Inspired by some of Brooke’s posts over at WhyGo Australia about delicious (and not so delicious) Australian foods, I’ve decided to resurrect the Top 10 concept with the ten foods I consider ‘must eat’ on a visit to Australia.
Many people perhaps aren’t aware of just how multicultural Australia really is. The image of bronzed beach bums, zinc coated cricketers, and hard as nails outback crocodile hunters perhaps overshadows the fact that Australia has a massive European and Asian population. You’re just as likely to find fantastically fragrant Thai, authentic Korean BBQ, or a deliciously greasy Turkish kebab on a street corner as you are to find Aussie staples such as the meat pie, the Vegemite sandwich, and the sacred Pavlova.
Who am I kidding? You’re more likely to find these so-called foreign foods here than you are the more traditional British style foods that are more commonly associated with Australian cuisine. The country is a melting pot of cultures and tastes, and the best ten are listed below.
It’s salty, yeasty, and not altogether nice – but after years of having it tucked into our lunch boxes and smeared onto our morning toasts – most Aussies have developed an affection for this entirely unappealing looking black spread. New Zealanders and Brits have their own version, but I’ll take a salty smear on my morning toast any day of the week.
Similar but superior to the Crunchie made by Cadbury, the Violet Crumble is a cube of honeycomb coated in milk chocolate and served in a healthy sized bar. Available around the world although never quite as easy to find as you might like, the Violet Crumble is probably Australia’s most well recognized chocolate bar.
Pretty much the only native crop of any import to come out of Australia, the Macadamia nut is all kinds of amazing. Whether you’re eating it raw or salted; candied or chocolate coated; or as a garnish on a meal – Macadamia nuts as a versatile and decadent addition to any diet. With the highest amount of beneficial mono-unsaturated fats found in any kind of nut, the Macadamia is also something of a super food.
Without Further Ado…
#10 – The Kebab
It might be more commonly associated with Middle Eastern cuisine, but the kebab (actually a doner kebab) is a staple in the Australian drinking diet. Perhaps even more so than a heart attack inducing meat pie, the kebab has come to symbolize a perfect end to a boozy night out.
Served up in pita bread with an ample serving of hummus, tabbouleh, and the arbitrary garlic sauce – there’s nothing more Australian than finishing a night out ‘on the piss’ with a greasy ethnic delicacy that you’ll regret in the morning.
#9 – Kangaroo
Leave it to us no frills Aussies to make a meal out of an animal that appears on our coat of arms, but you’ll understand why kangaroo is becoming increasingly popular at the Aussie dinner table after you have your first bite. Gamier and lighter than the average beef steak, Kangaroo goes just as well in a salad as it does on a burger. And in Australia, it’s not a burger without a big slice of beetroot on it to ensure maximum mess while you eat.
But how can we eat something as adorable as Skippy? The fact is that in a country where European settlement has been to the detriment of virtually all native fauna – the Eastern Grey Kangaroo has managed to not only survive but thrive. Sharing dietary requirements with herd animals has lifted Australia’s kangaroo population to pest levels, and it’s basically your civic duty to sit down and have a kangaroo steak and fries whenever the opportunity presents itself.
#8 – Milo
It might fall under the Nestle umbrella and be available all over the world, but this delicious chocolate malt drink was invented right here in Australia back in the 1930s. While people the world around are familiar with the hot chocolate complete with marshmallows – in Australia kids in the winter warm up over a hot Milo with a few teaspoons of sugar added for good measure. But Milo is a flexible drink.
In the summer you can drop a couple of tablespoons of the chocolate powder into a glass of ice cold milk and you’re off to the races. Whether you mix it right in to form chocolate milk or you shovel great spoonfuls of it into your mouth, you’re in flavor country. A tad less sweet than conventional chocolate milks – Milo is also a favorite with sports people as an energy boost.
#7 – Chiko Roll
Another example of Australian ingenuity, the Chiko Roll is somewhere between a spring roll and heaven. A motley collection of vegetables, beef, and spices wrapped in a deep fried dough cashing – the Chiko Roll was a staple at Aussie Rules and rugby league matches in the 60s and 70s because its thick outer shell meant it was a bit more durable than the notoriously fickle meat pie.
Available at pretty much every fish and chip shop and football ground in the country, the Chiko Roll is an Australian icon on the wane in these days of higher awareness of what it is that goes into our bodies. But if you’re rocking a mean hangover or just fancying a change from meat and gravy at the footy, the Chiko Roll just might be your go.
#6 – Lamingtons
It’s simple really. Take one cube of sponge cake, coat in chocolate icing, and cover liberally with desiccated coconut. Voila! Right there you have an Aussie afternoon tea and recess staple. While there are fancier takes on the traditional recipe such as different flavoured icing and even jam and cream between slices of sponge cake, the original is still one of the best.
Favoured amongst non profit organizations as a fund-raising tool, the easy to make and ever popular lamington is also readily available in most Australian supermarkets.
#5 – Tim Tams
Americans are just now starting to fall in love with the utterly sinful Tim Tam thanks to the smarts of Pepperidge Farm. But Aussies have been savouring this chocolatey delicacy since the 1960s. Available in a range of flavours such as white chocolate, dark chocolate, and even a slightly alcoholic Tia Maria – the original is still what I consider to be the best.
The ideal way to eat a Tim Tam? The Tim Tam Slam of course! Bite off both ends of the biscuit, dip one end into a hot chocolate or cup of tea, and suck the liquid up through it. It’s messy business, but it’s so very good.
My first trip over to South Korea was highlighted by a Tim Tam Slam. I got just a little teary eyed as I licked the delicious milk chocolate off of my fingers and realized it would probably be a year before I saw them again – but thankfully my mother made sure I was regularly supplied with the Aussie afternoon tea staple throughout the year.
#4 – Pavlova
Those filthy New Zealanders might try to claim it as their own, but the Pavlova is as Australian as Phar Lap and Russell Crowe. It’s hard to describe the Pavlova and do it justice.
Picture a ‘cake’ made of meringue. The outside is a hard shell and the inside is soft and fluffy. The cake is then decorated with cream and covered with various tropical fruits. It all adds up to being arguably the greatest dessert in the world, and there’s not a tad of Aussie bias there.
The most commonly used fruits in preparation are strawberries, Kiwi fruit, passion-fruit, and banana – but virtually any fruit goes well on a ‘pav’. Some of the other foods on this list might feel a bit outlandish, but if you’re not salivating at the thought of this sweet treat – you’re a dead-set galah.
#3 – Fish & Chips
The British might be best known for serving up chips with a bit of battered fish in grease soaked newspaper, but like cricket and rugby, it’s a British invention that we Aussies do a lot better.
While those crazy Poms serve it up with vinegar and warm beer, you’ll find it served in Australia with chicken salt and some tomato sauce. That’s ketchup to you Americans.
There’s something to be said for eating fish and chips at a beach side cafe while drinking an ice cold beer, and it’s one of the most Australian experiences you’ll have.
#2 – ANZAC Biscuits
Despite the rivalry and the jibes hurled across the Tasman, Australia and New Zealand have a wonderful history of co-operation that stretches back well before the exploits of the ANZACS (Australia And New Zealand Army Corps) during the World Wars. The ANZAC Biscuit, which derives its name from the fact its ingredients kept well and could be shipped to diggers abroad, is still a popular treat in Australia – particularly around the holiday that shares its name.
Made from rolled oats, desiccated coconut, golden syrup, and brown sugar – the ANZAC biscuit is a sweet and chewy treat that’s not nearly as unhealthy as more popular biscuits. They’re also one of the few things I can cook well, so they’re a personal favourite of mine whenever I’m called upon to do any baking.
#1 – The Meat Pie
There are many varieties all around the world, but few nations have made the meat pie as key a part of traditional cuisine Australia and New Zealand. Once described by Bob Carr as Australia’s national dish, these hand sized pies are packed full of beef and gravy – but come in a variety of flavours ranging from chicken curry to steak & cheese to pizza.
So popular is the humble pie that Australians eat an average of twelve of these fatty treats a year, whilst the Kiwis put us to shame with a whopping fifteen. Good after a night on the turps or while watching the footy, the meat pie (and its partner dish, the sausage roll) are as dinky die as you can get. They’re not healthy at all – but not eating one while in Australia is akin to not feeding a kangaroo or getting a sunburn. It’s just not cricket.
There you have it guys, the most Australian lingo and ocker dribble you’ll ever see on this site. I got a chuckle out of writing it and I hope you got a laugh out of reading it. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m off to grab a meat pie and share a moment with it before I bid farewell to them when I head back to Korea in the new year.