I was born and raised in Australia. I’ve lived in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. And while we have a large influence from Britain and the US on our food, we have managed to come up with some culinary icons that are truly ours.
Like any other country, when you head to Australia make sure you try out some of the local cuisine. It will give you new insight into the culture and history. Plus, you’ll get a good dose of sugar high. I run a food tour so if you want true taste, hop on board.
So what are some of my favourite Australian foods?
An Aussie staple. We grew up on it. My kids had it before they were 2. With peanuts off the menu in most schools as well as sugar, Vegemite is the parent’s spread of choice. Spread thinly on white bread with butter and sometimes a piece of cheese.
It’s a dark brown paste made from leftover brewers yeast extract with various vegetable and spice additives – it’s acutely salty and savoury. Originally made in 1922, this spread is part of Australia’s identity as much as kangaroos. But never tell an Australian it’s like Marmite, the British alternative. That is downright offensive.
We travel with a jar of it all over the world and now that I’m home I have 3 jars in my cupboard.
2. Vanilla Slice
My absolute favourite Australian food and something I crave every time I leave the country. It’s 2 layers of flaky pastry and in between is a block of cold custard. Often covered with pink icing or passionfruit or french which is white with chocolate stripes.
Also commonly referred to as a ‘Snot Block’.
3. Smashed Avo
Did we come up with it? I’m not sure, but we sure named it. In Australia we rename everything to shorten it. So the ‘Smashed Avo’ is an Aussie’s favourite brunch. Usually served on sourdough, the avocado is smashed up with added bits like feta, pomegranate, cherry tomatos, salt and pepper.
The original Freakshake was created in Canberra and has since crazed the nation and hit international markets. It’s a super-hyper milkshake, often topped with cakes, donuts, lollies, candy, chocolate, anything. Be prepared for the high calories with an afternoon at the gym or running around on the beach.
5. Fairy Bread
This humble piece of food artwork is a children’s party staple. A simple white piece of bread, smothered with butter and topped with hundreds and thousands (coloured sprinkles). It’s usually cut into triangles. The origin of the term is not known, but once you’ve tried it you’ll be hooked. Now I’m dreaming about it.
6. Meat Pies
Some regard the humble meat pie as the national dish. The hand-sized meat pie usually contains minced beef and gravy and is often consumed as a takeaway food snack. The popular brand Four’N’Twenty produces 50,000 pies per hour and the average Australian consumes 12 meat pies per year, truckies some what more.
The Australian meat pie was invented in 1947 and while other pies can pre-date this, this was the pie that became the national dish. Found in every petrol (gas) station across the nation, it’s a truck driver’s staple.
We also have the sausage roll under this category, which while not Australian, has been modified by the Aussies so much that they are now claiming it as their own. Again, find it in any petrol station. Both should be eaten with tomato sauce (ketchup). Which you have to pay for in Australia. There was a movement started in the early 2000’s by local TV personality to make tomato sauce sachets free. But Australia be stubborn.
7. Chico Rolls
I remember when these were a school canteen lunchtime option, but I bet not anymore. The Chico Roll is the Australian’s version of the Chinese egg roll or spring roll. Inside is a variety of chopped meat, celery, cabbage, barley, rice, carrot, onion, green beans and spices in a cylinder tube of egg and flour dough which is then deep-fried. Another takeaway food option available at petrol stations across the nation.
Interestingly at the peak of their popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, forty million Chiko Rolls were sold annually in Australia. I’ve never been a fan and since the health movement started in the 1980s I don’t think it’s that much of a winner anymore. But you can still find it in the freezer section of your local supermarket.
8. Snags (Sausages)
Perhaps not Australian in origin, but definitely an Aussie icon. We love a good ‘snag on the barbie’. Our weather is magnificent Down Under so there is not many a week that goes by without folks getting together for a barbeque in the backyard, by the ocean or at a park. The most common variety is beef, but can also be made of lamb, pork or chicken. You can get a 24 park of sausages for $9! Bargain! Put it in a long roll with some tomato sauce and dinner is done.
9. Kangaroo Steak
Yes Australians eat kangaroo, emu and crocodile. All of them except me. But if you want to you can find it in the local supermarket.
Who made it first? The New Zealanders and Australians have a claim to fame on this one. It was made in honour of a Russian ballet dancer during one of her tours in either Australia or New Zealand (depending on who is recalling the story) back in 1920.
This delicious dessert is a staple in most homes during Christmas as well as all summer long. A base of meringue, beautiful, light, and fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside, and topped with whipped cream and summer fruits. Don’t forget the passionfruit syrup, it’s the best part and a light grating of chocolate. Delightfully simple and sweet.
Square shaped sponge cake coated in a layer of chocolate icing and desiccated coconut. Delicious and often referred to as the “National Cake of Australia.” You can get Lamington Fingers from your local supermarket, whcih make a great afternoon tea snack.
12. Tim Tam
You are going to want to take this one home with you. And many travellers do. Two layers of chocolate malted cookie, separated by a light chocolate cream filling, and coated in a thin layer of textured chocolate. It’s Britain’s Penguin biscuit made better. They say about 35 million Tim Tam packs are sold each year.
If you enjoy one with a hot drink, there’s a secret way to eat them. Take a small bite at each end to reveal the porous biscuit, then use it like a straw to suck up the drink turning the biscuit into melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
13. Witchetty Grubs
Raw wriggling grubs. Eeeek! Not my cup of tea, but has been enjoyed by indigenous Australians for thousands of years, and a good source of protein. Most students will get to try during an informative cultural school setting.
14. Anzac Biscuits
The Anzac biscuit was made by wives during World War I and sent to soldiers. Because the basic ingredients they were able to keep for a long time and the high sugar content was promoted to deliver the energy needed to the fighters. This biscuit (another biscuit!) is a crunchy commemoration of the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought bravely and are extra popular around ANZAC Day (April 25th), but can be found all year round.
It’s one of my kid’s favourites.
15. Cherry Ripe
One of my most favourite chocolate bars. Coconut and cherries smothered in rich dark chocolate. It is known to be Australia’s oldest chocolate bar and today is still one of its best sellers.
We have other chocolate bars that are Australian. My daughter’s favourite is the Violet Crumble, which is a lot like the Crunchie. Honeycomb covered chocolate. Also the Bounty – another coconut chocolate. Yum!
16. Hamburger With Beetroot & Egg
The beetroot is an additive Australians proudly lay claim to. You can eat burgers all over the world, but nothing is more Australian than slinging a piece of juicy beetroot on top a succulent patty made with Aussie beef. Ad a fried egg and it’s even better. In fact I had this for lunch at Johnny’s Burgers in Joondalup just today.
Sold in most local take away stores. Even McDonald’s got in on the act and every year around Australia Day in January, brings back the McOz.
17. Musk Sticks
The first time I introduced this to my English friend she could not believe I was eating perfume. It’s a pink semi-soft sweet stick, with the aroma and taste that is uniquely floral – much like musk perfume. Oh how I love them.
18. Chips & Cereals
Every country has it’s own unique chip flavours and cereals. Australia is no different with examples like Gravy chips/crisps or the famous Twisties and our favourite cereal, Nutrigrain.
Milo is similar to Nesquik with a consistency of granulated coffee. It’s a chocolate and malt powder which is mixed with water or milk as a cold or hot drink. Personally I think it is best sprinkled over vanilla ice cream. But my kids like to have a Milo each evening before bed.
Australia’s very own lemon squash drink. I don’t know how this got onto this list since we have somany unique drinks. However it is marketed as a very manly drink that you ‘slam down fast’.
Have I missed any of your favourites? What did you eat when you visited Down Under. I’m off to eat a Vegemite sandwich with a glass of milo!
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