Monday, February 2, 2009

Anatomy of a hangi

On sunday to celebrate Waitangi Day (the 6th of february) the Kiwis in Kampuchea put down a hangi in Kiwi Bryan Hasetline’s backyard. The hangi is a tried and true method of a combination of slow steaming and roasting food that has been used by New Zealand Maori for hundreds of years. Hangi's take time and effort, especially in 34 degree heat, so nowadays it is saved mostly for occasions, occasions such as Waitangi day in Cambodia. Hangi methods havent changed a lot since the days before wire baskets and sacking, in some backyards hangi rocks have been handed down for several generations!

The preparation for this hangi, organised by Bryan and Owen and Lorna Perry (who arrived here about the same time we did) began the day before with a large amount of potato peeling and vege preparation. A huge hole was dug, with one of Bryans earth movers (well, it is significantly hotter than New Zealand in the Penh and digging a pit is hot work at the best of times) as the oven and large rocks laid along the bottom.

The next morning a fire was lit over the rocks and left to burn until the rocks were red hot. Wire baskets were filled with meat (the slowest to cook) closest to the heat. A good hangi also allows the juices of the meat to drip onto the rocks as the meat cooks causing smoke that helps flavour the meat. Root vegetable go in next, on top of the meat and then things like cabbage and broccoli (although not in our hangi). You can even steam a pudding on the very top of the pile.

Wet clean towels and then sacks soaked in water over night go in layers on top of the food to trap in the heat and protect the food from the soil that is carefully shoveled on top of it all.

Three or four hours later the process is unwound.

The soil is carefully removed from the top of the pit until the sacks can be seen.

The layers of sacks are even more carefully removed until the baskets of now cooked aromatic food are freed....

......still steaming hot.

The feast is revealed. Elders are served first and thanks is given to those who helped prepare the meal.

Food and conversation is enjoyed by all.

From what long stayers have said this was the first hangi in Phnom Penh and I dont think it will be the last. Thanks to Owen and Bryan and all those who helped it will be an event talked about for a long time.


Diane Mandy said...

How fascinating!

Verity said...

Sounds fantastic! And thanks so much for all the playdough and fingerpaint recipes! We are going to have so much fun with these!

Connie said...

Amazing! Now, whenever I start hearing stuff about the lengths Americans will go for good BBQ, heh, I now know what to counter with. ;-) It sounds wonderful!

Christine said...

How interesting! I would've tried it.