Thank you Russell.
I think you're being too hard on yourself. It looks appealing to me.
I tautoko the other commenters who suggest using birdseye chillies for that extra heat. If you can't find them fresh, I have seen them sold frozen in Asian supermarkets. (I've actually got half a bag in my freezer)
Wrote a comment that got swallowed by the site which basically said that texture is an important component of food which isn't as appreciated.
And that it's a personal preference sort of thing. Using the example of rice congee a.k.a. rice porridge which is a comfort for me & most definitely not for my spouse. Even though rice congee itself comes in a range of viscosity (from a watery soup with grains of rice in it, to a thick porridge).
But more erudite.
Thank you for sharing.
I've had cassava (in Malaysia it's called tapioca), but never like this. In savoury dishes it can be used as a thickening agent, but mostly I've had it as sago, or in cakes like this one.
Cooked up with just water, it's a gluey flavourless paste. I can understand why it's not at all appealing. I see from a quick search that it's a bit like rice*; bland on its own but serves as a source of carbohydrates. And is typically served with other (more flavourful) dishes.
*Given a choice, I wouldn't eat rice on its own either.
We don't respond well to criticism, especially if it is valid criticism that pierces the illusion that everything is wonderful in NZ.
(It's not just locals that get the grief. Remember the time Kevin Sorbo copped flak for daring to suggest that it can rain a lot in Auckland?)
"reminds him of British comfort cooking circa 1968"
I kind of agree in that if you squint, it's not entirely wrong. But it misses the bigger picture: NZ food incorporates a much wider diversity of influences.
For me, a key characteristic is that we "borrow" from cuisines and tweak to the local palate, with little regard for culinary boundaries. Like the "Malaysian" place that serves Vietnamese coffee, or any number of pan-Asian fusion eateries around these days. I include the "butter chicken pie" as part of that borrowing & tweaking.
Even at home, what we eat can be diverse (what I cook at home is diverse but I'm probably an outlier). One only has to look at what's available from supermarkets: ingredients from many many cuisines are available, and many items are not segregated to the "international foods" aisle either which suggests to me just how mainstream they have become. Contrast that with what you might see on supermarket shelves in e.g. Italy, where you can get a wide range of ingredients, so long as it is Italian (slight exaggeration).
There is Kai Pasifika in Auckland which we've been meaning to visit, and as Bart said, Michael Meredith brings his heritage to his food at the soon-to-be-closed (sadly), Merediths.
To be fair, kumara prices are ridiculously high at the moment. It's typically more like $4-5 a kilo vs the current ~$8.
Apparently torisashi a.k.a. chicken sashimi is a thing in Japan. That's a nope from me.