Young Kareao Shoots, Kawakawa- Lemon Emulsion, Confit Yolk

By Monique Fiso Chef/Founder of Hiakai

Young Kareao Shoots, Kawakawa- Lemon Emulsion, Confit Yolk

Young Kareao Shoots, Kawakawa- Lemon Emulsion, Confit Yolk. Monique Fiso shows us how to use traditional kareao in the modern kitchen. 

Translating from Māori as ‘Twisted Rope’, Kareao is a native vine that can be found growing in lowland forests across Aotearoa. Those of you who love to explore the great New Zealand outdoors have probably tripped up once or twice (maybe even thrice) on this coily wonder. Also known as Supplejack or “Bush Asparagus”, the thick black vine crawls along the forest floor until it finds a tree to climb. Once a tree has been found, the vine wraps itself around the trunk and branches with the goal of reaching the forest canopy.

At first glance, Kareao doesn’t look like much but there’s more to this plant than meets the eye. According to Māori mythology, Maui sought revenge upon the eel god, Tunaroa after the deity knocked over and insulted Maui’s wife as she gathered water from a stream. Maui ambushed Tunaroa then brutally hacked him to death. Tunaroa’s body was dismembered into three pieces; The head was tossed into the sea and became saltwater eels, the tail was thrown into the river and became freshwater eels and, last but not least, the very tip of the tail was thrown into the forest and grew to become the Kareao vine.


If you want Kareao, you’ll have to forage for it. Unfortunately there are no commercial producers or suppliers of the vine. The good news is, however, that it’s easy to find as it grows all throughout the native New Zealand forest. Harvesting the young shoots from the rest of the vine is as simple as snapping it off in a similar way that you would snap off the woody end of an asparagus stalk.

Due to its unavailability commercially, its use in the modern kitchen is relatively unexplored. Its appearance on restaurant menus is fleeting, usually being used as a vegetable garnish on a dish before disappearing again until the Chef finds time in their busy schedule to “go bush” and put it back on again.

Serves 4

20 Young Kareao Shoots, cut on an angle crosswise
20 Kawakawa Leaves, blanched and excess water squeezed out
1 Lemon, juice and zest
250g Brown Butter, melted
6 Egg Yolks
1 tblsp Boiling Water
1 cup Canola Oil, for Confit Yolks Canola Oil, for sautéing
Sea Salt, to taste

Place the 1 cup of canola oil in small saucepan. Heat the oil to above body temperature then gently place 4 yolks into the warm oil. Keep the oil at this temperature until ready to serve. (Place a few extra yolks in there if you’re worried you might break a few)

Place 2 egg yolks in a food processor and begin blending at a high speed. After 10 seconds, add the boiling water to the yolks and continue blending for a further 20 seconds.

Very slowly drizzle the brown butter into the yolk mixture. Do not pour the butter in quickly as this will cause the sauce to split and you will have to start again. As the brown butter is being added, the yolk mixture will thicken – this is the base of your emulsion sauce.

Once all the brown butter is added, place the the blanched kawakawa leaves in the food processor along with the lemon zest and juice. Blended until the mixture is bright green and all the kawakawa is broken down. Season with salt and set aside.

Heat a fry pan until hot. Tip a little canola oil in the pan, follow immediately with the young Kareao shoots.

Sautee the Kareao shoots until just tender. Season with salt, remove from the pan and begin plating.

To Plate:

Place 3 tblsps of Kawakawa-Lemon Emulsion in the middle of the plate. Use the back of a soup spoon to spread the emulsion out into a circle approx. 5cm wide.

Use a slotted spot to gently remove the yolks from the oil. Dab off any excess oil with towel and place the yolk in the middle of the Kawakawa-Lemon Emulsion. Season with a pinch of sea salt.

Arrange the Kareao shoots around the Kawakawa-Lemon Emulsion. Get creative! Kareao is wild and unpredictable in its natural environment, emulate this with your plating then serve.


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