Latest posts by Adam Sawford (see all)
- 6 National Parks in Tasmania Which You Can Hike (On a Budget) - December 7, 2017
- 7 Traditional Dishes to Try in Australia - October 16, 2017
- Sometimes you just need to relax… - April 23, 2016
While it often feels like Australia doesn’t have many traditional dishes due to our multicultural population, once you give it some thought, it becomes clear that we really do have some unique offerings down under. The 7 listed below may not fall under ‘fine dining’, but they are definitely as local as they can get!
The first thing that comes to mind when someone asks me about Aussie food is the Chicken Parmigiana. And as you can probably tell from its name, even that isn’t one hundred percent Australian! A pub meal that’s as common as fish and chips in the United Kingdom – it consists of a chicken schnitzel, topped with a tomato sauce and covered in melted cheese. Many arguments have also been started as to whether ham should be included under the cheese – this writer says definitely!
Generally people have their own preferences when it comes to ‘Parmi’ (or ‘Parma’, depending on where you’re from) being served with chips and salad, or vegetables. Although, those with bigger appetites have even been known to order both – chips and vegetables. Regardless of your views, this is a dish that many Aussies crave while they’re out of the country and it’s always the first pub meal that I turn to when I come back home!
There are many things that Australians and New Zealanders don’t agree on – cricket and both forms of rugby are good places to start with. Then there’s the dispute around who can claim a number of well known icons, such as Russell Crowe and Crowded House. It won’t surprise you to learn then, that this (mostly!) friendly rivalry has also spread to food – in this case, who invented the Pavlova.
This sweet, meringue-based dessert can always be found garnished with a variety of fruit (including strawberries, more often than not) and whipped cream. It’s one of those dishes that is a staple at Christmas lunches across the country and many people’s grandmothers, my own included, are famous for their Pavlova creations!
Rather than getting caught up as to where it originated, you’re better off just enjoying it – even if it is only once a year. And, just to throw a spanner in the works, some research suggests that Pavlova was actually an American creation, based on a dessert from Germany!
Vegemite on Toast
Even if you haven’t been to Australia, you’ve probably heard of Vegemite and its polarising nature. That is, no one ever thinks that Vegemite is just ‘OK’ – you either love it, or you absolutely hate it. A lot of its bad press comes from the uninformed assembly of the simple, yet complicated, Vegemite on Toast.
I’ve seen people spreading the dark brown mass on thick, like if they were making a peanut butter sandwich. Even a Vegemite novice will tell you that this is a bad move, unless you enjoy salty flavours akin to a cup of seawater. Instead, the trick is to spread it on a piece of a buttered toast lightly – just like this:
As is the case with the ‘Parmi’, further ingredients can be added to this delicacy, such as avocado, or cheese – which is definitely not for everyone. Another variation also involves crumpets instead of a toast. As for what Vegemite is actually made of – it’s a yeast extract that’s a by-product of beer. It’s also high on Vitamin B, so it’s good for you as well!
I didn’t find this out until only recently, but the Flat White is another controversial topic between Australia and New Zealand. Both countries lay claim to its creation, which apparently happened sometime in the mid-1980s.
Australia’s coffee culture is considered to be one of the best in the world, with numerous ‘out there’ options available that will please even the most adventurous connoisseurs. The Flat White, however, is probably the most popular style across the country, that you will find anywhere you go.
It has also found its way overseas, being served in Australian-style cafes in New York, London and Madrid, among others. In terms of what it is, this post from I Love Coffee does a much better job of describing the differences between a Flat White, Cappuccino and Latte than I ever could!
Just like I’ve had to explain to many foreign friends that no, this one isn’t a joke – we do actually eat kangaroo. Ten years ago, the only place you could really buy kangaroo meat was in specialty (local) butcher shops. The other option was if you had a friend or a relative who owned some land and would supply it to you directly. Since then, however, it has become a lot more readily available, with all the big supermarket chains stocking it, just as they do chicken, beef and pork.
One of the reasons for its rise in popularity is that it contains only around 2% fat and is high in protein. There are also environmental benefits, such as the low production of methane and the fact that no additional land is required, as is the case for traditional farm animals.
Some of the more popular ways to consume kangaroo meat include fillets, minced meat burger patties, steaks and sausages, known as ‘Kanga Bangas’. The best advice is to prepare it outside at a BBQ, as it doesn’t smell great while it’s cooking!
Just like you can’t attend a baseball match in the U.S. without buying a hot dog, it just wouldn’t be right if you went to a ‘footy’ match in Australia without trying a Meat Pie. That’s not to say that you can only find them in stadiums and local sporting fields – they are available absolutely everywhere!
In fact, I would hate to count how many meat pies were consumed by my mates and me during our time at school. The most traditional pie consists of minced beef (and I use that term loosely . . .) and gravy, however, you can also find variations such as peppered steak, steak and mushroom, and curried chicken.
The luxury end of the pie scale also contains delights such as curried scallop as well as chicken, brie and cranberry! Along with hanging out for a ‘Parmi’ when I’m overseas, the thought of eating a proper Aussie pie also occasionally takes over. Just like it does now.
Back to something for those with a sweet tooth, the humble Lamington is another Aussie favourite, amongst both adults and kids alike. Strictly speaking, it is a sponge cake, covered in a thin layer of chocolate sauce and sprinkled with dried coconut. As has often been the case in this article, alternative versions also exist, including using raspberry sauce in place of chocolate and cream and/or strawberry jam being spread between the two halves.
Lamingtons are one of a handful of items that schools, sporting teams and scout groups generally sell as part of their fundraising efforts since this is a symbol of childhood for many Australians. In the true Aussie tradition of shortening words, you may also hear Lamingtons referred to as ‘Lammos’. And just to keep up with further ‘traditions’ here, there are also rumours from across the ditch that they were first created in New Zealand!