Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Best of Australian Cuisine

Last month, Lola and I were fortunate enough to travel to the land down under. As we toured around the great Australian continent, we enjoyed an assortment of interesting and delectable cuisine.

Although food is not cheap in Australia, this didn't stop us from trying all that Australia has to offer. As a land with a wide variety of cuisines, it is truly a culinary heaven for foodies at heart!

While Australian cuisine finds its base in the traditional style of British cooking, seafood and Asian fare is also quite popular. We also came to learn that Australians love morning and afternoon tea, which consists of not only tea, but a spread of fruit, cookies and cake – a custom that Lola and I were quick to adopt. We also fell in love with many of their infamous dishes and traditional foodstuffs that pop culture has come to associate with the identity of this incredible country.

We’ve put together a list of some of our favourite dishes and food items, as well as some other traditional and iconic Australian fare.

Meat Pies

Pies, pies and more pies!! Individual meat pies have invaded the Australian culinary scene. You haven’t truly experienced Australian cuisine unless you've eaten a meat pie. More than once. The flaky package that contains this guilty pleasure is the epitome of Australian food.

The meat pie, which typically consists of minced beef in gravy, enclosed in a baked flaky pastry shell, is a well-known take away item in Australia. Popular variants include steak, onion, potato, curry and pepper.

Our favourite pie joint was definitely Pie Face, where we enjoyed our fair share of hot pies over the course of our trip.

Sausage Rolls

Sausage rolls are another popular take away item. Sold at most bakeries and pie establishments, Australian sausage rolls closely rival meat pies. Australia undoubtedly leads the way in modern adaptations of the simple sausage roll, which typically consists of sausage meat wrapped in pastry and oven-baked to perfection. 

Lola and I often reverted to the delicious and cheap sausage roll for our lunchtime meal.

Fish and Chips

Australia has some of the best seafood in the world and that means you’re almost guaranteed fresh fish, served with salt and lemon, wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper.

Lola and I were lucky enough to enjoy the best fish and chips of our lives at Maddigan’s Seafood shop in Hervey Bay. Fresh Barramundi fish was crumb-coated and prepared right on the spot and served with thick-cut seasoned fries. The fish and chips were tasty, filling and utterly satisfying. We developed a great love for Australian ‘chips’, making it hard for us to return to the typical thin American French fries. 

Chicken Parmigiana

An Italian name, but a bona fide Australian pub classic, the parmigiana started as an eggplant dish in Italy and has since evolved into a chicken schnitzel topped with an Italian-inspired tomato sauce, ham or prosciutto and melted cheese. A perfect marriage.

We enjoyed this heavenly dish at a local pub in Sydney, which was paired nicely with chips. Another wonderful union.

Prawns

Along with fish, prawns have become a sought after food source in Australia. King Prawns and Tiger Prawns are the most popular prawns and are enjoyed by many Australians alike.

While visiting Perth, we had the opportunity to go on a traditional Australian picnic, where we were served an abundance of prawns. Our Australian hosts graciously showed us how to properly peel and devein a prawn, allowing us to devour an unhealthy amount of these delightful crustaceans. 

Smashed Avo

I have finally discovered the best breakfast ever!! Smashed avo, as the Australians call it, is simply divine. Half a ripe avocado is smashed onto a thick piece of multigrain toast, seasoned with salt, pepper and chili flakes, and topped with a splash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Not only is it creamy and crunchy, but it’s also very filling and satisfying. 

Variations of this creation include feta, cilantro and a poached egg.

Kangaroo, Emu & Crocodile

We couldn’t leave Australia without tasting some of their indigenous meat, and kangaroo meat may be the most Australian food there is. Endemic to Australia, wild kangaroos yield healthy meat that is low in fat and cholesterol, and high in protein, iron and zinc. While we thought that kangaroo would be tough, it was actually very lean and quite tasty.

We also tried emu, which is Australia’s largest endemic bird. Like kangaroos, they are also very low in fat. It was served to us in the form of a sausage, and again it was appetizing, but not as good as kangaroo.

What did trump kangaroo, however, was crocodile. Crocodile meat is fair and white in colour, and very tasteful. Its’ taste reminded us of chicken, but with much more flavour. If you ever get a chance to try it, we highly recommend it!

Pad Thai

Australian cuisine has been significantly influenced by South East Asian cuisines. Chinese and Thai food, in particular, has successfully permeated the Australian culinary scene, and now virtually every town and suburb has a Chinese and a Thai restaurant. So you can imagine that it was quite easy to find a delicious plate of Pad Thai, maybe one of the best I’ve ever had. 

Pavlova

Australia and New Zealand have shared rivalries for years, and the pavlova’s origin is another to add to the list. Both countries claim to have invented the dish in honor of Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova when she visited Australasia in the 1920s.

Pavlova is a popular meringue-based dessert that has a crisp crust and a soft, light inside. It’s often topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit.

We were fortunate enough to try some homemade pavlova at our friend’s house in Perth. This lovely dessert was baked to perfection and melted in my mouth!

Australian Cookies (Anzac, Mint Thins, Tim Tams)

As I previously mentioned, Australians love morning and afternoon tea, which is often accompanied by an assortment of cookies. Some of our favourites include Anzac biscuits, Mint Slices and Tim Tams. 

Associated with Anzac Day on April 25th, the biscuit is a crunchy commemoration of the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought in World War I. It's Australian food with a back story. Anzac biscuits are generally made from rolled oats, golden syrup and desiccated coconut.

Mint Slices are an Aussie favourite. A biscuit and a mint layer is coated with creamy chocolate. These cookies are both sweet and refreshing at the same time. For those who remember Girl Guide cookies, they definitely have a similar taste.

Finally, Tim Tams are by far the most infamous Australian treat. The much-loved chocolate biscuit is made up of two layers of chocolate-malted biscuit, separated by a light cream filling and coated in a thin layer of textured chocolate. Flavours include original, chewy caramel, double coat, classic dark, white, Turkish delight, salted caramel, mint, honeycomb and chocolate vanilla. 

Good news Ottawa…Tim Tams are available in most grocery stores around the city! However, the selection is not as diverse as those sold in Australia.

Next time you pick some up, try the Tim Tam Slam! Simply bite off both ends of the Tim Tam, dunk it in your tea or coffee, suck, and then devour the melted treat. Simply delicious!
Vegemite

Well we couldn’t write an article about Australian food without mentioning Vegemite. It is probably the most iconic Australian foodstuff. Vegemite is a black-colored paste used as a spread on bread, sandwiches, as well as crackers. It is known to be a rich source of Vitamin B and is basically made from a byproduct of beer brewing, yeast extract. It has a smooth but sticky texture and is slightly bitter to taste.

When we tried vegemite for the first time, the taste was too strong for our liking. However, our Australian friends said that the flavor grows on you eventually, especially if you mask it in a thick layer of butter!


So this concludes our post on Australian cuisine. As you can see, Australia has much to offer when it comes to food, much to the detriment of our waistlines. If you have yet to go, start planning your adventure down under. There is nothing like Australia! Go and see for yourself and experience some delicious Aussie food while you’re at it!!

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