Mind-Blowing Facts about Australian Food. Australia is one of the most extraordinary places in the world, and the same is true for its cuisine. Despite the common prejudice that Aussie cooking equals meat and potatoes, it is not the unrefined, primitive, simplistic cuisine that many take it to be.
It’s also prized for its use of top-quality ingredients: Australia is the world’s third largest fishing zone, second beef exporter, fourth wine exporter, and among the first fifteen cheese exporters (all those sheep!)
Yet, some are prepared to argue there’s no such thing as Australian cuisine, adding insult to injury by claiming that Australian cuisine is nothing else than bad English cuisine, which is bad Continental cuisine.
In fact, modern Australian cuisine is one of the world’s most varied and diverse cuisines. This exuberant fusion of native and global cooking traditions demonstrates clear English, French, Greek, Spanish and Italian influences, uniting them with Chinese, Thai, Mexican, African, and Lebanese dishes and adding unique elements into the blend.
Australian food is not for the faint of heart. Whether it’s native Aboriginal bush tucker (ranging from snakes to delightful moth larvae known as witchetty grubs), the British high-fat food heritage, the elaborate Aussie bastardisation of the Italian parmigiana into the beloved pub dish of chicken parma, or even the “Coat of Arms” pizza with kangaroo and emu – it always offers a daring mélange of ingredients seen nowhere else in the world.
The multicultural Australian society is the result of a massive influx of post-World War II immigrants, whose culinary efforts slowly transformed the native gastronomy by introducing colourful Mediterranean and Eastern European dishes. With time, the common shepherd’s pie and Irish stew were replaced by Chico rolls, chicken curry, Asian-style stir-fry, and the increasingly popular sushi.
Along with bringing the world’s best cuisines, Italian and Greek immigrants established a strong coffee culture in this untamed country. Based on rich, super-strong espresso, Australian coffee evolved into multiple elaborate variants, including Long Black and Flat White.
Aussies have become quite the experts on coffee, making them unwilling to compromise on its quality – which is exactly why Starbucks closed most of their coffee shops less than a decade after their Australian debut.
To witness the best coffee (and food) scene in Australia, you will have to go to Sydney. Famous for its huge choice of restaurants, cafés and pubs, this is the country’s top gastronomic destination.
Being busy with work, Aussies often resort to takeaway or dining out. Alternatively, they choose refined delivered food options by well-known catering companies for both everyday and social occasions. While most of them follow the routine of having three meals on workdays, weekends are all about brunch, and when it comes to brunch, Sydney is the place to be.
In addition to standard sliders, croissants, muffins and pastry, popular brunch and delivery options often include frittata, rice paper rolls, and fresh fruit.
Australia is one of the top meat producers in the world, but its beginnings were humble. The First Fleet brought mere 29 sheep and 6 cows; today, there are 27 million heads of beef cattle and 116 million sheep. So, where does all of that meat end up?
Most of the time, it ends up in burgers (topped with beetroot, which says something about the Australian flair for the unexpected), or snag sangers (sausage sandwiches). Even more often, it ends up on the barbie. Aussies love eating outdoors, and their love for barbecue is unmatched by anything else: they’re prepared to grill everything from prawns to kangaroo.
Of course, a lot of meat is used for preparing the first Australian takeaway food –meat pies. And meat pies, which come in a variety of tastes, are legally allowed to contain meat from “buffalo, camel, cattle, deer, goat, hare, pig, poultry, rabbit or sheep.”
This list might come as a surprise if you are not familiar with the fact that Australia is the home of the world’s largest camel herd. Imported in the nineteenth century, mainly for the purpose of building the railroad, camels were released into the wild once they were no longer needed for transport.
This had a huge impact on the Australian wilderness, akin to rabbit infestation resulting from an English settler’s boredom – being an avid hunter, he implored his nephew to send him a couple of rabbits to shoot at in order to pass the time. Since the rabbits multiplied as they’re prone to do, inventing new recipes with rabbit and camel meat was the most obvious approach to addressing the issue.
In addition to “regular” meat, in Australia it’s possible to buy and order exotic types of meat such as crocodile, emu, kangaroo and snake meat, which are not insanely popular. What is popular, though, is fresh, high-quality seafood which Australia has in abundance, with nearly 600 varieties of fish including the popular barramundi, salmon, bluefin tuna, lobster, prawn, mackerel, and abalone. Fish is treated in a variety of ways, from the beach favourites such as beer-battered fish and chips, to tuna patties, salt and pepper calamari, and Indian curry style dishes.
Despite growing tons of fresh produce, including beetroot, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, peas, eggplant, tomatoes and squash, most Australians will admit to having bad eating habits, with being too busy with work used as the typical excuse.
In fact, it’s more than that: Aussies are notorious for having a sweet tooth. Their exceptional love for sweets has gained them two ongoing feuds with their Kiwi neighbours, both concerning authorship over famous desserts – the airy, creamy, fruity Pavlova meringue, inspired by the famous Russian ballerina of the same name, and the “National Cake of Australia”, the chocolate-coated sponge cake rolled in desiccated coconut known as Lamington, reportedly hated by its namesake, Lord Lamington.
In contrast, the crunchy rolled-oats Anzac biscuits were not a result of feud, but a joint effort with New Zealand, and were originally sent to soldiers due to the fact that their ingredients made them suitable for long trips.
The first Australian chocolate bar was Cherry Ripe, but the most popular chocolate sweets are Tim Tams, “Australia’s favourite choc bikkies,” named after the horse who won the Kentucky Derby in 1958.
Obviously, Australia is not all about meat, or Vegemite, or damper bread (which hardly anyone eats nowadays). Australian cuisine is about curiosity and the joy of living, reflected in Australian preparedness to try everything once, and, if possible, improve it… Or at least to make it more interesting.
Guest Post by Luke Douglas