Hokitika Wild Foods Festival: What Won’t Miriam and Gordon Eat?

One of the first activities that Miriam planned for us in New Zealand was chosen months before we even set foot on kiwi soil. There is a little beach town called Hokitika which is about a 6.5 hour drive from Queenstown. Every year hordes of crazy people flock to the town to try kiwi delicacies no matter how bizarre and disgusting they may be. Since this whole adventure has been one giant game of chicken we decided to check out the Wild Foods Festival and see what foodstuffs were on the menu and if we were brave/stupid enough to try them. Luckily Gwendolyn and Tim got us tickets to this festival for Christmas (Thanks guys!) because apparently they like seeing their daughter make disgusted faces after eating gross things.

I promise the phrase “tasted like chicken” will not be written again in this post.


Whoa man. I’m not ready for this yet. I need something to help me stomach some of this stuff.


Moonshine. That should do the trick. Nothing like some homemade hooch to grease the gears. Alright where were we?


1. Live HuHu Grubs (brought to you by Toms) – I don’t really know what these tasted like. As soon as I put it into my mouth I bit it in half and it popped like a zit. This was my first time eating a living thing. Well, intentionally, I’m sure plenty of bugs and stuff have been swallowed accidentally.

2. Muttonbird – A seabird that Maori catch and kill while they are young before their wing muscles have developed for flight. It tastes like duck mixed with anchovies. It was also dripping with oil because the birds are basically fed nothing but fat by their mothers before being caught.

3. Smoked Eel –  This was actually one of the better things I ate. It tasted like a smokier version of the eel you get in sushi rolls. File that one under “duh.”


4. Cow Placenta Pate – Not bad. This tasted like your typical pate. I don’t know if it tasted like your typical placenta. I’ve never tried to eat one before.

5. Cow Colustrum Meringue – Colustrum is the first milk that a cows produces after giving birth. There’s a wikipedia entry with tons of big, medical words but basically its supermilk. It improves athletic performance, fights infections, helps with weight loss, gives you psychic powers* and makes you more irresistible than Ryan Gosling carrying a puppy in one hand and a mimosa in the other*.

*May not be true


Let’s take a break and watch the airshow


6. Seagull Egg – It was hard-boiled and tasted like a sweaty sandal.


7. Creamy Paua – Paua is a type of sea snail that comes in a really pretty shell. It’s typically mixed with some egg and flattened into a patty, a lot like a crabcake. Except there’s some grit and chewiness to it so it’s like a crabcake made out of mussels. I had previously tasted it in patty form and really liked it.

This version was cooked Paua in a creamy broth. It wasn’t terrible, but unfortunately not as good as the Paua patty.
NZ_23168. Mountain Oysters – Do you know what these are? I’ll give you a hint. They aren’t seafood. FUN FACT: There is an annual festival in the US celebrating this “food.” The name of the festival? The Testy Festy.
NZ_2332This is what they look like before being cooked. Not very appetizing,

NZ_2334And here’s the after. They gave it to us with some onions on a piece of bread because that’s definitely going to make you forget that you’re eating testicles.

NZ_2338Yummmm. Let’s see how Miriam does.

NZ_2353She looks equal parts disgusted and nervous.




NZ_2371What a trooper. Now its my turn.


As we were buying these things there was a guy standing next to us who threw up in the grass. You would think that might convince us to maybe eat something else.


It’s hard to describe what they tasted like because I was in a big hurry to swallow them. Also, I was trying to think of pleasant thoughts to avoid tossing my cookies. I wouldn’t recommend these.

Its not a food but after eating our oysters we were pleasantly distracted from their terrible taste by this guy hitting his passed out/napping/resting friend in the back with a sword. Judging by their costumes, I assume they were disappointed about the lack of pizza at the festival.

9. BBQ HuHu Grubs – BBQing these dries up the juiciness so there was no ooey-gooey inside. It just tasted like a crispy skin.




10. Chocolate-Covered HuHu Grubs – These still had their gooey interior. I think Miriam was eager to try them because chocolate. Much to her surprise, when she bit into it, the gooey white guts came out. Kinda like if a York patty was in worm form.


These guys were at one of the tents. I’m sorry to say, but neither Miriam or I tried them. There are certain things that we draw the line at. Bull balls not being one of them.


11. Whitebait Pizza – This wasn’t at the festival but we went to a pizza place after and ordered a whitebait pizza. Whitebait is a little fish that travels in huge schools and you catch many of them at once with a net. I wouldn’t really call this ‘pizza.’ It was more like a quiche. There was an egg and whitebait base with cheese over the top.


If you look closely you can see their eyeballs.

Now at this point you may be asking yourself, “Gordon, why would you choose to eat foods that people are usually forced to eat on reality shows.” Good question. One of my favorite people in the world as well as a constant source of inspiration is Tony Bourdain. In his book, Kitchen Confidential (which if you haven’t read, head to your local Borders then once you realize that they went out of business, head home and buy it on Amazon) he says this:

“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.”

Well said Tony. I’ve been living in New Zealand for four months now. The country has been good to me. I feel like I owe it to NZ to try whatever local delicacies they offer. One of my favorite aspects of a country/state’s culture to learn about is their food and if that means indulging in some less than desirable entrees, then bring it on.

We had a lot of fun pushing our stomachs to the limit and checking out all the crazy costumes that people wore. Thank you to Gwendolyn and Tim for getting us the tickets. I hoped you enjoyed reading this more than we enjoyed eating grubs.




3 thoughts on “Hokitika Wild Foods Festival: What Won’t Miriam and Gordon Eat?

  1. I don’t know what to say. Really, I just don’t know what to say, but I think I’ll have a burger and fries for lunch.

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