Topics: Health, Native Affairs, Tūhoe

Super Kai

By Ngahuia Wade
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty

Meat that is cooked at high temperatures, such as barbecued or charred creates chemicals that are linked to cancer.

New Zealand has the second highest rate of bowel cancer in the world.

Now there is hope for a condiment, that if added it to meat could reduce the cancer-causing chemicals?

A Tūhoe Nanny from Ruātoki village in the Bay of Plenty may have created such a Superkai. The condiment has been branded – Kīnaki.

Scientists from AgResearch have tested Kīnaki in the lab and found that during the high heat of cooking Kīnaki inhibits the creation of chemical compounds known as heterocyclic amines or HCAS  – the compounds believed to be cancer causing.

The scientists are excited as no existing compound is yet proven to have this quality, to inhibit the creation of carcinogenic chemicals in cooked meat.

So how was Kīnaki discovered?

It is the creation of the late “Aunty” Ngahuia Lena Hare. She made a blend of Horopito, Kawakawa, Puha, Reweti and Kouka, all native species known to Maori. 

Nanny Lena kept a garden to feed her family all her life. She followed the traditional Tūhoe gardening ways. Driftwood was burnt to create ash that was feed to the soil. She herself would say she fed the micronutrients in the soil to create her gardens.

When scientists from AgResearch decided to investigate traditional Māori agriculture it was natural that they should visit Aunty Lena.

It was she who introduced them to her Super Kai. When the scientists did some preliminary lab tests on  Kīnaki they realised her belief in this traditional  Māori kai was potential as a health food.

AgResearch has formed a partnership with the Bryce Hare Whanau Trust to further test Kīnaki. The most promising line for marketing Kīnaki is to combine it with existing spices such as turmeric, curry, garlic and ginger and create some new condiments. 

As food technologist at AgResearch, Dr Mustafa Farouk, says, “No matter how good it is for you, people won’t eat Kīnaki unless it tastes good.”

Dr Farouk is confident that they can create great tasting condiments based on Aunty Lena's discovery

The market potential is huge. The USA alone imports condiments worth over four billion dollars a year.  New Zealand spends over four hundred million a year on condiments.

Dr Anwar Ghani, a marketing expert, says many spices claim to have anti-cancer qualities.  They hope Kīnaki will be proven scientifically with further testing.

The AgResearch scientists emphasise there is still years of testing but they do not hide their confidence and excitement. AgResearch has this year awarded a grant to the Bryce Hare Whanau Trust for further research.

As Dr Mustafa Farouk says “The biggest excitement for me is partnering with the indigenous people and then Kīnaki being sold all over the world.”