Here in Australia we are, well, a little bit different. Somehow, over the last 230 years since the First Fleet landed on Australian soil, we have developed some unusual tastes. If our unique foods had developed from taking some of the native products and ideas from the indigenous owners of our land that would make sense, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Australians as a whole somehow seem to have come up with this weird bunch of flavours that polarise visitors and make locals strongly patriotic.
Now I COULD give you a list that did include lots of our native products and flavours, but very few Australians eat them regularly. Sure quondong jam is delicious, but you will more than likely find strawberry jam on the table, and kangaroo might be lean and healthy, but it’s not usually part of the weekly grocery shop. So what I am giving you here are common, everyday foods that many Aussies eat regularly and you will easily find during your visit, either at the local supermarket or even the 7Eleven on the corner.
Thanks to Michelle from Legging It for this photo of Vegemite
I just had to start off with Vegemite. This is the one product that almost every Australian has grown up with and is a pantry staple in nearly every household. We eat it mostly as a spread on toast for breakfast. I also got Vegemite sandwiches regularly in my lunchbox as I was growing up. We put a little butter or margarine on the bread first, then a very thin coating of Vegemite. The key word here is “thin”. This is not a chocolate based product like Nutella, but rather a savoury yeast extract. It is high in Vitamin B, and can also be used as a stock-like base in soups and stews.
Vegemite is the one thing we could not do without on our gap year. We went two months before I had to ask a visiting relative to bring me some. Then as we ran out I had to hunt it down in Prague and Hong Kong – both times paying around double what I would have in Australia for it.
Vegemite is polarising. Most visitors do not like it. But I say give it a go!
Thanks to Karen from Smart Steps to Australia for this photo of Tim Tams
These delicious chocolate coated biscuits have insides made of wafers and a chocolate cream. There are now many different flavours available, but in my opinion the original ones are still the best. It is also possible to find Tim Tams all over the world – check out the international aisle of a large supermarket in your area.
While Tim Tams are already very hard to say no to on their own, they are best known for the “Tim Tam slam”! This method of eating Tim Tams involves nibbling off two of the corners diagonal to each other. Dip one corner of the biscuit into a hot drink, like coffee, and suck the warm liquid through the biscuit. This turns the inside into a yummy chocolate mess, and you need to quickly “slam” it into your mouth before it disintegrates altogether and falls into your cup!
If you are a Kiwi, please skip to the next item, for everyone else, you need to try our amazing Aussie pavlova! This dessert is a meringue base, crunchy on the outside but still chewy in the middle, smothered with whipped cream and the fresh fruit of your choice. Commonly you will see strawberries, mango, pineapple, kiwi fruit and/or banana on top.
While it is available all year round and appears on restaurant menus everywhere, for my family, Christmas would never have been complete without pavlova on the table. No matter how much other food we ate, there was always room for pavlova for dessert.
You will likely find something very similar (that is, the same!) in New Zealand that they try to pass off as their very own pavlova. I, as a good Aussie, cannot possibly admit that New Zealand had the pavlova first. Just like we claim so many New Zealanders as our own – like Crowded House, Lorde, Split Enz and even Phar Lap. Oh, you can have Russell Crowe back by the way!
Thanks to Jean from The Traveling Honeybird for this photo of fairy bread
This is another of my childhood favourites. It’s simply bread with a little butter, covered in sprinkles – or “Hundreds & Thousands” as the brand my mother bought were called. These appeared on the table at every kids birthday party or school party or picnic. While we always say it’s for the kids, the parents often sneakily ate a piece or two also. These were sometimes made into a sandwich in my family for another easy school lunch. I don’t think they would pass the “healthy lunch” test these days though.
Thanks to Toni from Enchanted Serendipity for this photo of a lamington.
Lamingtons are a another popular item that appears at gatherings like parties and markets and school fetes – where ever people gather to share a meal. They are squares of plain cake, usually vanilla, covered in chocolate then dipped into desiccated coconut. Sometimes they will be cut in half and have some whipped cream in the middle too.
To get us back for claiming Pavlova, a recent April Fool’s joke by a New Zealander claims that we also “stole” the Lamington from them too, but this really is an Aussie treat. It is named after Lord Lamington who was the Governor of Queensland back in the late 1800’s. It apparently came about when a servant accidentally dropped a cake in chocolate sauce, and improvisation was needed to not waste it.
Thanks to LC from Birdgehls for this photo of a Golden Gaytime
This icecream has been around since the 1950s and it is still as popular today as it was then – even with the, umm, suggestive, name! It’s a vanilla and toffee icecream covered in chocolate and rolled in crushed honeycomb. You will find them in every corner store, and in multi-packs in the supermarkets. In only the last few years it has finally been available in tubs as well as the traditional “on-the-stick” variety. Not only do we love the icecream, we love the advertising taglines from over the years too. I mean, how can you go past “It’s hard to have a Gaytime on your own”!
Thanks to Jane from Explore the Great Ocean Road for this photo of Anzac biscuits
These biscuits are said to have been created to send to our ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) troops in the trenches during World War I as they can be stored for long periods of time without going bad. They are a dry biscuit made out of flour, oats and desiccated coconut with golden syrup for sweetness. They can be found either in crunchy or chewy versions. While we eat them year round, and even I can manage to throw together a batch in the kitchen quite easily, they will be easier to find in April when we celebrate Anzac Day.
Many different cultures have some sort of delicious morsel that is basically meat wrapped up in pastry, but for some reason none of them are like the Aussie meat pie! This is traditionally made with beef in a yummy gravy and thick pastry for the shell and tends to be eaten drowned in tomato sauce. It’s now possible to find all sorts of variations on this, from chicken and vegetable versions, to curry pies and steak & kidney. Pies are best eaten at the football when it is freezing cold, but they are an acceptable quick lunch or snack anytime. Alongside the pies in the shops you will often find pasties and sausage rolls, more variations on the meat-inside-pastry theme.
Yes, I am telling you to eat a boring old sausage, which is likely just the same as in many other countries around the world, but the way we do it has almost become a cultural institute. On any weekend, you can find a sausage sizzle outside many big stores in Australia – most commonly the hardware store Bunnings, but also others. You will also find sausage sizzles at sporting events, markets and festivals, and it’s almost un-Australian to vote during an election without having a sausage outside the polling booth. The fare is a basic fried sausage, served on a piece of bread, often with onions and tomato sauce. Sometimes there may be mustard or other sauces offered too or even gourmet sausage varieties. This normally costs only a couple of dollars and is run by community organisations as a fundraiser.
If you come across a sausage sizzle, it’s the smell of sausages that you will notice first, and you will soon find yourself munching on a sausage and trying not to spill sauce all down the front of your shirt!
Thanks to Erin from Explore with Erin for this photo of kangaroo
Okay, I know I said that I was going to include only things that people eat regularly and that are easy to come by, but I had to include kangaroo on the list. It is easy to come by, most supermarkets will have a selection of kangaroo, and it can be found on quite a few restaurant menus around the country. There are also possibly a few people that do eat it often because it is much healthier than beef or lamb, but it doesn’t get eaten in my house. It’s just too gamey for me.
I do think you should try it though, because it is unique to Australia and it is the most common of our native foods even if it isn’t on the table every day. There is no other country that eats the animals on it’s coat of arms either. (If you want to complete the duo, try emu meat while you are in Australia too!)
So there you have it! Ten of the most iconic foods to try in Australia! It’s probably best to spread them out over your whole visit becasue they are not exactly friendly to the waistline. And once you try some of them – Tim Tams and Golden Gaytime I am looking at you! – you will just keep buying them for your whole trip!
You might also like these other Australian posts
Things to do in Adelaide
Visiting MONA Tasmania – A Review for the Artistically Challenged
The Rock Tour – Our 3 Day Uluru Trip Review
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.