Worm sushi, bush bacon butties and deep fried shark will be on the menu at New Zealand’s iconic Hokitika Wildfoods Festival, held every year on the South Island’s rugged west coast. This year’s festival on 13 March will mark the coming of age of the event as it turns 21. A crowd of about 15,000 is expected to sample the wide range of “gourmet bush tucker”, or indigenous New Zealand food, all cooked in new and unexpected ways. The Festival is a celebration of all things weird and wonderful in the world of food, with a tempting (we think!) array of interesting snacks many of which are unique to New Zealand’s west coast.
Being served up are local New Zealand whitebait fritters, West Coast gorse flower wine and local brewery Monteith’s beer. For the more adventurous gourmet, there are all sorts of exotic tastes to tickle the senses ranging from pickled huhu grubs, snails, eel, worm sushi and mountain sheep tongue. Huhu grubs, the larvae of a forest beetle endemic to New Zealand, are a traditional Maori delicacy. The grubs provided a high fat instant snack that was eaten fresh from their fallen bush log homes, and Maori had different names for the grub depending on its stage of life.
In the past, wild food highlights have also included possum pies, wasp larvae ice-cream, cucumber fish, sheep’s milk cheeses and wok fried clams. Who knows what else you might find this year?! One thing’s for certain, there will be plenty of entertainment on hand while you widen your taste bud experience, from music and dancing to mime and comedy. In 1996, the Festival was awarded the title of ‘New Zealand’s most unique event’; we can certainly see why. If you’re headed that way you should also check out some of the other delights that the area is renowned for: some of New Zealand’s most beautiful pounamu (also known as greenstone) comes from here, and the little town has breathtaking views of the Southern Alps.