Things you should know about Australian cuisine
Australian food is a messy area to define. Ask a hundred Aussies and you’ll get a hundred different answers.
Australian cuisine is multifaceted and tells a rich history of both recent and ancient times. British heritage, East Asian influence, Aboriginal history, an abundance of local produce and modern food trends make up this country’s mishmash menu.
Food is a core part of Australian people’s identity. It’s so much more than having a sausage sizzle with a few stubbies in the sunshine…but that is also a large part of it. Aussie food is a running commentary on our lifestyle and surroundings.
Remake and remodelled dishes becoming Aussie staples
Often gleaning inspiration from other cultures, Australia has a unique ability to put its own stamp on dishes from elsewhere in the world. Take the chiko roll, invented in 1951 by Frank McEnroe in Victoria. Modelled on a Chinese spring roll or chop suey roll, this sports fan’s snack is now a favourite at almost every major Aussie event. Seen as a homegrown icon by some, a deep-fried nightmare by others, the chiko rolls are munched by surfers, tourists, commuters, students and locals all over Australia.
Australia’s second ‘re-imagined’ favourite is the chicken parmigiana. The recipe is simple; a large chicken schnitzel, topped with tomato sauce, ham and grilled cheese. With obvious Italian roots, this pub favourite is a chart topper in Australian cuisine. Undeniably delicious comfort food for the masses, you must try one of these with a crisp draught lager in the sunshine.
Last on the list is the Aussie meat pie. Served for Sunday lunch with gravy in the UK and for dessert with whipped cream in the US, Australia has chosen snacking as the purpose of our pies. From supermarket counters to beach side kiosks, grab-and-go pies are everywhere. Don’t let the warm counter at the petrol station put you off – these little pies are surprisingly great quality. Australia has a world-renowned meat industry, which results in our pies being both delicious and incredible value. While recipes vary, most use a mix of beef and local delicacies for added flavour, like vegemite. If you’d like to make your own, check out this recipe.
Beautiful Bush Tucker is the core of Australian cuisine
Aboriginal heritage is a story sometimes sold short outside of Australia. Many who immigrate down under know a fairly limited amount about the country’s native peoples. While this is a shame, it presents a real opportunity when you get there! From colourful artistry to unique customs, cave paintings to unusual instruments, history fans will relish having the world’s longest surviving society on your doorstep.
One of the most distinct aspects of aboriginal life is bush tucker, or bush food. This is the food typically eaten by aboriginal people in the outback and it’s a must try when you get there. Their diet typically includes a lot of fibre and proteins found in the plants, animals and nuts endemic to Australia.
Animals are caught and cooked over open fire or flames. There’s a great food documentary showcasing some of these activities on Netflix. Many of the meats in Australia contain lower levels of fats than many western equivalents, helping the aboriginal people maintain a healthy diet of emus, barramundi, goannas, crocodiles and kangaroos. As well as peanuts, cashews and macadamia nuts, insects and grubs are also used as a protein filled snack. The most famous is the witchetty grub. This grub is typically eaten raw or cooked. These large wood dwelling larvae are said to taste like almonds!
We’d recommend a tour so you get the most from the experience. Here’s a directory of different tours in different Aussie states.
Australia’s sweet tooth
Aussies love a sweet treat. Some mean more to them than others. The Anzac biscuit is baked and eaten in late April on Anzac Day. This is to remember and commemorate all of Australia’s servicemen who fought in wars for this country.
More light-hearted sweet snacks include fairy bread, which is literally sliced white bread with butter with ‘hundreds and thousands’ sprinkled on top. Arguably a recipe isn’t required for this child-like cake substitute. Aussies don’t expect those coming to settle for a new life in Australia to understand fairy bread. It’s a nostalgic family favourite from kids’ birthday parties that you had to grow up with to appreciate.
While fairy bread is a tricky concept to grasp, Tim Tams are far more easily understood. Produced locally by Arnott, these chocolate biscuits are in every supermarket throughout Australia. They consist of two biscuits with a cream filling and come in a variety of flavours. We’d particularly recommend the chocolate and mint ones!
Want to learn more about Australian cuisine?
Now that you’ve learned a bit about our food culture, why not have a read about our drinking culture? Aussies are reputed to be fond of a drop or two, but stereotypes can be misleading…