RonnaEats | The $20 Best Eats Challenge At The Rotorua Night Market

Ikanaya chicken kebabs were 3 for $7 from Cast Iron Barbecue at the Rotorua Night Market.

Ikanaya chicken kebabs were 3 for $7 from Cast Iron Barbecue at the Rotorua Night Market.

26/01/2018 : Being a food lover, it’s only natural to have friends who are too, right? Meet my friends Sam and John, who, you guessed it, share my love of food. I met John just over a year ago (he’s a native of Maryland, USA) through my long-time friend, Sam. They’re really fun to hang out with, and like me, love spontaneous adventures. That’s how we ended up at the Rotorua Night Market on Thursday night.

I pitched the idea to the guys about two days before, except they had no idea what we were doing or where we were going. The only choice they had to make was to choose between a ‘chilled out’ or ‘adventure’ option - but once they made that choice, they couldn’t find out what they missed out on. A bit like the part in the Matrix where Neo had to choose between the Red or Blue pill. Red pill it is…

The Rotorua Night Market is on Thursday nights, where part of Tutanekai Street (between Haupapa and Hinemoa Streets) is closed off to traffic. When I first went there two years ago, it was mainly a food market, but now there are more retail market stalls and buskers. Sam and John only found out about the $20 Best Eats Challenge when we parked up. Being the super competitive people that we are - it was definitely game on. A quick five minute walk to the markets itself and fifteen minutes to check out all the food stalls, it was on like Donkey Kong!

The $20 Best Eats Challenge

It was simple really - we had $20 each and 30 minutes to find the best value and tasting eats the markets had to offer. After establishing a meeting time, we all went our separate ways to get lost in the various smells and delights from each of the stalls.

My choices on the night was a chicken and chorizo paella for $10, and Ikanaya chicken kebabs which were 3 for $7. The paella was average, though for the price it would have been a very filling meal if I ate had managed to eat most of it. The kebabs on the other hand were delicious! It had a hickory, smoked flavour with a hint of sweetness and heat. Make sure to check out the Cast Iron Barbecue stall.

My friend, Sam, with his chicken and cranberry burger and creme brulee.

My friend, Sam, with his chicken and cranberry burger and creme brulee.

For the challenge, we each got to taste what each other bought. Sam got a chicken and cranberry burger, creme brulee and a guava drink - his came to exactly $20. I loved the creme brulee, which was nice and creamy but not too sweet.

John with his empanadas and custard-filled cronut.

John with his empanadas and custard-filled cronut.

John came back with two kinds of empanadas: One beef and the other was mushroom with three cheeses. He also had a custard-filled cronut (yes, you can get your cronut fix at the markets!) with a chocolate glaze. The mushroom and three cheeses empanadas were my favourite, plus the pastry had a delicious buttery flavour, and had that signature light and crunchy empanada pastry.

Who won the challenge? Congratulations, Sam! John and I both agreed that on the night, Sam’s choice of chicken and cranberry burger, creme brulee and drink were the best value for his $20.

There’s still so many stalls we’re yet to try, but if you’re a regular, I would love to hear about your favourites and must-haves in the comments.

Who is RonnaEats? Ronna Funtelar runs this independent foodie blog, with a philosophy to eat and write about food we can rave about. We don't ask for free meals or collaborate with our reviewed eateries, so you can be assured the reviews are unbiased and all for the love of food. Whether it's a food truck, a hole in the wall eatery, street food, local hangout or fine dining, we want to know where to head to for our next food adventure.

Ronna Grace Funtelar

A thirtyish storyteller, hobby hiker, photography and sunrise enthusiast with a passion for mindfully helping others live beyond their comfort zone.