Australian cuisine often has a reputation of being very sweet. Often, the first thing that comes up first thing in mind to foreigners, is Vegemite, which is a thick, dark brown food spread made from leftover brewers' yeast extract with various vegetable and spice additives.
While this may come to a surprise for many, Australian cuisine is far from the cuisine of Britain and Ireland. While in the 19th century, it was heavily influenced by Britain and Ireland, the early 20th century largely diminished that, and rather brought a lot of mainland European cuisines into Australia, while in the late 20th century, when Australia was largely Americanised, a lot of American foods became popular. Nevertheless, while European and North American cuisines started to dominate Australia, Asian cuisines (specifically referring to East and Southeast Asia) also dominated Australia throughout the 20th century, mainly due to its sheer proximity and the heavy influence of Asia. All this makes Australian cuisine a truly multicultural cuisine, hence why many Australians have heard of most popular foods in Europe, Asia and North America.
The term "bush tucker" specifically refers to indigenous Australian food, and what indigenous Australians had pre European colonisation, and often lived off unique native flora and fauna of the Australian bush for over 60,000 years. While the numbers are not certain, it's believed that around 5,000 species of Australian flora and fauna were eaten by indigenous Australians, including kangaroos, wallabies and emus.
Rice and noodles
Due to the heavy Asian influence on Australia ever since the gold rush in the 1850s, rice and noodles have essentially been integrated into Australian culture and cuisine. You can easily find traditional Asian rice (both jasmine and basmati), and it's increasingly common to see rice served with European/North American cuisines in Australia.
- Vegemite - a salty yeast extract spread which is often spread on toast. It is similar to marmite in UK and NZ.
- Bunnings snags - sausage sizzles sold at a community fundraiser held in the car park of a Bunnings hardware store.
Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme
It'd be strange to think that a hydroelectric project would kickstart the large migration to Australia, bringing in different ethnic cuisines, but in 1949, when the program was created to divert water from the Snowy River through 160 km worth of tunnels which to dams and hydroelectric power stations, it kickstarted multiculturalism in Australia.
The scheme brought over 100,000 migrants from all over the world, between the years of 1949 to 1974. While there were migrants from all over the world, the effects of the Second World War had on jobs throughout Europe wasn't too pleasing, and wages in the US and the Philippines were only starting to increase, hence why there were more migrants from Europe and North America compared to the rest of the world. Given the higher stable wages in Australia, this attracted a lot of migrants, bringing along ethnic cuisines with them.
Australian Chinese food
Chinese food is generally of the Westernised takeaway variety, very similar to American Chinese food, and hardly recognisable from the food actually eaten in China. It is generally based on Cantonese cuisine, but has been heavily modified to suit Australia's predominant Anglo-Celtic palate. Wok in a Box and Noodle Box are two particular chains specialising in Australian Chinese cuisine, being the Australian equivalent of Panda Express in the United States, while nearly every suburb in the major cities will have a "Chinese takeaway" shop. That said, authentic Chinese cuisine is available in the Chinatowns of major cities, or in suburbs with a large number of ethnic Chinese residents.
Along with the United States, Canada and Argentina, Australia was one of the most popular destination for immigrants fleeing poverty in southern Italy in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Italian restaurants are a thus staple in major Australian cities. Like its North American counterpart, Italian food in Australia is primarily based on southern Italian cuisines, but has been heavily modified to suit the dominant Anglo-Celtic palate, thus making it more similar to Italian-American food than to the authentic versions served in Italy. Italian dishes such as pizza, spaghetti and risotto have thus become staples in Australia, and are widely available and many pubs and cafes. Authentic Italian food can also be found in Australia, but it tends of be served in more expensive restaurants.
The chicken parmigiana (chicken parmy in Australian slang) is a staple of Australian pub food, having its origins in the Italian eggplant parmigiana, but making its way to Australia via the United States. The main difference from its American counterpart is that it is usually a standalone pub dish in Australia, while it is usually served with pasta in the United States.
German and Austrian food
The schnitzel (or known as "schnitty" in Australian slang) has been widely adopted and has become a staple of Australian pub food. That said, while the original German/Austrian schnitzel is most commonly made of pork, Australian schnitzels are usually made of chicken or beef. Schnitzels in Australia are also often served with tomato sauce and cheese as condiments, and depending on which pub you go to, you may also get mushroom sauce with your schnitzel.
The apple strudel is an Austrian pastry that has been significantly Australianised and become a local speciality of Perth.
German-style sausages are also popular in Australia, and available at many butchers throughout the country.
Fish and chips is a very popular dish in Australia due to its British settler colonial history, and is widely available in Australian pubs, as well as in specialist fish and chips shops in the suburbs of major cities, as well as the small coastal towns. That said, fish and chips in Australia has diverged somewhat from the British original. For instance, while Brits traditionally eat their fish and chips with salt, vinegar and mushy peas as condiments, Australians generally prefer their fish and chips with ketchup and tartar sauce.
Similar to Australian Chinese food, Thai food is often very westernised and hardly the same type of food seen in Thailand. While it's easy to find authentic Thai food, particularly in Thai town in Sydney CBD as well as in any other big city, Thai restaurants can usually be found anywhere in a city with more than 50k residents. Thai food is the third most popular cuisine in Australia, only behind Chinese and Italian cuisines and Australia has the most Thai restaurants per capita, outside of Thailand (not even its neighbouring countries get that spot).
But in general, Thai foods like Pad Thai, Tom Yum, Thai Green Curry, Spring Rolls, or Thai Fried Rice (Khao Pud) can be found in nearly every single Australian Thai restaurant, although some of it may be altered from the original Thai version, particularly when it comes to spice levels.
On top of Thai cuisines at restaurants, some of the key Thai ingredients such as lemongrass, coriander, ginger, coconut milk or chilli can easily be found at most grocery stores.
- Anzac biscuits - a sweet biscit made with oats, golden syrup and coconut, named after the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
- Chiko roll - a hot pastry snack
- Eucalyptus drops - a eucalyptus and menthol hard candy sweet
- Iced VoVo - a biscuit with soft pink icing and coconut
- Fairy bread - white bread with butter with sprinkles sugar confectionary.
- Minties - a chewy mint sweet
- Nutella - a chocolate and hazelnut spread, originally from Italy.
- Tim Tams - a chocolate biscuit, similar to Penguins in the UK. This is also really popular in the US as well, so much to the point where there's been some similar local branded products such as "Trader Joe's Aussie-style Chocolate Creme Sandwich Cookies"
- Caramel shortbread (caramel slice) – this is a shortbread biscuit base topped with caramel and milk chocolate, which often comes in either square or rectangle pieces. The shortbread can sometimes be replaced with ANZAC biscuits.
- Jelly slice
- Lamingtons - a sponge cake covered in chocolate sauce and coconut.
- Pavlova - a meringue base topped with fruit and cream. This is usually prepared as a large cake from which slices are cut.
- Vanilla slice - a vanilla custard sandwiched between puff pastry with icing on top.
- Triple honey chocolate trifle
- Weis bar - a fruit ice cream bar
- Wagon Wheel - a biscuit sandwich filled with marshmallow and covered in chocolate
Indigenous food (bush tucker)
Bush tucker just means any food native to Australia and used as sustenance by indigenous Australians, which include emu, kangaroo, witchetty grubs and crocodile, and plant foods include fruits such as "quandong", "kutjera", and spices such as lemon myrtle and vegetables such as warrigal greens and various native yams.
The traditional use of bushfoods was severely affected by European colonisation in Australia and subsequent settlement by non-indigenous people. The introduction of non-native foods, together with the loss of traditional lands, resulting in reduced access to native foods by Aboriginal people, and destruction of native habitat for agriculture, all contributed to bush tucker being consumed less. The sole exception is the macadamia nut, which was brought to Hawaii, cultivated there, and exported round the globe, to the point that it is now popularly associated with Hawaii in global culinary culture, and its Australian origins remain largely unknown outside Australia.
However, ever since the 1970s, there has been recognition of the nutritional and gourmet value of native foods by non-indigenous Australians, and the bushfood industry has grown enormously ever since. Kangaroo meat has been mostly available in supermarkets since the 80s, and a number of other foods is sold in restaurants or packaged as gourmet foods, which all led to expansion of commercial cultivation of native food crops. Some cafes and restaurants that exclusively sell indigenous bush tucker have also popped up, and some others with a fusion of international food with an indigenous ingredient or two. Although they are largely only found in NSW, these types of cafes and restaurants have been popping up nationwide. In the 21st century, there are also fine dining restaurants that use bush tucker to season their food.
If you are in the Adelaide area in the summer, farmers' markets often have a stall run by Bush Tucker Ice Cream that is worth checking out.
However, one rule of thumb is that endangered species are unavailable to most residents, including most indigenous people, let alone visitors, and are normally only available to those in remote outback communities, under special permits.
Types of bush tucker
Chicken and beef are the most common types of meat eaten in Australia. Lamb holds a special place in Australian culture and is traditionally eaten on the Australia Day public holiday (26 January). Pork is also well eaten as well, particularly in areas which have had a high Asian influence.
One iconic meat food in Australian cuisine, is the meat pie, often containing diced or minced meat and gravy, sometimes with onion, mushrooms, or cheese. Meat pies are not usually found in restaurants, but they can easily be found in cafes, service stations, and roadhouses. A dish unique to Adelaide is the pie floater, which comprises of a meat pie inverted into some thick pea soup.
- Fish and chips
- Milo - a branded chocolate malted drink powder which is mixed with hot water or milk.
- Billy tea
Australia is stereotyped to be a beer-drinking nation, and it's true that Australians love their beer. However, wine has taken over to become the most popular alcoholic drink consumed in the country. The most prominent wine regions are the Barossa Valley in South Australia, famous for its Shiraz and Rieslings, and the Hunter region in New South Wales, which produces Shiraz and Chardonnay in plentiful amounts. Other wine regions include the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, which due to its colder climate, produces excellent Pinot Noir, and the Margaret River and Swan District in Western Australia, known for its Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Most of the time, Australian cuisine is kosher certified and the same applies for halal most of the time. In urban areas halal, vegan and vegetarian food can also be found most of the time. However, most of the time, none of these are easy to find outside the seven cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Gold Coast, Newcastle and Canberra.
Halal snack packs (HSPs)
Halal snack packs (often abbreviated as HSP") are a type of fast food from the "Big 3" eastern cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, with exclusively halal food as the name suggests. The meal consists of halal-certified doner kebab meat (lamb, chicken, or beef) and fries and comes with chilli, garlic or barbecue sauces. Cheese, yogurt, and jalapeño peppers are also commonly found in these HSPs. Adelaide has a variant known as the AB, though unlike the HSP of the eastern states, it is typically not halal.
The meal is mainly a fusion of Middle Eastern and Western cuisines, and such similar meals exist in other countries as well, such as the "kebab ranskalaisilla" in Finland, the "kapsalon" in the Netherlands and Belgium, the "döner telle" in Germany or the "gyro fries" in the US.