Eating on a student budget isn’t always a culinary adventure. Instant noodles, dried pasta and tins of beans are hardly the most mouth-watering prospects. Yet one of the best things about being in Australia is the chance to sample the local tucker (that’s Aussie slang for food). And as you’ll see from our list, eating like a local doesn’t have to break the bank.
1. The meat pie.
Never mind a knife and fork. The great thing about the humble meat pie is you don’t even need a plate – simply eat it straight out of the foil tray or paper bag. It’s basically minced beef or cubes of steak smothered in rich gravy, encased in delicious pastry and baked until golden. Are they good? There are 25 million Aussies and we eat over 300 million pies a year. There’s your answer.
If you want to go all fancy, you can opt for a dollop of mash and a scoop of mushy peas on top. But most Aussies are happy with a big squirt of tomato ketchup. Tuck in and enjoy!
How can we eat our beloved Skippy? Well, the truth is many Aussies simply refuse to put this cuddly marsupial on the menu. But here’s the thing: kangaroos have reached plague proportions in Australia – and they now outnumber humans two to one. They damage crops, destroy fences and compete with domestic livestock for food and water.
And besides, roo meat is leaner and healthier than other red meats. It’s organic, full of iron and, because they run (sorry, jump) wild, their meat is free of pesticides and antibiotics. In case you’re wondering, served medium rare, it tastes quite a lot like beef.
Take a square of butter cake or sponge, dip it in a gooey chocolate icing and roll it in desiccated coconut – and what you’ve got is a lamington. They’re a quintessential part of every Australian’s childhood and are sold at school fairs and bake sales all around the country. Some people like to add a couple of layers of strawberry jam and whipped cream; others are happy to enjoy them just as they are. You’ll find them in your local supermarket, but our advice is to preheat your oven and bake your own.
You’ll find a jar of the stuff in just about every kitchen in the country. Australians can’t get enough of Vegemite, but it’s not a passion shared with many people beyond our borders. It’s a tar-like spread made from leftover brewers’ yeast extract, and has a salty-malty taste that – depending on your viewpoint – goes with everything or nothing.
We have it with toast and avocado (more of that next), cheese and even in chocolate. Yes, you read that correctly. Vegemite chocolate. There’s no middle ground when it comes to Vegemite. You’ll never hear anyone say they don’t mind it. You’ll either love it or you’ll hate it.
Okay, so the avocado (or avo, as we often call it) is not unique to these shores – but few countries have a greater obsession with the fruit than Australia. So much so that our addiction to costly avocado toast has even been blamed for young people struggling to save for a home deposit.
Tongue-in-cheek it may be, but there’s no denying we can’t get enough of avos – whether it’s on toast or in guacamole, salads and sushi. The Guinness Book of Records names the avocado as the world’s most nutritious fruit. That may be true, but we eat them because they taste great with Vegemite!
6. Fish and chips.
Australia is a very big island, with most of us living along the coast. So it’s no surprise that fish is a key ingredient in our lives. And how do we like it best? Crumbed or battered, deep fried and served with a large portion of hot chips. No trip to the coast is complete without a hearty meal of fish and chips.
For us, the best way to enjoy them is straight out of the paper wrapping, hot and crunchy, with a wedge of lemon and a sprinkling of chicken salt. As for Australia’s condiment of choice, that would be tartare sauce – a mayonnaise with chopped capers and gherkins.
If it sounds more Russian than Australian, that’s because it’s named in honour of the ballerina Anna Pavlova, who toured Australia and New Zealand in 1929. Both countries have different stories about creating a dish named after her, and we’ve been squabbling ever since about its true origins.
What we can all agree on is that this crunchy meringue dish topped with lashing of thick cream and fresh fruit is as admired as much as the ballerina herself.
8. Tim Tam.
Tim Tam was the winning horse in the 1958 Kentucky Derby. But don’t worry, we’ve not got a taste for racehorses. Ross Arnott of Arnott’s biscuits fame was attending that day and thought it would be a great name for his new treat – two malted biscuits with a light chocolate cream filling and a thin layer of chocolate.
One of our favourite ways to eat them is the Tim Tam Slam, which involves biting off opposite ends of the biscuit and using it as a straw to suck up hot or cold drinks. Once the biscuit softens and the chocolate starts to melt, we eat it.
9. Moreton Bay Bugs.
These aren’t your creepy-crawly kind of bugs. Also known as Bay lobsters or Slipper lobsters, we name them after the bay near Brisbane, Queensland where they’re often caught. As with lobster, the meat is in the tail – and it’s delicious. They can be steamed, poached or grilled. But as you’re in Australia, you should stick them on the barbie with a squeeze of fresh lemon. They’re not cheap, but once you’ve tried them, you’ll know what all the fuss is about.
10. Anzac biscuits.
As the name suggests, they’re associated with Anzac Day (they don’t contain egg, so were very popular with the troops during the First World War, when eggs were scarce). Made with rolled oats, flour, sugar, golden syrup and desiccated coconut, they’re too good to enjoy just one day a year, so we eat them whenever we can.
So there’s your Top 10. If you’re feeling hungry now, go ahead and treat yourself to some local Aussie tucker. Whether you love it or hate it, at least you can say you’ve tried it!
Read some other blogs: