The 1973 pig roasting oven with a view to die for

Selected for Google Maps and Google Earth

Whole roasted pig is a culinary treat enjoyed by cultural groups all over the world. The Chinese are no exception, and pig roasting ovens of one sort or another would have been built in the coastal vegetable growing area since Chinese first capitalised on the soil and climate to supply vegetables to the market. A good oven needs to have a degree of durability as the "service conditions" can be a bit extreme! There are apparently about four ovens extant in the area - this one on Simon Zhu's property has been made from firebricks plastered externally. Fitted with a hoist to lift the pig in and out and suspend it during the 2 hour cooking period, it was built in 1973. This would have coincided with the period when Chinese market gardening in North Otago was most affected by the shift in demographics, population drift to Auckland city and the growth of much larger food-growing business in south Auckland. Food transport costs then started to limit the catchment area of the Oamaru growers' customers to the Lower South Island and thus it initiated the semi-collapse of the North Otago market gardening community. Still, this oven gets called upon to do its thing a few times a year, and in January 2012 it produced two very tasty roast pigs for the community to help celebrate Chinese New Year.

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Comments (3)

ColinNZ01 on May 2, 2013

Bruce - thank you for sharing this article and your pictures. I recently discovered these after visiting this property which is where I grew up with my brothers. My Dad actually built this oven with help with a couple of friends and I remember them working on it way back when. It brings back lots of wonderful memories. Friends who were with us were quite excited by the fact that we had a pig oven as they'd recently seen pictures in a book by a NZ chef!

Thank you again for documenting this.

Bruce Comfort on May 2, 2013

Colin, I see you are yourself, not a Panoramio user. Do you mind telling me how you found my photos of the Chinese market Gardeners on Panoramio?

Where you looking at Google Earth, doing a Google search?

My use of Panoramio to "publish" stuff is based on the hope that people will find the photos by looking around on Google Earth where they appear as small blue squares, if the photo layer is turned on.

My wife is Chinese and it has been interesting to move here (Oamaru) from Wellington, to retire. We are members of NZCA - I presume you are Chinese too? Joyce is See Yip and we have been married 46 years now!!

Do you feel like sharing more of your life as a child in Oamaru, of course we have "Sons of the Soil" is you family in there.

ColinNZ01 on July 12, 2013

Hi Bruce - I was not even aware of Panoramio until I found this picture. I found these photos from doing a plain old image search on Google for "chinese pig oven" and, to my surprise, I saw something very familiar! To answer your question, yes - I am of Chinese descent and I too am See Yip. I have only briefly browsed through "Sons of the Soil" when it was published and I'm not sure if our family is mentioned. I moved to Auckland more than 30 years ago and have just celebrated 30 years of marriage to my wife Alda earlier this year! But, I do remember working the fields with my brothers and my parents - and then harvesting the "fruits" of our labours ... through all weathers. I even remember some bright sunny days during the winters, it was so cold we had to wait until later in the day to pick brussel sprouts because they'd frozen over during the night!! So we had to wait until they thawed.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on February 6, 2012
  • Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works
    by Bruce Comfort
    • Camera: SAMSUNG ES65, ES67 / VLUU ES65, ES67 / SAMSUNG SL50
    • Taken on 2012/01/20 19:36:17
    • Exposure: 0.001s (1/750)
    • Focal Length: 4.90mm
    • F/Stop: f/3.500
    • ISO Speed: ISO100
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash