Dunedin cheese rolls = southern sushi. © Dunedin NZ

Cheese rolls: the sushi of the south

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Food in situ. It’s a simple pleasure, but one not to be overlooked. Context is all in all matters culinary.

Could you really eat a fillet steak at Fleur’s Place? Would you go for a barbecue at a sheep station and ask for oysters? Not unless they were ‘mountain oysters’ perhaps.

Now you may wonder at cheese rolls even being, you know, a thing. Come to Southland, or Otago and, more specifically Dunedin, take your feet out of your mouth and pop one of these hot and tasty little blighters in it. You will be, from a cuisine perspective anyway, reborn.

Start with a rolled-up piece of (preferably) white bread, where the crust is broken so that it does not (dare) to revert to its natural flat state. The cheese rolled up inside is sometimes augmented by onions and other matter: food researchers have identified three distinct types of filling. The matter of the matter in the cheese roll is a serious matter.

At least it is south of the Waitaki River. While the first official cheese roll recipe appeared in a South Island cookbook in 1951, it took until the be-flared 1970s before the North Island even gave such a delicacy a mention.

Do not be fooled by mousetraps, rat traps or, meh, cheese on toast. Go to Dunedin, get a proper cheese roll. Dig that crusty exterior and that melty, soft filling. Dig how easy it is to eat. How it oozes over your fingers. Get into some ‘Southern sushi,’ as it’s sometimes called. Mate.

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