October 27th, 2014
After being in Australia for over three months, I’ve gotten to try a lot of the local foods and I like most of them. However, there are a few where it’s mostly like an acquired taste, to put it politely. Here’s a bunch of the foods that I’ve eaten:
Picture dry wheat cereal flakes compacted into bar form, and you have WeetBix. I had it plain the first time I tried it, and it was so dry that I immediately started coughing. I was then informed by some of my local friends that I needed to have it with milk. It was much better that way, as the bars broke apart and became more akin to regular cereal. However, WeetBix is quite bland on its own and needs extra flavoring such as brown sugar, cinnamon, or honey to make it more palpable.
This is meringue-based cake-like desert. It’s commonly topped with fresh fruit and/or whipped cream. I tried a few bites of a slice that my roommate brought home. It was pretty good, but my Aussie friends tell me that I have to eat a homemade one baked by someone’s mom in order to get the true experience.
This is one of my favorite Aussie foods. I’ve heard rumors that there are certain shops where you can find them back in the states, but I’m packing some for home just in case. A Tim Tam is two crispy chocolate biscuits with chocolate crème in the middle, covered in a thin layer of milk chocolate. One of the classic ways to eat it is in a Tim Tam Slam, where it is usually accompanied by a hot drink such as hot chocolate or coffee. To perform a Tim Tam Slam, you nibble off the opposite corners of the biscuit, suck up the drink through the Tim Tam like a straw, and quickly eat the biscuit before it disintegrates in your fingers. The result is a mouthful of chocolaty bliss.
Kangaroo is delicious. The flavor is somewhat gamey, but in a good way and still quite juicy. Sadly, my only kangaroo thus far has been kangaroo sausage, but I plan on trying some sort of steak or fillet before I leave Australia. While sausage is good, it’s just not the same as a steak.
This is a common Australian candy bar. It is crunchy honeycomb covered in milk chocolate. I like almost all candy bars, but I was not very fond of this one. While the initial flavor was mediocre, I did not the weird aftertaste. I would not eat it again, even if someone was offering it to me for free (and that’s saying something).
Vegemite is one of those foods I predicted I wouldn’t like, and I was right. Apparently very few foreigners like vegemite, so it seems like something you need to grow up with. The spread is made from brewers’ yeast extract and it is very pungent, salty, and bitter. A common way to eat it is with buttered toast, which you top with a very thin layer of vegemite. The first time I tried it was plain, and I gave it a second shot with a bite of a friend’s prepared vegemite toast. I thought it was disgusting both ways. An Aussie friend said that vegemite and cheese go really well together, and that cheese makes the spread taste a lot better. I ended up giving vegemite one last chance and tried a friend’s cheesymite scroll (looks similar to a cinnamon roll, but not as delicious). While I still didn’t like it, it wasn’t as bad as the other times I tried vegemite. The cheese definitely helped mask the taste, but in my opinion adding vegemite to the bread ruined what would have been a perfectly good cheesy scroll.
This combination surprised me. It’s just sliced white sandwich bread with a layer of butter followed by a coating of sprinkles, often cut into triangles. I would never have thought to put sprinkles on bread. To me, they belong on cake or ice cream. It wasn’t bad, but there are so many other sweet treats that are way better so I probably wouldn’t buy it or prepare my own.
Meat Pie (and pie floater variety)
Meat pies are a staple in any café, bakery, gas station, or convenience store. There are many flavors, but the classic one is a plain beef pie. It’s pastry dough filled with mince (ground) meat and a savory sauce. The flavor reminds me of shepherds pie without the mashed potatoes and veggies. The meat pie often comes with tomato sauce (ketchup). I like the meat pie quite a lot, and it’s a fast tasty meal when you are on the go. Another variety of the meat pie is called a pie floater, which is an upside-down meat pie covered in split pea soup and topped with tomato sauce. I tried this iconic dish, but since I’m not a big fan of peas, I preferred the taste of the plain meat pie.
Wherever meat pies are sold, you will almost always find sausage rolls. This is another classic Australian food and can easily be eaten on the go. It consists of a sort of meat paste, similar to the consistency of meatballs, wrapped in pastry dough and topped with tomato sauce. While a meat pie looks similar to a chicken pot pie, a sausage roll looks more like a log. The first one I had was too dry, but the second one I had at a popular bakery was moister and a lot better. Like the meat pie, the sausage roll is a good, cheap takeaway food and I enjoy it, especially when I’m starving and on the road.
A lamington is another sweet treat Aussie treat that I really like. It is a square piece of sponge cake covered in a layer of milk chocolate then thoroughly coated with thinly shredded coconut. It’s really good, and I appreciate the fact that the coconut prevents your fingers from getting messy from the chocolate.
Sticky Date Pudding
It is extremely hard to decide whether sticky date pudding or Tim Tams is my favorite Australian dessert. During my trip to Flinders Range I had this dessert and it was amazing. It’s basically a sweet, dark, moist cake, commonly topped with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. Between sticky date pudding and Tim Tams, I think the pudding would be my top choice if it was prepared for me the way I had it in Flinders, but the Tim Tams are more convenient and nearly as delicious, and more suited to satisfy a chocolate craving.
This dish isn’t so much an Australian dish as it is an iconic Adelaide dish. The legend goes that drunken university students went to a yiros shop and couldn’t decide between chips (fries) and yiros, so they got both and combined them. The result was the AB, which stands for abortion or after birth due to its appearance. It’s basically chips covered in yiros meat and topped with garlic sauce, tomato sauce, and either bbq sauce or sweet chili sauce. Although it sounds crazy, it tastes amazing even as you feel it clogging your arteries. Two shops, Blue & White Café and North Adelaide Burger Bar, have an intense rivalry over who has the best AB. My roommate and I tried both, and decided the North Adelaide Burger Bar makes the better dish. In the picture below, the one on the right is from the North Adelaide Burger Bar.
All in all, I have tried food on both ends of the spectrum from absolutely disgusting to extremely delicious. I predicted that I wouldn’t like vegemite and I was right. However, I was surprised that I wasn’t a fan violet crumble, as I like almost all chocolate bars. On the other hand, I also thought that I wouldn’t like either meat pies or sausage rolls, and I enjoy both of them. Kangaroo is a food that I never thought I’d try, and I’m glad that I got the opportunity and liked it. Finally, I’m extremely excited to have found both Tim Tams and sticky date pudding, as they are some of the most delectable foods I’ve eaten in Australia.
I can’t wait to try more local cuisine. Maybe I’ll even get to sample emu or camel if I’m lucky.
Stay hungry and adventurous.