Since the day it opened there’s been a long waiting list for the opportunity to dine at Hiakai. Wellington chef Monique Fiso has attracted a storm of international interest for her modern and revolutionary interpretation of traditional Māori cuisine with the indigenous ingredients that she and her team source and forage for each week.

Her new book, also Hiakai, is possibly the most important food book ever published in New Zealand and hopefully will sit on every chef’s bookshelf as the ultimate reference we have been awaiting as we struggle to create a national cuisine that’s identifiable as unique and exciting.

The book has three major sections. Serious research undertaken in libraries and collections around the Pacific has been collated to share the stories, mythology and history of Māori food, usually passed on in the oral tradition but now recorded forever. That section is followed by a comprehensive explanation of all past and present indigenous ingredients of Aotearoa, from earth and ocean. To complete the book there’s a recipe collection – a taste of the inventive food that is continually being developed for the restaurant.

As the book delves into this almost unknown and rarely recorded territory, it is for serious reading, to ponder, to excite and to celebrate. There won’t be many cooks turning to Hiakai for dinner solutions but the recipes give a wonderful insight into what can be achieved with foraged and indigenous ingredients by one of our most innovative and inspired chefs. And it surely will tempt new diners to make a booking months in advance to experience the real thing. LAURAINE JACOBS