Learning how to survive without rice for every meal in New Zealand

I will be blogging a lot about NZ now. If you’d like to be the first to receive an email whenever I update, feel free to key in your email at the sidebar (under “I don’t bite :)” tab) or at the bottom of the website. I’ll usually send the email first thing when I update my blog. I’ll only publicise my updates on social media accounts a few days or one day after. I’ll send out the email only when there’s an update. Promise that there’ll be no spam. 

With that being said. Let’s get on to it!

You’ll still see rice in this post because I’m a sucker for it, but maybe just a few.

This post is full of food images and mouth-watering recipes. If you think that your weak heart or salivating tastebud wouldn’t be able to take it, then move to the kitchen now, grab a bite of that chocolate bar or sandwich; or salad if you’re health conscious. Sit back, relax, and read about all the food I’ve cooked and baked so far in New Zealand. Who knows? You may even decide to use these recipes yourself if you’re living away from home.

Food was the last thing on our minds before coming to New Zealand. Confidently, we believe that we can adapt to the local way of eating food. Now we’ve finally grasped the idea on how to do it our way – the Asian way. Though we also have many fusions along the way. Food – it seems, is really a crucial part of living.

Our first meal in New Zealand was pathetic. We were hungry immediately after eating. Scratching our brains (because our scalps were scraped clean from previous scratching) thinking how we’d survive this torment of living like this for months.

We realised we couldn’t cook like we would in Malaysia and started experimenting with alternatives. We discovered Asian supermarkets in Auckland. To put it simply: we found home. A costly yet fragrant home. We bought a jar of tomyum (honestly still keeping it because we couldn’t find the heart to use the last bit of them) and loved it. We grow weak like jelly when it comes to Asian food.

No rice? We’ll replace them with pasta! We didn’t know that cooking pasta was an option until we were reminded by a pair of German-Austria girls at our Airbnb while in Auckland. Up until today, we’re experimenting with the best ways to cook the best pasta our style.

Our inner chef suffered a substantial blow when we arrived at Opotiki. There was no Asian supermarket. No PAKn’SAVE. Only New World. The word ‘monopolise’ was always ready to spit along with swearing and air-punching out of frustration.

The choice for leafy vegetables was limited to only cabbage and bok choy. We used certain ingredients repeatedly like broccoli, pumpkin, sweet corns, Iceberg lettuce…just saddening.

Immediately after, we started incorporating other forms of carbohydrate into our meals. Be it rotis, rice vermicelli or even dried noodles (sometimes they come in unhealthy forms too. We made it a point to always ensure we include a handful of vegetables inside for good measure

Then we discovered other small local markets that offer spices and cheaper vegetable options even though certain fruits are on the brink of ripening. We love them because they’re sweet! On lucky days, we can buy (ripened) avocados for 99c! They’re usually sold for 2 dollars each.

We cook recipes inspired by people of other cultures – mostly Indian.

I’ve also taken an extreme liking to eating sweet corns in all possible ways. Steamed, buttered and salted, fried, and raw! It’s so versatile: I can’t live without it. Most importantly – they’re crazy affordable. I was so head over heels for the sweet corns that my hosts bought me 4 ears of sweet corn one day and said, “I didn’t know someone can be so crazy over sweet corns!” Sadly, as we entered autumn, the season for corns had also ended.

My favourite go-twos. Nuff' said.

Oyster sauce and soy sauce to calm my Chinese food anxiety.

I have been eating a considerably epic amount of fruits than I normally would at home in Malaysia. Some of them cheap or for free. The key is to eat food that is cheap and constantly available.

A box of infinity supply of peaches offered at church after mass.
This is the kiwi we use to measure the size for other kiwis whether they should be rejected or not. We kept it and waited for it to ripe. When it started softening, we cut it open and tasted it. It'll still be 2 weeks before the actual picking date, plus it's too small for its size, so it wasn't sweet, but still good!
The colour may not seem promising, but they're really sweet! Even sweeter than we expect them to be!
Feijoa from my host's garden

Some days we just get really lazy and cook the saddest pasta. There were only pasta, carrot, and cheesy sauce (that we have to bake in the oven but didn’t).

On days when we don’t feel like cooking, or to put it bluntly – plain lazy – we make ridiculous food combinations in imitation of the “Big breakfast”. This is the closest we can get. Buttered and salted sweet corn, tomatoes and eggs, and garlic baguette.

We have been having the same breakfast for more than 2 months now. Still not sick of it.

30 minutes away from Opotiki lies the town called Whakatane. Our home dad brought us there one time and we stopped by a different supermarket (finally!) called Countdown and bought a baguette. We made garlic bread, which tasted extraordinary.

Before putting them in the oven.

Occasionally, we were spoiled by our home parents. Those days were the days when we were happiest and grateful. We learned that we can be happy with the simplest things in life without all the materialistic rubbish back home.

Descriptions are below the images in tiny captions.

Snapper fish that our home dad caught.
Tasty smoked fish - Gem fish.
Free CNY chocolate from our home dad during the first night of CNY.
Venison meat that our home dad's great grandson-in-law hunted.
A sweet note left behind along with a packet of roasted chicken the day they left for a vacation in Rotorua.
Garlic bread and pumpkin soup made from the pumpkin from their garden

Honestly, only learning how to fry fish fillet for the first time, and it turned out finger-licking good. Louis can’t stop praising how good it was, especially when dipped in sauce.

On a side note, we were in love over the way the iceberg lettuce tasted – boiled, then covered in a blanket of fried garlic and sesame oil.

The second time we fried the fish fillet, we upgraded its level to a lot crunchier. I also threw in some onion rings for good measure. Oh, you’re asking how it turned out? Heavenly. That’s what. It’s crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. This is the best and cheapest substitute when we crave for KFC or MCD. Really, all you need is flour. And practice.

If you want to know how to fry these heavenly goodness, comment below or DM me and I’ll send you a link 😉

Second time frying it with much success.

When we use the fish, we use the fish. The whole fish. And I mean everything. Including the fats around the eye, the eyeballs, the lips and the cheeks. What’s left of the fish would be just bones and skull, with nothing left. Sometimes I even feed the soft bones to the dogs. I eat fish like a beggar.

With that being said, we would not throw away the bones after we retrieved the fillets. Instead, we boiled them into fish stock – throw in ginger, onions, spring onions, mushroom and minced meat; seasoned with salt (or soy sauce) and half a ladle of cooking wine; most importantly, green HOT chili – pinched our own Mee Hoon Kueh (same recipe as dumpling skin, really – Voila! An amazing I-can-open-restaurant-already dish is served.

Like what Malaysians would say: the consistency of the mee hoon kueh was so Q (chewy) and the soup was savoury – filled with the aroma of the snapper fish. My tastebud tasted the ocean – mild but certain. It was a meal that I was extremely proud of. My mom would be so proud of me.

I also learned that we could throw everything in along with basic pancake ingredients to get fritters – and fry them like patties. From the picture it may just look like fried egg, nothing special, but they were palatable – a distinct flavour that I couldn’t quite explain. Rule of thumb: You need flour, eggs, and butter for the base. And then everything else is up to you. I was opened to possibilities of chocolate, banana, onions, garlic, corns, onions, cheese, bacon, minced meat, carrots, potatoes,… and the list goes on.

Fritters fried by local kiwi:

Louis started recalling the things his mother cooked at home, and told me we can try frying flour to make fried dumplings. Empty on the inside of course. So, we added our own fruit jam and peanut butter to it. And bananas because we want to look like we’re eating healthy. But really, it’s all just empty carbohydrates and oil. Like “Yoo Zha Kuih”. Even though they’re unhealthy, I relished every bite, every drop of oil that escaped my lips. It’s my once-in-a-while indulgence in unhealthy-but-delectable snacks.

We still eat rice, in limited amount. They don’t cost an arm and a leg, but they come in pathetic small packets that can be finished within 3 or 4 meals. Rice was a luxury: we ate them as fried rice or during meals with our home parents.

We still eat rice, in limited amount. They don’t cost an arm and a leg, but they come in pathetic small packets that can be finished within 3 or 4 meals. Rice was a luxury: we ate them as fried rice or during meals with our home parents.

Our home parents must have concluded that we were pitiful and gave us a bar of chocolate and some watermelon after.

I learned how to fix sudden sugar cravings by looking up on no-bake cheesecake recipes on the Internet. The price of the cream cheese costed almost $5 for a small tub and it was killing me inside, but not enough to kill my urge to eat the cheesecake. I proceed in making another 3 cheesecakes because I needed to perfect it.

I made a small portion that was enough to feed my home parents, my colleague, and the both of us for 2-3 times. Best of all? I can make the crust as thick as I want it to be, and still have extra to sprinkle on top! No one's gon' tell me what I can or can't eat.

When you hear people saying that they can die without eating chili, I am one of those people. I bought a bag of frozen green chilis from a local Indian shop and included them in most of my meals. They’re my life saver. My comfort when food tasted bland and flavourless.

Sometimes, my packed meals for work look so insta-worthy that I’d rather put them in a museum than eat them. Once they go in the bag – there goes the insta-worthy image.

Work got called off. We cooked our lunch earlier in the morning. In the end, we snuggled up comfortably in our room eating our cooked pasta and omelette.
Definitely a fusion of Western-Chinese.
A bird's eye view of my breakfast, lunch, and snack (for smo-ko). Breakfast: Bread spread with peanut butter, hazelnut chocolate spread, and bananas; lunch: fried rice vermicelli with corns, carrots, onions, minced chicken, and scrambled eggs with a side of boiled broccolis and carrots with hot chili sauce; snacks of many mandarin oranges and peach that we got off cheap as.
Admit it, this looks appetizing!

We have learned how to use basic ingredients and make them complex. Say… making a roti. Or curry.

We have never made dumplings from scratch at home, and here we were, making dumplings like authentic Chinese.

It was also my first time making peanut sauce! It was so palatable when eaten with boiled and steamed vegetables! Indonesian-inspired.

Other favourite meal ideas:

#1: Pasta

For this one, we didn’t use any pasta sauce at all. 

  • Pasta
  • Garlic
  • Carrots (diced)
  • Minced pork (rolled into balls)
  • Red Chili
  • Sweet corns (removed from cob)
  • Canola oil to sautee them!

#2: Venison meat

This one is tough to get. You need to get Venison meat to start with:

  • Venison meat
  • Garlic, onions and ginger
  • Garlic salt, salt, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, and corn starch
  • carrots and green chili
  • Cooking wine and chicken stock

#3: Fried chicken

Disclaimer: THIS LOOKED HIDEOUS but they’re really delicious! 

  • Chicken drumstick (cut into few pieces)
  • Garlic, onions, ginger, and green chili
  • Marinate with soy sauce, honey or sugar, and sweet soy sauce
  • Fry with canola oil!

#4: Curry chicken / dhal

This one is my favourite, albeit the most challenging to cook. I usually use pre-cooked or pre-prepared curry packages and now I have to make them all from scratch!

  • Powders: curry, turmeric, garam masala, cumin seeds, and coriander
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Carrots
  • Ginger

#5: Tomyum fried rice, steamed egg, and egg drop soup

The egg drop soup was a beautiful coincidence of a recipe that I picked up from watching a suggested video on YouTube one day. You can private message me if you’d like to know how to make it. Here are the ingredients that I’ve used for the soup, steamed egg, and fried rice.

  • Eggs
  • Tomatoes
  • Corn Starch
  • Chicken Stock and salt
  • Eggs (seasoned with salt and pepper)
  • Spring Onions
  • Minced meat
  • Water
  • Rice (chilled overnight after cooking)
  • Tomyum paste
  • Lemongrass
  • Spring Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Sweet corns
  • Canola Oil

#6: Spicy fish stock bihun

I was craving hard for Melaka’s lala bihun soup. The last I ate it was a month before leaving for NZ. Now I’m just sad because I can’t eat it. BUT! I am tough to beat. If I can’t buy it – I’ll make it. Coincidentally, my host brought us back a HUGE snapper fish he caught the day before, so we kept the fish bone and cooked it as fish stock! Oh, let me tell you – it was absolutely beautiful, even better than the one I ate in Melaka 😉


  • Two bowls of water
  • Fish bone
  • Ginger
  • Spring onions
  • 2-3 green chili
  • Salt
  • Button mushrooms (about 4)
  • Minced chicken (rolled into small balls)
  • Cooking wine (half a ladle - I thought it was a little ridiculous, but we really did need that much)
  • And then just throw everything in slowly and let it simmer for about an hour and you're done! Remember to scoop the fish bones out before putting in all the other ingredients so you don't eat the sharp bones and choke 😉 *You have been warned*

I can’t stress enough the importance of food bringing people together. I’ve done it in Auckland with my Airbnb hosts – and now in Opotiki. They’ve all been really pleased with our cooking and I can feel our bonds grew tighter with each meal. Here are some images of food eaten with our hosts to end this post:


So here you are! The struggles of not having rice for every meal can be substituted with so many different options – if we’re hardworking enough to look up on ways to do it. 

Unlike what this blog title suggests, we still have rice, but considerably lower in amount now.

I hope you find this post informative. I may not have included all the recipes, but if you approach me or leave a comment below to ask for the recipe, I’d happily provide the steps and ingredients that you’ll need to do them. Cheers! (:

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5 thoughts on “Learning how to survive without rice for every meal in New Zealand”

  1. Great post. Got me hungry by the end of it! Thanks for sharing the recipes. You guys can look forward to persimmon season soon. And feijoa – don’t ever buy these. Locals get so many from their own backyard and they’re very happy to share.

  2. Hey Anna

    Lovely post! I’ll be making my way to NZ next month. Just curious to know (as I have been observing based on your previous posts), where do you find such lovely places to stay at (homestay style and not backpackers hostels)?

    Did you book them way in advance? So far I’ve only have planned for one week of accommodation in Auckland when I arrive (to settle banking and IRD matters if any), and the accommodation after that will be based on where I can find a job. Which worries me because of the uncertainty of whether I will be able to find accommodation on such short notice. Hope you’ll be able to provide some insight. It will be very much appreciated! 🙂

    1. Hello Amy! That’s good news! I understand that you must be really worried of the uncertainties regarding your accommodation after your first week in NZ – that was exactly how I felt!

      But without bank account and ird, lots of jobs don’t allow you to apply. However, there are also jobs that allow you to apply first (I heard of many cases) and then work first while you get your ird, but you must have your bank account. You can always ask around in New Zealand Working Holiday 2018/2019 Facebook group (which was where I found mine). Try googling backpackers board as well.

      Aim for jobs that provide you with accommodation. I would suggest not going above 120. You can always find 120 or below. I’m on a budget. So…

      If you found a job that doesn’t come with accommodation, you can always go to Facebook again and post questions and ask if there’s anyone who’s renting a place.

      I’m sure something will work out. Remember not to stress yourself too much – like us. Lol. Enjoy your first week in Auckland and don’t just stay at home!

      Have fun!

    2. Oh, you can also try searching up “terry 纽西兰工作坊” on Facebook. He’s a Malaysian, living in NZ who helps Malaysian look for agriculture jobs in NZ. You can try messaging him. Sometimes there’s accommodation that comes with the jobs too!

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