Australia reminds me a lot of California: sun-soaked beaches, easy-going people, and food that is as delicious as it is diverse. Even though the continent is a melting pot of nationalities and cultures, there are a few quintessential Aussie dishes that should be on every visitor’s menu:
1. Australian Barbecue
A stereotypical Australian phrase is, “put another shrimp on the barbie.” So, when you’re Down Under, grab some friends, meet in a backyard, park or at the beach, and barbie like there’s no tomorrow: Australians will just about throw anything on the grill – from burgers, to seafood, and snags, which is Australian for sausage. Complement the meaty goodness with some veggies or salad, sliced bread, and top it off with ketchup or BBQ sauce.
2. Chicken Parmigiana
Or “chicken parma” if you want to sound local, is a chicken schnitzel topped with ham, Napoli sauce and a slab of melted cheese. It’s usually served with chips/fries or a salad and is best enjoyed in a pub.
3. Crab sticks
Fun fact: Crab sticks don’t usually contain crab but all kinds of other white fish flesh that has been pulverized and shaped to look like a crab leg. Nevertheless: It’s a delicious snack that tastes even better when deep-fried. (What doesn’t?)
This fish gets its name from the Aboriginal language and translates to “large-scaled river fish,” or as I like to call it: delicious. It’s the most popular fish in Australia – probably because it can be fried, baked, grilled, and barbecued.
5. Kangaroo meat
I know that kangaroos are the super cute national animals, and eating them is not for everyone, but it’s so Australian! You can try kangaroo steak, burger, jerky, sausage or ease into the experience by eating it in a stew, on a pizza, or in a pie.
Of course, I had to write about burgers – they are the best food group, and Australians actually do something with their burgers that no other country does: They put beetroot in their burgers. I guess this helps make it healthier, but any country that attempts to “improve” burgers is on my good list.
7. Vegemite (on toast)
This is as Australian as it gets. The brown spread looks a bit like Nutella, but tastes nothing like it. The paste is made from yeast extract and tastes salty and a little bitter. My advice: spread it lightly on a piece of toast, and enjoy the fact that it is a fat-free source of Vitamin B and folic acid. #themoreyouknow
Rolls are the perfect snack for lunch, after a night out, or any time in between, really. There are Chiko Rolls, for example, the Australian version of Chinese egg rolls that are filled with meat, barley, cabbage, carrot, celery and rice before they’re deep fried. Cheese and bacon rolls are exactly what you think they are, and so are sausage rolls – in all of their puff-pastry goodness.
These iconic cube-shaped sponge cakes are coated in a layer of chocolate icing and shaved coconut and deserve the title as the “National Cake of Australia.” Feel free to cut the pieces in half and add cream or jam and enjoy them with your afternoon tea or coffee. Oh, and while you’re doing all of that, don’t forget to mark your calendars, as June 21 is National Lamington Day.
10. Meat Pie
If you have never eaten a meat pie, then you have not experienced the true Australian culture. You also don’t really have any excuse not to eat them because they are served at pretty much every big event or restaurant. To further support the country’s love for the iconic combination that is minced meat and gravy wrapped in pie, check out these numbers: It’s estimated that the roughly 24 million Australians eat up to 300 million meat pies a year.
11. Tim Tam
It’s time to meet Australia’s favorite cookie: Tim Tam, aka the magic that happens when you put smooth cream between two crunchy biscuits and cover it all with chocolate. They come in different variations, so there’s something for everyone’s taste: Australians eat 45 million packets of Tim Tam a year – the supply comes from the Tim Tam factory in Sydney where 3,000 biscuits are produced every minute. #yum
A damper is a traditional Australian bush bread – made with flour, water (or milk), and salt that is mixed and then baked in the ashes of a camp fire. The iconic bread is popular with Indigenous Australians and used to help workers, campers, and settlers survive in the wilderness.
13. Fish & Chips
Deep-fried battered fish. Deep-fried potato chunks. Eaten on the beach. ‘nuff said.
14. ANZAC Biscuits
These sweet biscuits were originally made by the wives of the men of the ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) during World War I – the baked goods were sent to the front lines or sold to raise money for the war efforts. Today, they are eaten peacefully during tea time and to commemorate ANZAC Day on April 25.
Anna Pavlova, a Russian ballerina in the 1920s, was the eponymous inspiration for this dessert delight: a meringue cake, topped off with fruit and whipped cream. However, there is a huge debate on whether the origins come from Australia or New Zealand, but people! Desserts always go straight to the heart, so let’s stop all arguments and just eat it all together in overindulging harmony.