As an Australian, it was funny researching food from Australia! I had never heard of some of the dishes that came up, and it makes me wonder how many popular misconceptions there are about the cuisine of other countries. I ended up making dishes that I personally consider Australian after growing up there.
Australia is the world’s sixth-largest country, and the oldest, flattest, and dried inhabited continent. The middle of the country is mostly desert, but there are rainforests in the north-east, savannas in the north, and mountain ranges in the south-east.
Aboriginal Australians can trace their ancestry back about 65,000 years, when their ancestors began to arrive from south-east Asia. These people formed around 250 distinct language groups and maintained their own artistic and religious traditions, many of which continue today.
The Dutch were the first Europeans to discover Australia, but they thought the land they had found was part of New Guinea. It was over 150 years later before Captain James Cook arrived and claimed the east coast of the country for Great Britain. Penal colonies were established; Australia was basically where the British sent all their criminals.
During the gold rush in the 1850s, the colonies began to shift into proper cities with the arrival of free immigrants. People from all over the world wanted to come and try their luck. The majority of these immigrants were white because Australia was pretty racist back then and would only let certain nationalities in.
These days, Australia pushes for multiculturalism and is constantly making official statements apologizing to the Aboriginal people for how badly the government treated them. It’s a great place to live, with universal healthcare and government-subsidized higher education. Plus, there are kangaroos!
What Do People Eat in Australia?
Australia is a diverse country and the food Australians eat reflects that. We definitely have some heavy British influences, but depending on where you go, you can find food inspired by a multitude of different countries.
Indigenous Australians ate kangaroo, wallaby, and emu because they were readily available, but they also ate lizards, snakes, and insects like witchetty grubs, which are moth larvae. Not very appetizing, I know. They also consumed various native fruits and nuts, including macadamia nuts, which are now popular all over the country. When the British arrived and settled in Australia, they supplemented their own diet with some of these foods, and although the consumption of witchetty grubs never quite took off, kangaroo is not rare. I wouldn’t say it’s everywhere, but if you want to try some you would be able to find it without much trouble.
Today, chicken is the most commonly consumed meat in Australia. Beef is popular too, and so is lamb, which is something I really miss. It’s much harder to get lamb in the US, and when I do find it, it’s expensive. Australians also eat seafood, and there’s a great variety that is obtained locally.
Dairy is really popular, and Australia has a large dairy industry. My favorite cheddar cheese comes from Bega, which is a few hours from where I used to live.
Tea and coffee are both very common, though coffee has been slowly overtaking tea. In my opinion, Australia has much better coffee than the United States, and there are lots of great little cafes. Last I checked, Starbucks hadn’t managed to find too much success over there, and that’s something I hope will never change (I like to refer to it as ‘Starsucks’).
When it comes to fast food, Australia has the usual suspects such as McDonalds and KFC, although our KFC differs from the US in that ours sells chicken burgers as well as pieces of chicken. I know they are terrible for you, but I always enjoyed those burgers! We also have a lot of doner kebab joints and various kinds of Asian fast food. You can find a lot of places that do chicken, fish and chips, and burgers. Where I grew up, there was (or maybe still is) a place like this called ‘The Chicken Shack’ and they had the best hot chips (what Americans would call ‘fries’) ever. Not only were they super crispy, but they had chicken salt on them. I’m assuming chicken salt is made by soaking salt in chicken fat or something equally disgusting, but it tastes so good.
What I Made
- Burger with the Lot
- Full Australian Breakfast
- Bunnings Snag
- Fairy Bread
- Pub Lunch (Chicken Schnitzel with Gravy, Fries and Salad)
- Lemon, Lime and Bitters
- Cheese and Bacon Rolls
Scroll down to read about other popular Australian dishes I didn’t make!
Burger with the Lot
If you go to just about any small burger joint, you’ll be able to order a burger with ‘the lot’. This usually means a burger with cheese, grilled onions, tomato, beetroot (generally from a can and often pickled), lettuce, pineapple, bacon, ketchup, and a fried egg. I don’t think this combination is particularly common elsewhere, and it’s delicious, so I wanted to include it.
As you can see, my burger is ridiculously tall. I did not squash it down at all before taking this photo because I thought it may fall apart. And it didn’t really squash enough for me to eat easily in the end, but it tasted good, and pretty authentic too. I think burger places usually have a thinner meat patty than mine which would help with the size.
Full Australian Breakfast
This is basically a full English breakfast, but without the blood pudding. On the plate are fried eggs, sausage, bacon, tomato, baked beans (from a can) and toast. Usually there would also be mushrooms here, but I am not a mushroom fan. It’s something I’m working on.
I cooked my breakfast on the stove, but my dad will sometimes do a version of this on the barbecue, and I feel like that’s a pretty common Australian thing.
Bunnings is a hardware store, kind of like Home Depo in the US. Often there will be a ‘sausage sizzle’ outside the store, with the aim of raising money for a club or charity. You can get a sausage, onions, and sauce (usually ketchup, mustard, or BBQ sauce) on a piece of bread for a few dollars.
You could also call this a ‘democracy sausage’ since the same thing is often available when you go to vote. A lot of schools becoming polling locations (Australians sensibly vote on Saturdays) so the sausage sizzle would be used to help them raise money.
The sausages are always cheap and so is the bread (mine is homemade which is not really authentic but it’s what I had) yet somehow, I am never disappointed when I eat this.
When I was growing up, fairy bread was a staple at birthday parties. It is literally just cheap white bread with butter (or margarine) and sprinkles. Again, I used homemade bread. I just didn’t want to buy a loaf of the cheap white supermarket bread because over here in the US, it usually tastes sweet, which is weird and wrong to me. So I make my own.
I don’t think this tasted as good as I thought it did when I was a kid, though it wasn’t bad. I think most kids today would enjoy it!
Pub Lunch (Chicken Schnitzel and Gravy)
This is based on a meal I used to eat often when I was studying. When we had our lunch break, my friends and I would go to the local pub and get one of the lunch specials. The chicken schnitzel with chips, salad, and gravy was always our favorite. I honestly don’t even remember what the other options were because we always got this one.
I made the schnitzel by loosely following my pork schnitzel recipe, using chicken rather than pork. It’s not an authentic schnitzel because it uses panko instead of regular bread crumbs, but I like how crunchy it gets. The fries were baked from frozen and the salad is dressed with a basic Italian dressing. I knew I would have trouble replicating the gravy, but I think I made a fair effort. I followed a recipe which used beef and chicken bouillon and the flavor was good but it wasn’t perfect. Also, for the first time ever, I made a gravy which wasn’t completely smooth. I think it’s because the recipe had you adding hot liquid to the roux, and it thickened too fast for how much I was stirring. I’d rather have a recipe that takes a little longer (starting with room temperature liquid) and not have to worry about lumps.
All in all, this was delicious, even if the gravy wasn’t quite the same as what I used to get at the pub.
A pavlova is basically a large meringue with whipped cream and fruit on top. Both Australia and New Zealand claim it as their own, but I’m saying it’s Australian for the purpose of this challenge. It was created in honor of the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who toured both countries.
I used my mother’s recipe, which I will put on this blog one day when I have made it more times and feel I can give good pavlova-making advice. In the meantime, if you are interested in trying to make your own pavlova, the recipe from Recipe Tin Eats is very similar.
I somehow ended up with some pretty good height on this particular pavlova; often it’s a bit shorter. The outside is crisp meringue while the inside is marshmallowy and soft. I’ve had pavlova before where it was all crisp, and I definitely think the marshmallow inside is necessary. The whipped cream is lightly sweetened and has a little vanilla added. You can decorate with any kind of fruit you want, but berries, kiwi, and passionfruit are common. I wanted passionfruit but it was sold out at the one place nearby selling it for a reasonable price. It’s crazy how expensive and hard to find passionfruit can be here, especially since it’s apparently grown in California.
Lemon, Lime and Bitters
This is a drink that is really popular in Australia, New Zealand, and, more recently, the Caribbean. The exact origin is unknown, but it’s said to be created in Australia in the late 1800’s and is sometimes referred to as Australia’s national drink. You can buy it premade, but this homemade version is made from Sprite mixed with a little lime and lemon juice and a few dashes of Angostura bitters. It’s a nice refreshing drink, especially on a hot day.
An Australian damper is a simple bread made of flour, salt, and water, sometimes milk and butter too. Traditionally, it was cooked in the ashes of a campfire, and baking soda or beer were used for leavening. It was commonly made by the early settlers as it was easy to make with their limited provisions and made a good meal when paired with whatever meat was available.
A modern recipe would use baking powder for leavening. Many recipes call for butter rubbed into the flour, but to me this just results in a giant scone (or biscuit if you’re American) and it is not how damper should be. I had a damper once which was amazing, and have been trying to replicate that ever since. The version I made here uses milk as the liquid, but the bread still wasn’t as soft as I was hoping for. If I ever find the perfect damper recipe I will be sure to share it!
Cheese and Bacon Rolls
These cheese and bacon rolls can be found in supermarkets and bakeries everywhere in Australia. They are so simple—literally just a plain bread roll topped with cheddar cheese and bacon—but they are so delicious. I think they were first made at a chain of bakeries called ‘Baker’s Delight’, but I was unable to confirm that.
I followed the recipe from Recipe Tin Eats, but I did not fill the rolls with extra cheese and bacon. Although I’m sure that would be delicious, it’s not how these rolls are usually made and I didn’t need the extra calories. I was really pleased with the result; these tasted almost exactly like the rolls I used to get back in Australia.
Australian Meat Pies
Meat pies are very popular in Australia and they come in many variations. You can get small meat pies, referred to as ‘party pies’, but you can also get larger ones like this. I already have a recipe on here for Australian meat pies so I didn’t want to make them as one of my Australia week recipes, but I wanted to include them in this post.
Other Popular Australian Dishes
- Vegemite Sandwich/Toast – Vegemite is a spread made primarily from leftover brewers’ yeast extract. It’s pretty pungent and I really don’t like it. However, it’s popular either on toast or on a sandwich, often with cheese.
- Neenish Tart – a tart with a pastry base, filled with sweet cream and topped with half brown and half pink icing. I’m pretty sure the ones I ate had a layer of jam between the cream and icing layers too. I loved these as a child and I hope to try making them one day.
- Anzac Biscuits – rolled oat cookies (which are called ‘biscuits’ in Australia) sweetened with golden syrup. These were made to keep well as they were sent to soldiers during World War I. The soldiers were part of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, which is where the name comes from (so I guess they should be ‘ANZAC’ biscuits).
- Chiko Roll – a snack inspired by Chinese spring rolls. It’s made by filling a sturdy pastry tube with a mixture of cabbage and barley, with a few other vegetables and a little beef. Chiko rolls are typically deep-fried.
There weren’t any surprises this week of course, since I was familiar with food from Australia already. I probably enjoyed the chicken schnitzel the most, but the cheese and bacon rolls were delicious too.
Next week, I will be cooking food from Austria.