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Hāpuka or groper is an excellent eating fish that can be found right across New Zealand and makes for great fillets or steaks. But if you're up for being a bit creative, you should absolutely try this hāpuka recipe from Kaelah's Wild Kai Kitchen. They're crunchy, tasty and sure to impress. Check out the backstory to this awesome catch-and-cook recipe that only takes about 20 minutes to make.
On a recent trip home to Kaikōura, myself and a group of family and friends were lucky enough to head out with Tomo from Kaikōura Fishing Tours to target some beautiful Hāpuka. We arrived at the marina at about 6am to a misty Kaikōura waiting for us. Tomo set the team up with our electric rods and off we motored. Forty minutes of battling big swells and Tomo had found the honey holes,. Down the rods went. Barely moments after our rods had hit the bottom, my dad was the first to hook up. His electric reel screamed and two flashes of silver shimmered below the surface. He had hooked up two Hāpuka first pop. In just over an hour Tomo had managed to get the team onto five beautiful, big Hāpuka. With everyone a little green around and the gills (excuse the pun) we decided we'd had more than enough fish to go around and headed home.
Massive thanks to Tomo, Neats and team for an epic morning out. If you're ever in Kaikōura looking to do some fishing with some knowledgeable locals, I can’t recommend Kaikōura Fishing Tours highly enough.
500g Hāpuka (or any white fish)
3 tbsp spring onions chopped
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp sugar
1 cup mixed coleslaw finely chopped
1 cup bean sprouts
rice paper wrappers
oil for frying
This Hāpuka recipe is extremely quick and easy. The most complex part is handling the wet rice paper wraps, which can feel a bit slimy and sticky. Also, if you don't have Shaoxing wine you can use dry sherry for a similar result.
1. Place the fish, spring onions, egg, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, cornflour, ginger, garlic and sugar in a food processor and whizz to a smooth paste. You may need to pulse the filling to achieve a smooth result
2, Place the fish filling in a bowl and mix in the finely chopped coleslaw and bean sprouts
3. Fill a large bowl with hot water and dunk the rice paper into the water for five seconds then transfer to a work surface
4. Place two heaped tablespoons of filling onto the prepared rice paper and then roll it up like an envelope to enclose the filling.
5. Take one more rice paper, dunk into water for five seconds and then place the wrapped filling into the second rice paper and roll again so that the fish filling is wrapped in two sheets of rice paper (this makes sure it stays enclosed and is extra crunchy)
6. Repeat this process with the remaining filling
7. Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add rice paper rolls and cook fo five minutes each side or until crispy and golden. Repeat with remaining rolls
8. Transfer to a plate. Garnish with chilli and coriander and serve with your favourite dipping sauces (I recommend satay sauce and dumpling dipping sauce).
These Hāpuka rolls are awesome to serve as a fancy side or as the main event with salad or veggies. It's a great way to use up leftover fish and provides a nice change from stock standard fillets. Notes: This recipe makes about four large rolls and will work with almost any white fish fillets. Rice paper, satay sauce and dumpling dipping sauce can be found in the Asian food section of most supermarkets, or specialty Asian food stores.
Kaelah James, aka Kaelah's Wild Kai Kitchen, is a New Zealand speafisher, huntress and incredible wild food cook. She's built up a following on Instagram by sharing her delicious recipes and she's now come on board as a Bushbuck ambassador and contributor to The Campfire blog. She will be sharing wild food and catch-and-cook recipes, as well as the stories behind hunting and gathering the kai.