Australia is a land of diverse and plentiful wildlife – much of which is unique to the island-continent – so it’s not terribly surprising that the country’s indigenous foods are considered avant-garde to visitors from other parts of the world.
recent years, chefs and educators in the Australian culinary world have been
promoting a return to “bush tucker” cuisine, traditional foods that emerged
from the Aboriginal lifestyle of hunting and gathering. As a result,
ingredients like kangaroo are being revitalized by modern cooking styles in
innovative restaurants across the country.
To prepare you for your next great food
adventure, we put together this guide to some of the most unusual foods
Australia has to offer, and where to find them.
Kangaroo meat may be the most Australian
food there is. Endemic to
Australia, wild kangaroos yield healthy meat that is low in fat and cholesterol,
and high in protein, iron, zinc and the blood-pressure reducing conjugated
linoleic acid. In modern Australian cooking, kangaroo is prepared in different
ways for different dishes. For steak, chefs tend to err on the side of rare to
prevent this lean meat from becoming tough or chewy. If you’re throwing
some roo up on the barbie, chef Benjamin Christie offers instructions on how to cook kangaroo. Besides steak, common dishes range from kangaroo stir fry to kangaroo tail soup to Christie’s own kangaroo lasagne. Ground kangaroo meat is also occasionally used in
Aussie meat pies.
and their eggs used to be staples in Aboriginal meals. Today, they can be found
on the menus of a few daring upscale restaurants, taking the form of carpaccio or
sushi. For an authentic bush tucker recipe, wattleseed crocodile with
riberry confit combines the coffee and chocolate flavours of
native wattleseed (the ground seed of acacia) with the clove flavour of native
riberry (a small pink fruit that grows wild). If grilling or pan-frying,
crocodile fillets are another option.
emu is Australia’s largest endemic bird. Aborigines traditionally hunted emus
for their meat and oil, which was believed to have medicinal properties. Emus
are farmed today for their meat, oil and leather. Like kangaroos, they are very
low in fat.
Chef Mark Olive has a recipe for marinated
emu fillet with blanched
asparagus salad, while the blog Outback
Snack created a recipe for emu scaloppini.
is a sweet bush tucker fruit that has a close relationship with the emu. After
an emu eats a quandong, its seed (or nut) is left in the emu’s dung. This gives
the quandong seed the perfect environment within which to germinate. Despite
its origins, the resulting fruit is sweet, with a peach-like flavour, and contains
high levels of vitamin C.
Besides being eaten on their own,
quandongs are used in desserts and preserves. Try your hand at chef Benjamin
Christie’s recipe for quandong jam.
When in season, flathead fish is not
difficult to find on menus across Australia. It is handling and preparing
flathead that is more adventurous than eating it. The fish has two poisonous
spines, so fishing enthusiasts should consider themselves warned. Australian chef
Peter Kuruvita offers this creative recipe for seafood
consume, with tea crusted flathead.
the true adventurer, witchetty grubs, once a major part of food gathering in
Australia, are the larvae of ghost moths. Whitchetty grubs can either be eaten
live and raw or barbecued. Another edible Australian moth is the Bogong moth (which
was formerly served as a toasted delicacy at Sydney’s famous Deep Blue Bistro before it closed).
As for special preparations, we found a video
of witchetty grub sushi being enjoyed at a bush food competition in
Balmain bugs and Moreton Bay bugs look
like insects, but they are actually crustaceans. Their flesh tastes similar to
that of rock lobsters and you are unlikely to find these shellfish outside of
Australia. If you find
yourself at an Aussie seafood market, follow these tips
storing, killing and cooking “bugs”.
Where to eat
Sydney, creative preparations of exotic game meats can be found at Purple Goanna Café in Redfern.
For breakfast, the poached emu steak is served with bacon, eggs, toast, baked
beans and a sauce made from wild bush tomatoes. For lunch, try the kangaroo
baguette sandwich, made with marinated kangaroo loin, the emu pumpkin lasagne or
the creamed crocodile penne pasta.
north for more upscale dining at Rockpool Bar and Grill.
Currently on the menu is a charcoal oven cooked flathead fish.
you’d rather do the cooking yourself, visit Sam the Butcher. Located in
Bondi, this organic butcher shop carries crocodile sausages, kangaroo sausages
and kangaroo loin fillet. For fresh unusual seafood, the bustling Sydney Fish Market is a
must-visit destination for Balmain bugs, Moreton Bay bugs and beyond.
can learn even more about bush foods by taking the Aboriginal Heritage Tour at Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens.
The tour focuses on the vegetarian side of bush tucker meals, and you even get
to taste fruits and vegetables along the way.
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