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Useful Notes / Australian Cuisine

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To call Australian cuisine "eclectic" is an understatement. Itself a hodgepodge of immigrant cultures that doesn't market itself as a coherent whole to the outside world the way that, say, the United States of America do, there's no one style or ingredient that outsiders can point to and say "that's Aussie food". Instead, Australian cuisine is more notable for specific foods that have evolved there. At its core, Australian cuisine is British cuisine, adapted to the semi-tropical general climate, and reinforced by a pronounced incorporation of Italian and Chinese cuisine. Its general dietary focus is on meat, seafood and desserts, and the country considers itself to be struggling with an obesity crisis. Some of the local curiosities that visitors can look forward to seeing should they dine in Australia include:

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     Mains 
  • Barbecue: Not to be confused with the slow-cooked, sauce and/or smoke-infused barbecue of the Americas! Australian barbecue (or barbie, or BBQ, as they abbreviate it) is closer to what Americans call "grilling"; meat, seafood and vegetables grilled on open-air griddles or flat-top grills. Barbecuing is the most iconic Australian social gathering, and most people who get together for parties or other casual socializing events, especially in rural environments, will eat barbecue as they do so. Australian parks often have public grilling surfaces where families can fry up their meat, it's that important to them.
  • Chicken Parmigiana: A clear marker of the Italian influence on Australian cuisine, this is one of the most widespread "everyday restaurant" foods you'll see; virtually any public eatery that has a menu will serve this dish, which consists of a crumbed chicken fillet smothered in tomato sauce and melted cheese, served with salad, vegetables or thick-cut potato chips ("steak fries" to Americans).
  • Damper: A wheat-flour based soda-bread, traditionally cooked on campfires. It's more of a historical food than anything, although workers on remote livestock stations still make it.
  • Macadamia Nuts: Native to Eastern Australia, these nearly golf-ball sized nuts are delicious, but infamously hard to get into; hammers are the go-to method of choice.
  • Mangos: Not indigenous to Australia, but traditionally gorged upon during the Christmas months, when they come into season.
  • Native Food: The Australian equivalent of game meats, such as kangaroo, emu or goanna (a kind of large lizard), mixed with indigenous fruits, nuts, and plants. Also colloquially known as "Bush Tucker", but that's arguably politically incorrect these days. Most Australians don't eat this stuff, as it is the local equivalent of "hippie food", but there is a subtle push from the government trying to rebrand it and market it to the mainstream consumer, and kangaroo meat in particular is starting to show up in Australian restaurants.
    • Witchetty Grub: Invertebrates of several kinds are part of the Bush Tucker "menu", but the most famous and recognizable are the Witchetty Grubs, a species of large, wood-boring moth larvae.
  • Pies: Australians are nuts for pies, alongside their cousins the pastie and the sausage roll. Sweet pies are relatively rare here, with the focus being on savory pastries; the "meat pie", a roughly palm-sized short pie full of minced or shredded beef with gravy, is the iconic snack, usually served with tomato sauce ("ketchup" for Americans, but the Australian version is less sweet and more runny). Pies are Serious Business to Aussies, and every town will have a bakery or a cafe making its own pies. One bakery in the state of Queensland, the Old Fernvale Bakery, earned state-wide fame for a menu of over 120 different varieties of pie, ranging from variants on the classic beef, pork and chicken to more exotic affairs like turkey, duck, kangaroo and crocodile.
  • Prawns: Not shrimp, and misidentifying the two is a national Berserk Button. Shrimp refers to small crustaceans used as bait when fishing. Prawns are their larger cousins, which thrive in waters of the Australian coast. They are eaten with relish, especially around Christmas time. And yes, they can be fried on a barbecue.
  • Sausages: Australia may not be as crazy about them as Germany, but sausages are very common food here, favored for their cheapness and how well they go with the Australian love of grilling meat. Many different varieties exist, mostly distinguished by their basic meat ingredients; beef and pork are the mainstay, followed by chicken, lamb and kangaroo. More exotic versions most certainly do exist. The iconic no-frills BBQ meal is a grilled sausage with sauce and maybe fried onions wrapped up in a slice of bread.
  • Vegemite: A descendant of a British spread called Marmite, Vegemite is based on a yeast extract, just like its ancestor, and is a love it or hate it Aussie cuisine icon, marketed as a cheap but nutritious Vitamin B-rich spread suitable for children's lunch boxes, leading to an incredibly catchy jingle called "Vegemite Kids" by the locals. It is eaten on buttered bread, spread thickly with butter and sparingly with the vegemite - it has an extremely strong, salty, almost acrid taste, and can be quite overpowering for the inexperienced. A sweeter, milder, but less famous version called Promite also exists, and you can even find the original Marmite if you look hard enough.
  • Weet-Bix: A local breakfast staple, finger-length vaguely brick-shaped bars of compressed shredded wheat, eaten with milk for breakfast. Locals have long had a tradition of spicing up the nutritious, if somewhat bland, meal by adding extras like sugar, syrup, honey or slices of fruit (most commonly banana).
  • The Works Burger: An iconic Aussie spin on the classic American hamburger, this motley creation consists of a fried patty made from minced beef, as well as lettuce, cheese, tomato, onions (usually fried), beetroot, a slice of pineapple, bacon, and a fried egg, all served in a buttered burger bun.

     Desserts & Sweets 
  • ANZAC Biscuits: Created by Australian and New Zealand women to send to the soldiers as they fought World War II, these long-lasting biscuits are made with rolled oats, coconut and golden syrup as their primary ingredients.
  • Arnott's Biscuits: Arnott's is the countries single largest producer of biscuits and crackers, with a spectacularly large array of different items on the menu; you'll see their products in every grocery store and service station across the country. The most iconic are the Shapes (small, flavorful baked crackers), Jatz (large, round, plain-flavored, baked crackers), Tim-Tams (two wafers sandwiching a cream filling, covered in chocolate; there are many different flavors, from milk, dark and white chocolate to more exotic affairs) and Mint Slices (chocolate biscuit topped with mint cream, covered in milk chocolate).
  • Candy: Australians consume a lot of candy, and whilst much of it is British or America in origin, there are some home-grown favorites. Fantales - caramels coated in chocolate and served in individual wrappers, printed with interesting facts, are iconic, as are Minties - large, sticky, gooey, chewy soft mints, whose wrappers are covered in blackly comic little cartoons. Popular chocolate bars are traditionally Cabury products, such as Picnic (caramel-filled wafer coated in chocolate, peanuts and more chocolate) and Cherry Ripe (pressed, dried coconut and cherry in dark chocolate).
  • Ice Cream & Ice Blocks: In a hot, arid country whose denizens have a sweet tooth, frozen sweets are incredibly popular. Aussies typically use the term "ice cream" to refer to frozen milk-based treats that are dished up from a container into a cone or a bowl to be eaten. Ice Blocks are pre-prepared treats consisting of either flavored water ice or ice cream shaped around a stick. Some unusual examples include Splice, which is a fruit juice ice wrapped around a core of vanilla ice cream, and Gaytime, an ice block made of frozen cream covered in chocolate dipped into biscuit pieces.
  • Fairy Bread: Seen as a child's treat served at parties, and becoming obscure, this is just soft white bread buttered and spread with hundreds-and-thousands, a small, round, sugary candy. Arnott's (see above) has a biscuit variety called by the same name, which is a shortbread biscuit with hundreds-and-thousands glued to it with strawberry icing.
  • Lamington: One of the national desserts, Lamingtons are small sponge cakes, or cut pieces thereof, covered in icing (traditionally chocolate, but variants do exist) and rolled in shredded dried coconut meat. The more decadent versions are served with cream and jam.
  • Pavlova: Another iconic Aussie dessert, commonly eaten around Christmas time, pavlovas are hollowed meringue containers filled with whipped cream and mixed pieces of fruit.
  • Peach Melba: A famous Aussie dessert that actually isn't served much, this dish of peaches and vanilla icecream served with raspberry sauce is tied in some way to the famous Opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, although how it came to be is something stories disagree on.
  • Slices: These sweet pastries, inherited from Britain, are everywhere to be found in Australia as the sweet treat of choice. The most iconic flavor is the vanilla slice; thick confectioner's custard sandwiched between two sweet crackers, with the top cracker covered in a thick layer of sweet, creamy icing - ironically, most vanilla slices nowadays are topped with passionfruit-flavored cream!

     Drinks 
  • Beer: Australia is famously a nation of beer drinkers — although the brand most often associated with Australians overseas, Foster's, is hardly ever drunk by actual Australians, and often referred to as "that piss we sell to foreigners". Which brand is most popular depends on the state, with some popular beers being Victoria Bitter, AKA VB (Victoria-based), Toohey's (New South Wales-based), XXXX (Queensland-based), Swan (Western Australia-based), and Cascade (Tasmania-based). There are also several boutique and craft brewers.
  • Coffee: Since the post-WWII influx of European immigrants, Australia in general, and Melbourne in particular, has grown into a nation of coffee snobs — one of the most common complaints from Australians travelling overseas is not being able to find a decent coffee. We're not picky about the style, either: Vietnamese-style sweet coffee, Italian froth, Turkish sludge, it's all good, so long as it's good.
  • Milo: A local powdered drink made from a mixture of malt powder and powdered chocolate. It is stirred into heated milk or water and consumed — local wisdom is to always use milk instead of water and to put in large, generous spoons of the powder for a stronger, superior flavor. It possesses low sugar and a high content of multiple vitamins and minerals — Calcium, Iron, and Vitamins A, B1, B2 and C. As such, it's considered a "healthy snack", and often consumed by individuals with athletic tastes.
  • Soft Drink: Whilst a few American products such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi have infiltrated the Aussie market, the bulk of the local soft drink varieties is the product a local company called "Kirks", which produces a wide variety of flavored sodas, including some versions that are restricted by state or which are limited edition promotions. Classic flavors include lemonade, creaming soda, sarsaparilla and ginger ale, but more exotic drinks include Pasito (a passionfruit-flavored soda), Portello (formally Portabello, a grape-flavored soda), and Toffee Apple (a now-discontinued gimmick flavor). Another local soft drink company is Bundaberg, which alongside creamy soda and ginger beer makes several more unusual varieties.
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