Australian Food

Modern Australian food, as with most things Australian, is full of contrasts. It draws largely from traditional British food brought by early settlers in the early 18th Century, however as migrants from the Mediterranean and Asia arrived in the 19th Century Australian cuisine began to reflect these international influences. New trends are also incorporating native spices and bush ingredients used traditionally by the indigenous population.

Currently the most popular food-styles in Australia are strongly influenced by neighbouring countries – particularly Japan, Thailand, India, China, Malaysia and Vietnam. During the 1950’s, a wave of immigrants from Greece, Italy and Lebanon injected their own style into the mix.

‘Modern Australian’ is a common term used to describe contemporary cuisine served in most restaurants here, a style which reflects the fusion and reinterpretation of all of these international flavours. Australian food often has a certain interpretation overseas, mostly due to the emergence of Australian-themed restaurants and steakhouses in the 1980’s.

The rich soil and warm weather contribute to a booming agricultural industry, giving most Aussie kitchens access to high quality fresh ingredients. Most food types are available, reflecting the multicultural nature of Australian society – from any number of international cuisines, to organic, vegan or biodynamic produce, to Kosher and Halal food.

Most Australian food is healthy and light, reflecting the warm weather and active lifestyle of many locals however takeaway fast-food is also very popular – varying from large international chains such as McDonalds and Subway, to takeaway Asian or European food, a popular choice in big cities, to more traditional fish and chips.
Seafood is widely enjoyed in Australia, as most of the population live on or near the coast. This includes species such as Moreton Bay/Balmain bugs, prawns, octopus, snapper, southern bluefin tuna, barramundi, flathead, bream and King George whiting.

Famous Australian Foods

One of the most quintessential ways of cooking food in Australia is on the barbeque, where steak, sausages and other meats and vegetables are grilled on a hotplate heated with coal or gas. The cooking and eating of a barbequed meal is usually enjoyed outdoors with family and friends and includes extras such as salad, bread roles and tomato or barbeque sauce.

Some takeaway foods are iconic to Australia, including hot potato chips (usually served with salt and tomato sauce), Australian-style hamburgers (‘with the lot’ includes a beef patty, onion, lettuce, cheese, a fried egg, beetroot, tomato, onion and pineapple) and chiko rolls (a deep-fried savoury role). British influence is noticeable in popular takeaway dishes such as meat pies and sausage rolls with sauce and deep-fried fish and chips.

Well-known Australian sweets include Tim Tams (layered chocolate biscuits), Violet Crumble bars (a chocolate bar with a honeycomb centre), Jaffas (chocolate-orange flavoured balls), Cherry Ripe bars (a chocolate bar with a coconut and cherry centre) and musk sticks (sweet, pink candy).

Baked-goods are also frequently enjoyed in Australia, with small bakeries usually located in town centres serving traditional meat-pies, cakes and fresh bread. Iconic Australian baked foods included lamingtons (coconut-frosted sponge cake), boston bun (a fruit bun with coconut icing) and vanilla slice. ANZAC biscuits (cookies with oats and other nuts mixed through them) and Pavlova (meringue-based dessert) are recognised by many as Australian foods, although they were most likely invented in New Zealand.

One of the most famous Australian condiments is Vegemite – a salty spread usually enjoyed on toast for breakfast. Another popular breakfast food is Weetbix – a wheat-based cereal served with milk.

Traditional Indigenous Foods

‘Bush tucker’ is the term often used to refer to food that is native to Australia, usually incorporating foods which were hunted or collected from nature by the indigenous people. An increasing number of these foods are found readily in supermarkets or in specialty stores and many are praised for their high nutritional value and low impact on the environment.

Kangaroo is becoming increasingly popular and affordable, although it is still not common in all households. It is extremely low in fat and high in iron, and often sold in whole cuts or in sausages. Native seafood was also eaten by indigenous communities living on the coast, and is still consumed by many Australians today. Less common meats such as emu, crocodile, witchetty grubs and goanna are also regarded as bush tucker.

Native plants include the popular macadamia nut and spices such as lemon and aniseed myrtle and mountain pepper. Other less common types include the following fruit and vegetable species – riberry, Davidson’s plum, bunya nut, quandong, finger lime, warrigal greens and kutjera. Bush honey was traditionally very valuable within the indigenous population and was traditionally given as a gift.
In some Australian states, visitors can enjoy educational tours specialising in sourcing and tasting native bush tucker – an eye opening experience into some of the most surprising and enjoyable flavours found on the continent.