A hangi is a traditional Maori dish of meat and vegetables that is cooked in an earth oven using hot rocks and steam. You can use any meat and vegetables to make a traditional hangi meal; the specifics lie only in how the food is cooked. Preparing a hangi and cooking the food is time-consuming, so pick a day when you’re free for at least eight hours.
Things You'll Need
Dig a 4-foot square pit in the ground that is at least 3 feet deep to cook the food for your hangi. Make the pit larger if you plan on cooking more food than what will fit in a 4-foot square. Shovel the dirt into a pile beside the pit.
Build a large fire directly beside the pit. Once it produces a substantial bed of coals beneath the wood, pile lava rocks onto the fire. Place small rocks on the fire first and then larger rocks. Use enough lava rocks to fill your pit with about 1 foot of hot rocks.
Shape a length of chicken wire into basket shape that will fit in your pit while you wait for the rocks to become hot enough to glow. Load your root vegetables and meat into the basket in any order you choose. If you do not have chicken wire, wrap your food in several layers of aluminum foil, making enough pouches to fill the pit half full.
Put on a pair of leather gloves for protection and rake the glowing hot lava rocks into your pit carefully, placing the larger ones in first and then the smaller ones. Don’t worry if some of the coals are raked into the pit with the rocks.
Soak a few layers of burlap in water and lay them over the hot coals to prevent scorching your food. Lower the basket or pouches of food into the pit.
Cover your food with a couple additional layers of soaked burlap.
Pour a gallon of water over the food to help it steam and shovel the dirt from beside the pit over the burlap. Steam will begin escaping through the mound of dirt as the hangi cooks.
Wait while the food cooks, keeping a close eye on the mound of dirt covering the food. When it quits emitting steam in about four hours, the food should be done cooking.
Carefully shovel the dirt into a mound beside the pit until you have uncovered the burlap.
While wearing leather gloves, remove the burlap by tugging on a corner and sliding it off the food. Do not peel it back to reveal the food, as the escaping steam could cause severe burns.
Remove the food from the pit when the initial steam escape has lessened.
Allow the food to cool for at least 10 minutes and then serve the hangi immediately.
If you wish to fill the hangi pit back in with dirt, wait a full day for the stones to cool and then remove them to shovel the dirt back in. Alternately, keep it as a dedicated hangi pit on your property.
References and ResourcesCulture Shock!; Peter Oettli
USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart