixture for extra richness and flavour and this is placed in the tiny filo cases and set aside.
Eel, or tuna, was also on the menu, along with titi (mutton bird), and both were given a modern twist in sushi.
Many of the Onuku whanai have been going to nearby Te Roto o Wairewa between March and May since hthey were young and they're  familiar with all the old ways of tuna gathering.
“We hook them out of the canals into the pararu and on a good night we’ll get around 200. They’re gutted, washed in the sea and then hung by flax threaded through their gills. With their tails cut off they bleed out; then they’re deboned, salted and dried on hooks in the whata above the beach by the marae. These days the eels are then frozen or smoked and stored ready for use,” they say.

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