7 Jun 2017

Brighter Future? The nation's changing palate

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 2:09 pm on 7 June 2017

When Yuki Yamaguchi-Lewin arrived in Auckland from Japan in 2006, she had a noodle machine in her luggage.

Not all migrants to New Zealand in the last decade have brought their cuisines with them quite so literally, but as the population has become more diverse, so have New Zealanders' tastes.

It wasn't all that long ago that roast lamb, fish and chips, pies and lamingtons ruled the Kiwi diet.

But Ms Yamaguchi-Lewin is just one of a wave of recent immigrants to set up hugely popular restaurants - she opened Ramen Takara in Browns Bay in 2007 and has inducted hundreds, if not thousands, of delighted customers into the joys of slurping down noodle soup.

Ethiopian, Israeli, Afghani and Malaysian hawker food restaurants are among other new options.

Owner of Middle Eastern restaurant Ima Cuisine, Yael Shochat, says migrants have brought with them food from far-flung parts of the world.

"The diversity opens up. How else will New Zealanders have an Afghani meal? Now there's an Afghani community here ... their food is amazing."

Tee Phee, who owns Little Penang in Wellington, has been surprised by who frequents her restaurant.

"When we first started we were thinking we'd reach out to Malaysians or Singaporeans or Asians who've moved here ... but surprisingly the bigger customer base is actually local Kiwis."

Even Statistics New Zealand's food price index basket - which helps it calculate inflation - shows how New Zealanders' tastes have been influenced by migration since 2008.

Flatbread, hummus dips and frozen prawns have all been added to the basket since then, while Pākehā stalwarts like tinned peaches, saveloys and condensed milk have been ditched.

RNZ's election series Is this the Brighter Future? examines the government's record since it was elected in 2008. Read more here.