Friday, March 18, 2011

Hokitika Wildfoods Festival 2011

A few weeks ago, I was quite adamant to everybody that I would not consider doing a shot of horse semen. I would not even go within 10 meters of the stall. On the day, however, it was a completely different story.

Let me explain..

Let me explain..

..All the cool kids were doing it (Horse semen shots -$10)
Hokitika is the home of the world-famous Wildfoods Festival which is put on every second weekend of March. The founders put together 50 years of research to determine the weekend with the best weather -and boy, were they spot on! With pretty average weather either side of it, this weekend was spectacular! I was quite afraid that I had psyched all my friends up for so long that, when we finally arrived, they would be disappointed. I needn't have worried at all.

Oh yeah, everybody dresses up too
As well as claiming the best weather each year, Hokitika's Wildfoods Festival attracts thousands of adventurous foodies from all over the world -and I actually mean thousands. They had to limit numbers to 15,000 actually so you have to get in fast. Jason and I had sussed out our trip (flights, rental car, event tickets and accomodation) since September and managed to get the last available studio unit in all of Hokitika leaving our traveling companions in tents nearby. Yeah, you need to get in real early.

Live Huhu Grubs -$2 each
He made me eat the bigger half..
  Our first stop of the day was, of course, the rowdy people near the entrance who were chopping logs and offering the freshly caught Huhu Grubs to the crowd. Yeah it's gross, but that's why we're here. I have, previously, been told that Huhu Grubs taste like crunchy peanut butter. Those guys lied to me! It didn't even taste like peanut butter! It wasn't even crunchy! I find it hard to describe the taste as I was too busy being grossed out by its texture -goopiness encased in a soft chewy shell. 

Cooked Huhu grubs
Pan fried Huhu Grubs -$1 small, $2 medium, $5 large
Being a very gullible person, I was convinced that cooked Huhu Grubs would taste better so, when we passed this stall, I had to give these a go -only if my companions had one too..

Asia wasn't a fan
It turns out that my hunch was spot on. Although not something I would have frequently, they were definitely more tolerable when cooked. Now they had the hint of peanut butter and, surprisingly, the texture of really really overcooked prawns.

Venison Sausages -$5 for 2. These are seriously good. Each one is as long as my arm
We really needed something normal to follow this up with. Something from the "Best New Food" stall of 2010. Smokey venison sausage line it is. 

Wild Meat Sauce -$10 per bottle
As well as sausages, the guys at Glass Eye Creek made their own "Wild Meat Sauce" to accompany it claiming it also goes with meat that "ain't so wild" and I believe them. Their Wild Meat Sauce is delicious! Luckily for me, there were bottles on sale for $10 each and we all bought one each. Believe me, I would have bought more if I had more cash on hand and the means to bring it back home! We paired the sausages with a lovely glass of honey mead (injected with a bit of bee sting!) which we simply fell in love with. It was sweet, fruity and a little dizzying -Moen almost cried when I mentioned that he probably couldn't get this at your average supermarket.

Moen and I with our best "serious" faces
Something that was quite controversial this year was the introduction of horse semen shots. Something, as I had earlier mentioned, that I had planned to avoid. I'm quite easily persuaded by my peers though and, when someone offered to pay for me to try one, I knew I had to. They don't look at me the same way anymore. I know you won't believe me, but they're not actually that bad -especially if you tried a flavoured shot (I had Banoffee Pie flavoured). It just tastes like watery flavoured milk. Don't worry, I didn't pay $10 to have a shot. I was sponsored. Lets make that very clear. I regret nothing. NOTHING. I only wish they didn't show me what one of the shots looked like underneath the microscope..
Liquorice straps for Africa -$2.50 for a small strip, $7 for a large strip
..Back to something normal. Like candy! Liquorice and Honeycomb! If you've read my previous posts, you'll know that Jason and I have missed out of liquorice on many occasions so, when we spotted this stall, we knew we couldn't let this opportunity pass. I'm not usually a fan of liquorice, but these liquorice straps left me wanting more. So we came back later that day to buy 10. Excessive? I think not.

Honeycomb -$2 per piece
I remember honeycomb being such a treat when I was a child. I use the term "treat" quite loosely as my parents would only buy them as gifts. Gifts for other people. Not me. So, being sneaky, I would carefully slip off the seal around the edges of the box, slowly lift it up and sneak the tiniest spoonful of delicious honeycomb. And that would be it.

Could you resist?
I lie. 

It's actually impossible to stop at one small taste. I bet there have been studies that will back up my claim. No matter what I did to keep myself busy, I could not keep my mind from straying to the small box in the kitchen so, every so often, little Lucy would walk back and take another sneaky taste. Before long, all the little spoonfuls added up to a mighty chunk. By then, it was just too obvious so I had to eat it all (and then throw away the evidence). Might as well -they can't give it away now! Needless to say, they started hiding their gifts from me even though I swore I never saw any honeycomb in the fridge. 

I'm not a very good liar.

Slow Roasted Pork on Mustard Mash and a side of Apple Sauce -$10
By this time we were getting pretty hungry for something filling so we bypassed all the "icky" food stalls and headed for the slow roasted pork. It may not look like much in the photo, but man do I wish I could have another plate of it right now. I've just had lunch too! The pork was free range, tender, juicy and melt-in-your-mouth while the mustard mash was delightfully light and creamy. Mmm.. mustard mash is now my favourite kind of mash. I have promised myself to re-create this one day. The apple sauce was from a jar so I won't talk about it.

It's a Startled Worm! (Cafe)
Chocolate Covered Beetles -$4 each
 After the fairly "tame" stuff, it was time for more adventure and we managed to stumble into the tent with all the creepy crawlies. It's hard to believe that one of the main ingredients of your childhood mud pie would now pass as a delicacy at the Wildfoods festival!

Front to back: Worm and Red Bull Shots, Mini Worm Toast, Worm Truffle, Worm Sushi
Cheers! Worm Shots -$2
After carefully looking in each shot glass trying to find the smallest worm possible, we deduced that it probably wouldn't make a difference. To be perfectly honest, I didn't taste my worm at all and neither did Moen -I can't decide if I am disappointed or very very relieved. Asia, however, was not so lucky -the taste of worm remained with for most of the afternoon..

This is us with our grasshoppers..

Before: Grasshopper Satay -$5, Jelly Grasshopper -$4
After: Three people who may or may not regret their choices
The grasshoppers probably tie in first place (with the live Huhu grubs) for freakiest texture of the day. Being encased in jelly, my grasshopper was soggy and very chewy -at least the remaining jelly helped to wash it down. They boys were quite happy with their deep fried grasshoppers and the satay sauce was strong enough to mask any weird taste the grasshopper may have.

Garlic Butter Escargo -$10 for 6
Moen and Asia were quite hesitant, at first, to try these slimy mollusks that you'd find in your garden (and occasionally in my bathroom), but they have weak wills and are easily persuaded. It turns out, funnily enough, that they actually like them. Me? I was a little disappointed. Having been brought up with a variety of seafood, I had anticipated these garden snails to taste much like whelks, their cousins of the sea. I found that there wasn't much in the way of flavour (even the garlic butter was a little weak) while texture of the escargo was too soft. At least I can say I've had escargo now and pretend to be real fancy!

Ostrich Pies -$5 each
If you know me at all, you will know that I love pies. I'd go as far to say about 40% of my lunches during semester last year were made up of pies -mince and cheese, chicken and vegetable, weird orange pie from the uni cafe but NEVER have I had ostrich in a pie! On first bite, it tastes quite similar to your hearty beef mince pie but you get this wonderful gamey aftertaste which is quite nice in small amounts. I found myself being quite thankful that I split mine in 3 parts as I couldn't handle the gamey-ness for more than a few bites.

Here is an epic picture of a Whitebait Fritter -$5
"What's whitebait?" I hear as we walk past a group of American tourists. I cannot believe my ears until I realise that, with all the other awesome food in their country, they probably don't even have time to discover the awesomeness that is heaps of baby fish stuck together by egg and smothered in pepper. I urge them to try this very New Zealand treat and feel like I have done my part to spread the word.

Kangaroo and Crocodile Bites -$2 each
We were almost on our way out before I realised we had forgotten one of the stalls I marked on my map -The Aussie Stall! Our neighbours across the ditch sure know how to BBQ up some delicious morsels. Although I found the "bites" to be a little small for the price, I later discovered that they were the perfect size to have a taste without having to commit. Kangaroo tastes a little like beef while crocodile tastes like chicken. Tough chicken.

Colostrum Shots -$6 + loss of self worth each
Mountain Oysters
One brave woman
Though I am always up for trying wild and wonderful foods, there are just some things I'm not brave enough to touch. Pan fried cow udders and mountain oysters for example. I draw the line at horse semen.

Lego man!
Barbie and Ken
One of the greatest parts of the day was seeing how much effort everyone put into dressing up. Although not all fitted in with the theme "Where the Wildfoods are" they were all very creative. Among my favourites were the "Mail order Barbie and Ken" and the Lego man whom I almost mistook for a bin (he was sitting down OK?).

Tahr Curry -$5
Once we decided that we had tried almost everything the festival had to offer, we started the trek home and realised we hadn't made plans for dinner. Luckily, someone had come up with the brilliant idea of scanning out so we could scan our tickets in again later that afternoon. So it was settled -we were coming back for dinner! 

It turned that we had quite an early dinner as the festival ended at 5:30pm instead of 7:00pm like I had previously thought (yay for double and triple checking the itinerary!) and we were able to fill ourselves up on some curry and yummy strawberries and cream. It was quite nice to follow all the strange food with something slightly more normal..

Edible Potato Bowl
 ..Not too normal though. Our ice cream bowls were edible -they kind of tasted like polystyrene but became tastier and tastier with each bite. Hmmm..

So if you're ever unsure about how to spend the best summer weather in the South Island of New Zealand, why not give Hokitika a visit? Mark the 10th of March 2012 in your diaries now, all you adventurous people and start getting your costumes ready -there's a competition! I highly recommend this festival to everyone who loves to have fun. 

Except those with weak stomachs. And vegetarians. There's nothing for you here.

All recipes are on Petitchef


  1. LOL! Mad props to you, Lucy! You couldn't pay me enough to take a horse semen shot and I consider myself pretty open-minded especially about food. Good for you!

  2. Thankyou for this post Lucy! I went last year and it was a real trip down memory lane. I can see the same guy holding up the mountain oysters but the horse semen shots sound very interesting!

  3. Wow, it's almost like I was following you around. It was fantastic and reading your slant on it makes me want to fly over again next year. Kevin @

  4. hahaaha the picture of you 3 eating the grasshoppers is too hilarious! And...."horse semen" made me almost throw up my breakfast 0_0. All these wild foods remind me of mission trips and stuff, since many foreign countries' delicacies are offered to visitors :P