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Cooking with steam.

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Last updated by Joy Kitt

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There is a long tradition of cooking with steam in maori life.  If we look wider this idea occurs in various forms across the Pacific - umu, luau. We have pressure cookers and rice cookers in our NZ kitchens, eastern cooks use baskets over the wok to steam meat and vegetables.  So how is it that steam can cook?

Here is where a science investigation and exploration comes in.  I suggest you do some exploring about the States of Matter - matter comes in three states: solid, liquid and gas.  The states change because of changes in temperature. 

Now think about water - what do we call it's solid, liquid and gaseous states?  What temperature are they? How can you find out?  What do you think people in the past noticed about these states? How do people without electricity and western kitchens cook?

Find an expert, in person or online, who can help you discover more about hangi or umu and how they cook the food.  Find out as much as you can about the process of cooking in a variety of ways - fry, boil, roast, steam - compare the results using simple foods like potatoes, eggs, sausage?   Collect data on the results - the time it takes to get a cooked food, compare textures, appearance, temperatures.  Do you need different equipment to cook in different ways.  What do you like best?  What still works without electricity?  Which is faster?

It would be great to have someone come and help you set up a hangi to experience the whole process - the traditions, the reasons for certain materials, why they are put together in particular ways, the customs and taboos.  All cultures have various customs around food preparation, cooking and serving.  Do these customs have a basis in science? 

Try this site for some basics on hangi building.  http://www.genuinemaoricuisine.com/Folders/Hangi.html

Try this unit on Heat. We road tested this across the school and finished the term off with a hangi. Each child brought a root vegetable and we cooked them in the hangi then all ate together in the hall with the kapahaka leaders kicking it off with a karakia.