Home is where the good takeaways are
Tāmaki Makaurau kai appreciation, budget day cheese rolls and Disciple Pati’s favourite places to grab a bite.
Nau mai, haere mai. Welcome to The Boil Up, The Spinoff’s weekly food newsletter. Written by me, Charlotte Muru-Lanning. It’s lovely to have you here!
I’m eager for this newsletter to travel across the country and find its way into culinary nooks and crannies across Aotearoa with each installment. While I’m conscious of steering clear of Auckland-centric content, Tāmaki Makaurau is home for me. So this week, a quick nod to this weird little town.
My relationship with Auckland has been tenuous for ages. But, especially since the pandemic began – being here can feel stifling. I guess good relationships need space sometimes.
I resonated with this line in Emmy Rākete’s review of Shifting Grounds, a new book on the history of Tāmaki Makaurau, in Newsroom. “I feel a sort of cynical affection for this city. The feeling comes from resigned familiarity, a sense that I know this place’s rhythms. Auckland is where the contradictions of capitalism reach their most absurd heights.”
Over the weekend, I ate takeaway food that reminded me why I love this city, and the central city in particular, in spite of its flaws. I shared Sichuan food from Dominion Road staple Spicy House with a friend who’d returned for a short visit after two years living overseas. Her pick, because you can’t get regional Chinese food that good where she lives now. A burger from Auckland late-night icon the White Lady to soak up cans of Cass beer (and, ahem, Pals) on a Saturday night out dancing. After a rally in the central city on Sunday I ordered a big bowl of khao soi kai to-go from central-city, subterranean Northern Thai restaurant Chom Na. Auckland felt filled with possibilities, for the first time in a while.
Did the central city smell bad? Yes. Were shops along the main drag closed up in droves? Yup. But it’s those lanes, alleys and arcades in its surroundings that you spot for split seconds in 90s OMC music videos, the Auckland-specific bites and the rhythms of the unseen Waihorotiu stream which runs hidden beneath Queen Street, that make the town centre magical. It was a weekend of food that felt like a much-needed reminder of what makes this city special, in my own extremely Covid-averse way.
This week we’re excited to announce the winner of the three month supply of Boring Oat Milk and the merch package. Congratulations to Rata Gordon, the Boring team will be in touch to arrange delivery. For those who missed out: thank you for subscribing to The Boil Up, we’re so pleased to have you with us. And if you thought your head would look quite nice in that bucket hat, you’re not wrong. There’s no shortage of merch and oat milk available straight from the source. Head to boringmilk.com for an untapped supply, check the box that says “Subscription” and save 10% on your milk order.
For Rotuman language week (which was last week) Sela Jane Hopgood covered a Rotuman pudding called fekei. Throughout Polynesia, puddings are considered luxurious delicacies and writers have highlighted the mana they’re imbued with – they’re dishes you make when you want to impress. Fekei is made with a base of taro, tapioca and coconut cream, and while I’m yet to make one myself, it looks delicious.
There’s no better way to celebrate budget day (which is today) than with a Southern cheese roll. Grant Robertson has a budget day tradition of sharing cheese rolls with the prime minister. As Jacinda Ardern is isolating with Covid-19 today, the rolls were shared remotely. PSA: cheese rolls aren’t just rolled up cheese on toast and I’ve been to cafes in the South Island who desperately need to hear that, so here’s a recipe I often fall back on. Make a batch and freeze what’s left over. That’s if there are any left over.
Beyond cheese rolls, budget day also means money going in certain directions. I’ll be interested to see how inequality and its links to food security are addressed in the budget. From a quick glimpse, I’ve seen a mention of legislation around tackling high grocery bills and a temporary cost of living payment. This long read by John Campbell sets out the politics around the government’s response, or perhaps lack thereof, to poverty in this country. It features an especially poignant encounter with a woman on dialysis and the contents of her fridge. “I still remember how very bright the emptiness was. Fridge light. There was some milk, a fish head in a bowl, a mostly drained tomato sauce bottle, a battered spread container and half an onion set aside; but other than that, nothing.”
Some have suggested removing GST on food and drink, or even just fresh fruits and vegetables to help counter this lack of access to basic kai. Te Pāti Māori has endorsed that idea, saying cutting GST on food is a “no-brainer” as well as creating a petition for GST cuts to be made policy. But others have countered, saying removing GST on isolated items would create a complicated system, and that there are better solutions.
An update on controversial Karangahape Road bar Tomfoolery. It looks like, as suspected, the bar has opened. Stuff reported this week that Ex-Married At First Sight contestant Chris Mansfield is working as a “consultant”. I wandered past on Saturday around 8pm and the place looked reasonably busy from the outside. Keep watching this space though as there may be further updates to come.
I recently bought a cookbook by an author who had a non-existent social media presence. I wasn’t sure if that should be a red flag or a positive sign. The cookbook was unsurprisingly fantastic, but it made me reflect upon why it seems so unusual in this day and age to buy a cookbook from someone you’ve never heard of. This Eater article does a great job of unpicking the relationship between cookbook publishing deals and social media – and the risk of tying the two together when it comes to expanding the diversity of cookbook authors.
Disciple Pati: Musician
Sapati Apa-Fepulea’i aka Disciple Pati is an RnB artist based in South Auckland. She makes incredible music, including this empowering anthem about working in a male-dominated music industry. However, I discovered Pati years ago by way of a video she posted on Facebook of an allergic reaction she had to eating crab while in Thailand. By the end of the video her entire face is puffed up and her body covered in red hives – but she goes and chows on a scorpion anyway. Impressive music and impressive dedication to food. These are her favourite places to feast.
Nana and Grandpa’s house: What can I say; home is where the heart is. Grandparents seem to have an endless supply of potato chips, and also know how to make the best traditional Sāmoan dishes like raw fish, talo in coconut cream, and pork.
Seoul Night, Auckland Central: Best chicken, slushies, and soju! Walk in sober, exit drunk. And bloated. I still managed to get in once, after the bouncer asked me to walk a straight line and I started doing the tango on the cobblestones outside.
Little Turkish Cafe, Karangahape Road, Auckland: The only place I trust with postclub night debriefs and food in town. Everyone just looks tired, depressed and full of regret – it’s the funniest thing to witness.
Lil’ Abners, Papatoetoe, Auckland: Trustworthy and reliable. You know exactly what you’re gonna get and they deliver every time. Order anything with the peanut sauce. Outside Lil’ Abners at four in the morning sometimes looks like a TV show crossover; paramedics, tradies, and drunk people coming from town… go during the daylight.
Denny’s Manukau, Manukau, Auckland: Denny’s is most likely a D grade in food health and safety: the plates are always hot but the food is cold, so they definitely just heat it up in the microwave. I once bit into a raw chicken wing there. But Denny’s Manukau is also the best place to have some good juicy, fat yarns – I’ve gotten through breakups, resolved issues in friendships, got someone’s number, watched an acapella gospel trio sing an impromptu song, and witnessed a crash in the car park. Would gladly go through salmonella twice just to relive some of those memories.
The Weekly Snack
Derana fried cassava chips, $2.40 from Serandib: I reckon New Zealand chips are some of the best in the world. In saying this, I’m always looking to have my patriotic chip taste challenged. These came as a suggestion from one of the staff at a grocer I visit most weekends. He shook his head gravely at the hoochy-looking bag I’d initially picked and replaced it with these. These looked far less compelling but I trusted his taste far more than my own. I’m glad I did. These are yum: robust and extremely crunchy in texture and just the right amount of salt. The perfect pre-dinner snack. 7/10.
Talk next week!
Hei kōnā mai, Charlotte