It’s true what you heard – the Aussies bloody love a good bloody barbie. But Australian cuisine extends far beyond al fresco sausages. They also love a good meat pie and chips. And fish and chips. And fruit and chips. We made that last one up. An Australian would never consider a meal without meat; vegetarianism is seen by most as an unfortunate illness in urgent need of a cure.
It’s not quite that bad, of course, but the exaggeration isn’t too extreme. Meat is a staple of almost every Australian dish; the land down under is something of a paradise for carnivores. Speaking of carnivores, have you ever tried a crocodile burger? It’s really quite delicious – a cross between a firm white fish and chicken breast. Other unusual, must-try meats include kangaroo, emu and wallaby. If you’d like to keep things mainstream you’ll find beef, lamb and pork dishes on any menu you care to browse.
Australia enjoys over 40,000 miles of coastline and 85% of the population live on it. It follows, then, that seafood features heavily in the Aussie diet. The main species which make their way onto dinner plates include salmon, lobster, tuna and prawn, but there is a bewildering variety on offer if you want to get adventurous.
You may hear hushed conversations in the corners of bars about the barramundi fish, an estuary-dwelling species which is revered among Australians to the same degree as Kylie’s rear end. It’s a sublimely tasty creature, but incredibly difficult to catch; they tend to inhabit highly remote areas, and furthermore are a favourite snack of the dreaded saltwater crocodile. Catching one is a rite of passage for Australian fishermen, so if you’re ever lucky enough to see one on a menu don’t pass it up.
Certain Z-list celebrity programs have bestowed Australian bush tucker (which simply refers to food used by the native Aborigines) with a frightful stigma. Contrary to popular assumption it’s not all witchetty grubs and kangaroo nuts; a vast amount of indigenous fruits, vegetables and mammals, including kangaroo, fall into the category. In recent years bush tucker has seen a resurgence in popularity; various studies have proven that much of it is exceptionally nutritious. The burgeoning industry is based on the unfathomably deep knowledge of the Aboriginal community who have been living off the land for the best part of 60,000 years.
Australians enjoy eating out, particularly in the big cities, and it goes without saying that in those major hubs the choice of restaurants is excellent. Naturally there isn’t as much choice in the smaller towns but you’ll always find a decent steak restaurant. Many establishments operate a BYO policy, which is a greatly welcome addition for struggling backpackers who need to watch the pennies.
Australia’s enviable year-round climate means BBQs are a huge part of day to day life for both locals and tourists alike. Almost every public park has a free BBQ and they rarely go neglected. The outdoorsy culture means al fresco dining is very much the norm.