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Hearty, wholesome, and often ingrained in Aussie culture, Australian foods bring plenty of unique flavor combinations, intriguing stories, and lots of nostalgia to the table.
A trip down under is simply not complete without trying many, if not all, of these intriguing dishes. Together, these foods have helped shape Australian life as it is today, and they are beloved end enjoyed by millions across the country every day.
Together, let’s scale this vast island from coast to coast with a local writer, and discover 15 foods you simply must try in Australia.
Australian Foods To Try
1 – Tim Tams
Arnott’s Tim Tams are probably Australia’s favourite chocolate biscuit. After attending the 1958 Kentucky Derby, confectionery company owner Ross Arnott went on to name his new line of biscuits after that year’s winning horse, Tim Tam.
Launched in Australia in 1964, the biscuit consists of a thin layer of chocolatey cream sandwiched between two wafer cookies and smothered in chocolate.
Delicious on their own, they are also commonly accompanied by a hot beverage in the time-honored tradition of the “Tim Tam Slam.” This is when opposite corners are bitten off, and the Tim Tam is dunked and used to slurp up your hot drink, after which you have the added delight of eating your makeshift melted straw!
2 – Cherry Ripe
Cherry Ripe is one of Australia’s oldest and best-selling chocolate bars. It is a sweet and nostalgic bar of cherry and coconut filling, smothered in a layer of dark chocolate, and finally wrapped in its iconic red wrapper.
Cherry Ripes have proven they have staying power, having been on Australian shelves since 1924. Though they are manufactured by international confectionery giant Cadbury, these red-wrappered bars are only found here, down under.
3 – Fairy Bread
What would an Australian kid’s birthday party be without the ever-present cheap and cheerful fairy bread? This simple snack consists of a slice of white bread (whole grain, rye, and sourdough not welcome) spread with margarine, and topped with rainbow-colored sprinkles, known as ‘hundreds and thousands.’
Beloved by Aussies young and old, there is even a Fairy Bread Day on the 24th of November each year to celebrate this dish.
The first description of this sugary treat can be traced back to 1928 from a Perth-based confectionery company, though the name ‘fairy bread’ was not associated with it until much later. The fact that there is even Fairy Bread merchandise available speaks to the special place this nostalgic treat holds in Australian hearts (and stomachs).
4 – Anzac Biscuits
The history of the Anzac Biscuit is somewhat disputed. While they are definitely associated with WW1 and the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) there seem to be two different origin myths – either they were sent to the soldiers as its ingredients didn’t spoil easily, or they were baked by the women back home for bake sales fundraising for the war effort.
Regardless, Anzac biscuits are serious business, with several biscuit baking competitions frequently occurring year-round, especially around and on war memorial days.
The star ingredients are rolled oats, golden syrup, and shredded coconut. There are two camps when it comes to how they should turn out: rock solid and crispy or soft and chewy. Either way, they are best served with a cup of tea – dunk at your own risk!
5 – Shapes Biscuits
Another classic from the Arnott’s company (of Tim Tam fame), these are savory biscuits that come in all different kinds of flavors and, well, Shapes. A school lunch staple, the “best” flavor is hotly debated, with the original flavors being BBQ, Pizza, Chicken Crimpy, Cheddar, Cheese & Bacon, and Savoury.
Australians chow down on over 53 million packets of Shapes each year, which is why when the company changed the recipe in 2016, consumers were so bent out of shape (cough cough) that the company was forced to reinstate the original formula.
Despite that hiccup, Shapes are still Australia’s favorite savory crispy snack. They’re portable, delicious, and if nothing else, a great conversation starter.
6 – Smashed Avocado
Aussies. Love. Brunch. And what better way to brunch than with some hearty sourdough, a little salty feta cheese, a lemon wedge, and a heaping of rich, creamy avocado?
Since first being served in a Sydney cafe almost 3 decades ago, the humble smashed avo has become a global favourite. A perennial favourite in all Aussie cafes, today this dish is so in-demand, it is very much on the pricier side of the brunch divide, with some places charging up to $23 dollars for a serving!
This led to the infamous 2016 assertion that smashed avo is the sole reason why Aussie millennials couldn’t afford to buy a house, spawning op-eds, books, and memes galore. Five years on, the property market may have changed, but the Aussie love for smashed avo on toast certainly has not!
7 – Flat White (Coffee)
If you want to let Aussies know you’re a foreigner, ask for a “coffee” at a cafe. The disparaging waiter or waitress will no doubt ask you if you want a ‘flat white’.
The flat white used to be fairly unknown beyond the realms of Australia and New Zealand, so much so that when Starbucks added it to their menu in 2015, Google searches for the term more than tripled.
So what is a flat white? Simply put, it is one or two shots of espresso, topped with a thin layer of steamed milk. In fact, the milky topping is better described as microfoam.
By comparison, a latte is served with layers of both steamed and foamed milk, making it a weaker drink than the coffee forward flat white. The ‘flat’ comes from the requirement that the steamed milk be bubble-free – i.e: flat.
8 – Vegemite on Toast
Search the internet for Vegemite, and you’ll likely see people scooping up whole spoonfuls into their mouth, followed by plenty of heaving and theatrics. For the record, this is not how any self-respecting Australian eats Vegemite!
Vegemite is made from yeast left over from the beer making process. Essentially, Vegemite is a spread, commonly spread on bread or toast. Australians love to liberally spread butter over a slice of bread or toast, then apply a thick layer of Vegemite over the top.
Similar spreads like Marmite and Bovril are enjoyed in other areas of the world. In fact, it was when the delivery of Marmite from the UK to Australia was interrupted during WWII that Australian companies scrambled to come up with a homemade alternative.
An Australian touchstone, the simple appeal of this breakfast meal is such that former PM Kevin Rudd declared himself to be a “toast and Vegemite sort of guy,” instantly evoking the Australian laid back nature and love of the simple things in life.
The National Museum of Australia even has an exhibition on Vegemite as one of the “symbols of Australia” alongside the boomerang, kangaroo, Uluru, and the Southern Cross. Vegemite is not only delicious, but it has also been certified halal, kosher, and suitable for vegans!
Lunch / Dinner
9 – Chicken Parma / Parmi
The debate over whether Chicken Parmigiana should be shortened to ‘parma’ or ‘parmi’ is a bitter one, but Aussies everywhere are united in their love for this pub favourite.
The dish has been around since 1898, but at that time it was an eggplant parmigiana, introduced courtesy of Italian migrants. The chicken variety became a ‘fine dining’ option until the 1980s, when the price of chicken dropped and became more accessible.
Though Americans also enjoy a “chicken parm”, the Aussie version is somewhat distinct. It consists of crumbed chicken, covered with tomato sauce, then topped with cheese – ending its journey under a grill until the cheese achieved a beautiful golden brown. Served with chips or salad, (and a beer or two) it is an Australian dish of the people.
10 – Aussie BBQ
Barbecuing is by no means uniquely Australian, but it is so ingrained in Aussie culture that it couldn’t be left off our list!
Despite the indelible ‘throw a shrimp on the barbie’ epithet, Aussies are in fact far more likely to be grilling sausages (or ‘snags’), corn cobs, and red meat. BBQs accompany most Australian public holidays and are also a treasured tradition in the most unlikely of places: the local hardware store.
If you head down to a Bunnings hardware store you’re more than likely to see a ‘sausage sizzle’ taking place. Here you’ll find a simple barbecue classic of grilled sausage, nestled on a slice of bread, with a range of toppings. Simple, but priceless in the hearts of locals, and a true reflection of the laidback enjoyment of the BBQ in Australia.
11 – Fish and Chips and Dimmies (Dim Sims)
As with BBQ, fish and chips are by no means indigenous to the sunburnt country – it just remains a local favourite. If you’re after a truly Aussie fish and chips, opt for Australian fish: barramundi and John Dory are both good picks.
The unique addition, however, lies in the Chinese dim sim, that is frequently added to fish and chips. The dim sim (a kind of pork mince dumpling) was first introduced to the Australian palate way back in the 1850s, when gold rushes across Victoria brought flocks of locals and immigrants together, many of whom were Chinese.
Once those long suffering gold miners had a taste for the dim sim, there was no going back. Today they can be found deep fried, not steamed, in almost all fish and chip shops across the country.
12 – Meat Pies / Sausage Rolls
The meat pie was once described by former New South Wales Premier Bob Carr as Australia’s national dish. Once again, New Zealanders would argue that it forms as much of their national cuisine as Australia’s.
Perhaps the most iconic meat pie brand is the Four’n Twenty pie, very closely associated with going to Australian Football League (AFL) games. Though there is no standard recipe, the pies tend to be hand-sized or smaller, with rich minced meat and gravy fillings encased in puffy pastry.
Both Australia and New Zealand hold yearly meat pie making competitions. With 270 million meat pies being consumed in Australia each year, it’s no wonder that most local bakeries will boast their meat pie recipe is one of, if not, the best!
13 – Pavlova
This light and sugary meringue-based dessert, topped with fresh fruit and cream, is the topic of a heatly contested debate between Australians and New Zealanders.
First created during the famous ballerina Pavlova’s tour of both Australia and New Zealand during the 1920’s, both countries to this day continue to argue in which country the dish was first prepared.
Regardless of its origin, the Pavlova is a dessert staple of Australian cuisine, and it is incredibly easy to whip up (pun intended). Either buy a premade meringue base or whip one up from a simple mixture of egg whites and sugar. Top with the sliced fruits of your choice, whipped cream, and some powdered sugar, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
14 – Golden Gaytime Ice Cream
Golden Gaytime is a vanilla-flavored ice cream, drizzled with a toffee topping, and finally covered in crumbled honeycomb biscuit. First released in 1959, the ice cream has remained an Aussie classic through the decades.
The sweet treat’s name, however, has been the source of very recent controversy, with petitions to both change and keep the name coming from within the LGBTIQ+ community.
Regardless of what’s happening in the media, this sweet treat is an Aussie staple, to be enjoyed during the country’s sweltering hot summers, preferably poolside.
15 – Lamingtons
Here in the humble Lamington, we find more evidence of culinary-based feuds between Australia and New Zealand and dubious origin stories. The Lamington is made from sponge cake, cut into cubes, then covered in chocolate sauce and desiccated coconut.
Legend has it that a maid to Lord Lamington, the Governor of Queensland, accidentally dropped cake into chocolate sauce. The Governor ordered that it be rolled in coconut so that his fingers would not be sticky, and thus Lamington was born.
Or was it? Other sources attribute its creation to the Governor’s chef, French-born but with a Tahitian wife, thus the addition of the tropical coconut. While its origins today continue to be debated, one thing always remains the same: Lamingtons are a must-try dessert in Australia.
Foods To Try In Australia Summary
The culinary treats of Australia are unique, intriguing, and even a little quirky, many would agree! But where Aussie dishes truly conjure up magic is their ability to bring people together, share stories, and even invoke friendly debate.
Australian cuisine is influenced by so many different countries. From Britain to China, this eclectic hodgepodge of dishes and influences has brought about a cuisine that is truly unique and fascinating.
Be sure to try as many of these foods as you can when visiting Australia. From the searing cuts of meat on the barbecue to iconic sweet shop treats that take so many Australians back to childhood, there’s so much to try and enjoy in Australian cuisine.
You Might Also Like to Read:
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Author: Madelle Borschman is a researcher and copywriter from Melbourne, Australia. With a keen interest in international education and the challenges faced by young Australians today, Madelle is also passionate about sharing local cuisine and culture with the world through her writing.
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