TASTE OF AUSTRALIA (OZ)
Top things to try and eat:
- Meat pies
- Australian meats on the “barbie”
- Damper bread
This is just a beginner’s guide and a place to start. This is not even close to an exhaustive list but a place for where the curious foodie can begin.
Tales of a ChronicFoodie
Australia was where it all began and where I caught the travel bug. In the summer of 1990, at the tender age of 15, I found myself with a group of teens from Canada and the USA in a small town north of Brisbane. The two-month experience was amazing, especially since I was there without my family.
For North Americans, Australia seems to always find itself on the top of the list of places people dream of visiting. A far off land with images of cute koalas, gorgeous skylines of the Sydney harbour, scorched desserts, beautiful surf and of course, the Great Barrier Reef. There are many images that can be conjured up when thinking about the “Land Down Under”. For me, Australia was simply the country/continent that became the gift that set things in motion in my life when it comes to “travel”.
Looking that far back, I do have some vivid memories of my time there and there were a few surprises when it came to their food. I do remember trying Vegemite for the first time. I have to admit that I don’t go out of my way looking for my butter and Vegemite toast. However, having grown up with flavours that are filled with umami tastes, it is not at all offensive to me. However, those who have lived their whole life in the four common tastes: sweet, sour, bitter and salty, I understand why this is a challenge and not something most North Americans care for.
What is Umami?
The word literally means “delicious” or “yummy” in Japanese.
Referred to commonly as the “fifth taste” after sweet, salty, bitter and sour. Umami, it is really difficult to describe this taste as there is no direct English word for it. Some say that umami is “savoury” or a “meaty” taste. Examples would be soy sauce, parmesan cheese. Here’s a link that goes more into detail: Click here
What is Australian food?
Aussies adopted many foods from their British roots like fish and chips, mushy peas. One clear standout that still remains today is the Aussie’s passion for Meat Pies. These pastry filled delights are the original street food with a history that dates as far back as the 1800s. Filled with either beef, pork or mutton (Australians call older sheep meat mutton), it can be easily found where there is any number of people living in a town or city.
The one distinction on how Aussies like their meat pies is their obsession with “tomato sauce”. Don’t mistake this with “ketchup” as there are many who would take offence and if you look at the ingredients, there are differences between the two but for the respect to the language of our friends “Down Under”, we will use the term Tomato Sauce as the condiment used to eat meat pies in Australia.
Here are a few things to look out for when you find yourself in Australia or to search out for outside of Australia:
Meat: Australians are really big on their meat and if you’ve ever looked into their passion for meat, you will ultimately learn about their obsession for meats grilled on a “barbie” (barbecue). Don’t be surprised if you run into options like crocodile, emu and even kangaroo. And in some parts, you may find your chance to have a taste of wallaby.
As a Korean, I can completely appreciate this and to try meats like Kangaroo is a treat. I never had Kangaroo meat while in Australia but I did have a chance to try it in Toronto from a specialty meat shop. As expected, the meat had a good “earthy/gamey” tone to it and the tail part reminded me of venison but a bit denser. Kangaroo meat has become trendy for athletes as the protein in the meat exceeds some of the leanest meats on the market. As a starter, finding Kangaroo sausage around specialty shops is becoming more common in Toronto and I suspect in other places around the globe.
Bread: Damper is iconic and has a long history in Australia. This wheat-based bread that was traditionally made on coals. Nowadays, you can find them being made in an oven. A bread originally used as a ration when “stockmen” (men who looked after livestock on large properties) cared for their animals and would have to be out in the “bush” for more than a day. To compare Damper, you would see similar traditions in Canada and the USA – the bread is called “Bannock”. If you’ve never tried bannock, come on my Chopsticks+Forks food tour and sample the age-old bread for yourself.
Lamingtons (wiki) is a very popular dessert amongst Australians. Essentially, Lamingtons is a square sponge cake that is often coated with a yummy chocolate layer. Of course, there are variations of this where you could find it with raspberry sauce, strawberry jam, cream. I like them anyway, especially with a nice cup of coffee.
Short form: Aussies do sometimes refer to Lamingtons as a “Lammo(s)”.
Pavlova: A delicious meringue dessert that was named after the famed Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova. I won’t go into the debate of its origins as there are claims also from New Zealand, America and even Germany. I don’t have a vote nor an opinion on the matter, however, I certainly care that this dessert is important to Australians and it is absolutely delicious!
Are you brave enough?
Some have described the outside of this chubby and large grub like chicken and the inside as scrambled eggs. I’m not sure what kind of witchery grub they were describing. I think that when I tasted this little bugger, it wasn’t prepared the way others have had it. It was a dare and mine was not fried or cooked. It was plain old raw and I had it just like how many Aboriginal/Indigenous have their witchetty grub. It wasn’t terrible but definitely an experience and would do it again.
Let me be the first to say this before anyone accuses me of not appreciating the amazing diversity that Australia enjoys. The food scene from all that I’ve read puts Australia as a top destination for any “foodie” and I can’t wait to find myself back in the land of Oz. I’ve not even touched on the “Coffee Culture” nor any of the beverages that are consumed by the gallons. Before anyone visits, besides the foods I mentioned above, you have to read all about the “Goon Bag”. Another reason why I love Aussies.
May this be a start of your exploration into the world of food in Australia. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list and my blogs are not meant to be that. There is a world of food to discover and for those who don’t know where to start, my goal is to get the appetite wet and encourage to explore deeper once you get a small taste into the cuisine of a country or culture.
Till next time… stay hungry my friends!
Jusep, your ChronicFoodie
P.S. I’ve been a Lonely Planet loyalist for over 20 years and was dependent on it before there was the internet. Here’s a link to Australia if you are planning or contemplating a visit to Australia: Lonely Planet – Australia