As a picky Canadian travelling to Australia, I knew I would be in for some weird culinary surprises. I quickly learned the key to eating in Oz is to go with the flow, and expect the unexpected. Here are a few things I highly recommend trying – at least once – when you visit the land down under.
1. The Lot Burger
If you a order a burger with the works (or “the lot”) and you’re expecting the typical western trio of pickles, lettuce and tomato, you’ll be in for a surprise. A traditional loaded burger in Australia comes with a fried egg and pickled beetroot, and it’s not uncommon to find a big chunk of grilled pineapple in there too. Basically a three squared meals between two slices of bread. These guys don’t mess around when it comes to the burger game.
2. Tim Tams
Otherwise known as the BISCUIT OF THE GODS. There are 12 flavours to choose from but take it from me; dark chocolate and double coated are tied for for the win. You’ll also learn quickly that there is a “right” way to eat a tim tam. First, bite off the top left and bottom right corner of your tim tam. Second, dip your tim tam into a mug of hot tea. Third, drink tea through your tim tam like a delicious, chocolatey rectangular straw. Finally, eat said delicious chocolatey rectangular straw and proceed to die of happiness.
3. Meat Pies
Let’s put this right out there: I was fully convinced that I hated meat pies before I went to Oz. But I’m big enough to admit that I can be wrong sometimes. Meat pies are an essential part of the post-bar hopping diet, and are usually served out of tiny food trucks or bakeries that open way too early. The traditional “tiger” pie comes with mushy peas, mash & gravy on top, and is best enjoyed at 3am on a dirty bus bench using only your hands.
4. Sausage Rolls
Wherever you can find meat pies, you can also find a decent sausage roll. Another Aussie staple for the after party crowd, but also the best on-the-way-to-the-beach breakfast in the universe. I know you can find sausage rolls all over the world, but Australia sparked my love for them so in my mind they started it. I’m biased, so sue me.
5. Prawns (Not shrimp)
Nothing makes you sound more like a North American than blurting out a badly accented version of “Throw anotha shrimp on tha baaarbie!” – Just don’t do it. First of all, they’re called prawns. Second of all, no one says that. Third of all, prawns are downright delicious and your mouth should be busy eating all that prawny goodness instead of uttering poorly pronounced catch phrases that should be reserved for cartoon characters in khaki shorts.
I was lucky enough to work at a coastal seafood restaurant during my time there, and I spent most nights eating fish I could barely pronounce. Barramundi is everywhere in Australia, and for good reason. It’s downright delicious. You don’t waste this one on fish & chips though, it’s best served grilled or baked with a side of lemon and eaten off a stick at a backyard BBQ.
Okay I’ll be honest here, vegemite is disgusting. At least I thought it was. But you still have to try it at least once. Described by Webster’s Dictionary as “a dark brown Australian food paste made from leftover brewers’ yeast“ (YUM) you can find it in basically everyone’s pantry. Vegemite an incredibly popular toast-topper over there, and I still for the life of me can’t figure out why.
See Also: 11 Must Try Foods in Macedonia
See Also: 11 Must Try Foods in Macedonia
8. Tooheys (or Victoria Bitter)
Don’t ask for a Foster’s because no one will know what you’re talking about. Turns out that’s another Western myth, and the real beer of choice over there seems to be Tooheys or Victoria Bitter (VB). When it comes to beer I don’t discriminate, so I enjoyed both, and often. Carlton Draught is another good choice. Also the liquor stores over there have drive-thrus, so you’re welcome.
9. Goon Wine
Anyone who has spent more than 3 days in Australia probably has a good goon story to tell. Not so much an actual brand as a style of beverage, goon wine comes in a 4 litre box and usually costs about $7.99. They usually sport names like “Golden Oak” or “Daybreak” and taste like grape juice that’s been left in the sun too long. Tread lightly; the price is right but the hangover is wildly unforgiving.
As far as fast food goes, Oporto is where it’s at. If McDonalds and KFC didn’t suck and they had a franchise love-child, that child would be Oporto. Besides the food being surprisingly tasty, cheap and fast, they have the best burger sauce you’ll ever eat AND they put chicken salt on their fries. Done, and done.
11. Bundaberg Rum
If you’re not a rum drinker you can skip this one, but Bundaberg is the (or at least my) drink of choice when it comes to picking a nice cocktail to pair with your evening plans. It’s amazing, and it’s not available anywhere in Canada. Believe me, I’ve looked.
*Disclaimer: may be offensive to vegetarians. Reader discretion is advised* It sounds weird, but kangaroo meat is actually a carnivore staple in Australia, and even has its own section in the supermarket. Similar to elk or other game, it’s a red meat you can grill like a beef steak, make into sausages or use for burgers. It’s actually quite good, but I never got used to saying “want to whip up some kanga tacos tonight?”
13. Schweppes Agrum Soda
Okay, this one’s personal. I have never again been able to find the Schweppes Agrum flavoured soda and it haunts me to this day. Somewhere between grapefruit and blood orange, it basically taste like a sunset in a bottle. Please, PLEASE, if you make your way to Australia, try it for me. And then send me seventeen cases. I’ll be waiting.