I was born and raised in Australia. 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.
When you head to Australia, like any other country, make sure you try out some of the local cuisine and it will give you new insight into the culture and history. Here are just a few.
The Aussie staple. We grow 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. 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 Originally made in 1922, this spread is part of Australia’s identity as much as kangaroos.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 we had some of our American friends try it while we were in Penang, Malaysia…
…I guess it’s an acquired taste.
This humble piece of food artwork is a children’s party staple. It’s a simple white piece of bread, smothered with butter or margarine 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. Mmmmm.
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 Australians consume an average of 12 meat pies each per year.
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 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. You must eat it with tomato sauce (ketchup). There was a movement started in the early 2000’s by local TV personality Rove McManus to make tomato sauce sachets free like they used to be in the good ‘ol days. But I’m not sure if it widely caught on.
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.
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.
Yes Australians eat kangaroo, emu and crocodile. All of them except me.
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. 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 are going to want to take this one home with you. 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Hamburger With Beetroot
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. 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.
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.
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.
Australia’s very own lemon squash drink. I don’t know how this got onto this list, but that Josh loves the stuff. It’s marketed as a very manly drink that you ‘slam down fast’.
Have I missed any of your favourites? Have you ever tried Vegemite? Hope you enjoyed this and have all decided to come Down Under for some yummy food. I’m off to eat a Vegemite sandwich!
Reader Comments..."I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" - Josh Bender
I must say, and I hope you won't take it in a wrong way, I'm not a great fan of Australian food. It all tastes a bit artificial and unhealthy to me. I have IBS and while I was in Australia I had great stomach problems. They disappeared when I finally got back to Asia. Australian food reminds me of English food a little bit.
However, saying that, you guys have great fruit and veg. I loved the markets and the fact that Australia is trying to get back to organic foods.
I do hope you won't take my comment as a bad one.
Fairy bread is Australian!? Who knew! I also think I may be the only Aussie who has NEVER tasted Vegemite! I can't get past the awful smell to even think about trying it! My kids both love it though.
Ah Tim Tams! I brought home several packages as gifts and ended up only giving away 2 of the 5. Such an amazing treat.
The Fairy Bread looks awesome.
They have some neat options and some very strange ones like the grubs (eewww). Thank you for sharing.
Haha Jo you are right, our iconic foods do not scream health, but I do have to disagree they still taste awesome lol. Glad to hear from you.
Katie - never had vegemite, shameful!
Christy - fairy bread is so amazing!
Loved this post! One of my favorite things about traveling is trying all the new foods. Our local warehouse club was selling Tim Tam's and I had to get it - they were so addicting!
It's nothing like Marmite, Marmite is nice :)
You missed Dagwood dogs, is that what they're called, sausage in batter on a stick? I've never seen those anywhere else.
Nothing screams Australia to me more than a big pile of prawns and a Sav Blanc.
Great post Erin!
Miss having burgers topped with a fried egg and a slice of beetroot. Mmmm. And oh yes, must have ginger beer to go with that burger, too ...
Violet Crumble candy bars...my favorite. Its a version of honeycomb candy covered in chocolate. I've found them at one store in Orlando.. but that's it.
I'll be visiting Australia in 3 weeks for the first time and I'm so excited to try the food! I'm making it a mission to eat Vegemite, Tim Tams, and kangaroo while I'm there. Oh, and fairy bread too probably. I've never heard of it before, but it looks yummy! :)
Now I really want some vegemite. Obviously marmite is better (it really is), but I have to admit I loved vegemite when I was Down Under.
And I completely forgot about the beetroot with burgers; I've got to start doing that back in the UK.
I remember being at the table in Penang when you opened the jar of Vegemite, but I must have run off before the tasting began because I still haven't tried it. That was a good Meet Up, though. My girl still loves that you introduced her to Fairy Bread and want to bring it to school in America for party food. I mistakenly thought Cherry Ripes were Canadian. My bad. you need to add Jaffas to that list.
I've noticed you can get Milo in a few countries now. Not sure abou the Witchetty Grubs though.
Having lived in Japan for just over 18 years I really miss all these foods (and one drink). Vegemite was available at a nearby store until a few months ago, now they sell Marmite in its place and I won't touch the stuff. Milo is easy to get at the supermarket, but it is really powdery here and just doesn't taste the same. We are limited to 5 varieties of Tim Tams (regular, dark choc, double choc, caramel, white), with occasional special flavours like the love potions ones for Valentines, or the pink one for breast cancer research.
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