Australians are known to be easy-going larrikins who don’t take life too seriously and the entire Australian cuisine is the purest reflection of this. For example, take some white bread, smother it in margarine, and cover it in sprinkles. The masterpiece you have just created is called Fairy Bread and is one of the country’s finest delicacies. But, despite the unpretentious nature of the Australian pallet, when it comes to properly consuming certain dishes, there is absolutely no messing around. Any straying from these guidelines could be grounds for deportation, do make sure to read carefully and take notes because this is serious stuff. Like… really serious.
Vegemite is a national treasure in Australia and showcases some of the country’s best work in food innovation. Jesus might have turned water into wine, but Aussies turned beer into Vegemite. This thick, black, salty spread was crafted with the leftover yeast from beer brewing - so appetizing right!? But, tourists don’t even give themselves a chance to enjoy it because they don’t follow the proper Vegemite protocols. Instead, they often just lather it onto bread like it’s a big old scoop of Nutella, a thought that makes even the biggest Vegemite aficionados shudder. So, to save yourself from falling into the same trap as many tourists gone by, follow these steps carefully:
While the toast is still hot, take some butter (preferably) or margarine and spread on generously. It’s important to cover the entire surface of the piece of toast.
You may substitute with sourdough or multigrain in a pinch, but NEVER with wholegrain bread.
Once all of the butter has melted, using just the tip of your knife, take a small scoop of Vegemite. To estimate roughly how much this should be, take into consideration that a jar of Vegemite would last at least a year in a household that eats it every day.
Spread the Vegemite evenly over the buttered toast, taking care to even out any big clumps.
An absolute monstrosity:
A soft pass:
If you aren’t committed enough to buy your own jar of Vegemite, you can opt for the second best option - a Cheesymite scroll from Bakers Delight, Coles, or Woolworths. These rolls are an upgrade to the traditional cheese and Vegemite sandwich - a quintessential school lunch item for most Aussie kids. While it’s almost an entirely different experience to savoring a mouth-watering slice of Vegemite toast, it’s good enough.
There’s nothing Aussies love more than a good sausage sizzle. The term sausage sizzle refers to both the physical barbequed sausage, served in a slice of bread, as well as the whole event surrounding the cooking. In fact, there are 3 key types of sausage sizzles. The first and most common is a backyard barbie with ya mates (for Americans, this is grilling out). Self-explanatory. The second, and the pinnacle of the Australian food identity is a Bunnings Sauso. This is the sausage sizzle that’s held each weekend at Australia’s biggest hardware store chain - Bunnings Warehouse. The final and most elusive is the democracy sausage - the sausage sizzle held at any good polling booth around Australia on an election day. Regardless of which sausage sizzle you go for, a good snag can be broken down into four key components; bread, sausage, onions, and sauce. Here’s how to spot a good one from a fake:
The bread must be the cheapest white bread you can find. The lower the quality, the better.
It must be sliced bread. Hotdog buns are absolutely not tolerated.
The sausage must be placed on the bread diagonally. This way you will maximize the number of bites with both sausage and bread. Having the sausage any other way is an immediate red flag.
They should be beef sausages, coming from a value pack. There is no justification for a fancy, gourmet sausage at a sausage sizzle.
Sausages should be well cooked, with nice black grill marks on them.
The skins should have a nice pop when you bite into them and your mouth should be filled with a scalding hot, fatty juice from the sausage meat.
This one deserves a bit of an explanation. A few years ago, Bunnings decided to make a slight change to their sausage sizzles and started putting their onions between the sausage and bread rather than on top. Their reasoning? Putting onions on top was a health and safety concern as someone may slip on a stray fried onion slice. Ridiculous! This caused a national outcry and stirred up one of the biggest debates in the country’s history, do onions belong on top or underneath the sausage. This was such serious stuff that even the Prime Minister was asked to weigh in on the controversy, but he refused to choose a side. However, after countless, nationwide polls and surveys, the classic onions on top option has come out as the clear winner. So, unless you want to really ruffle some feathers, keep your onions where they belong… ON TOP.
Tomato sauce (or ketchup) is the gold standard when it comes to a sausage sizzle. You can get away with mustard, maybe even some BBQ sauce if you are with particularly forgiving people, but don’t even think about trying any other sauces. The art of the sizzle has already been perfected, there is no room for creativity or experimentation here. Any attempt to stray from these guidelines would be considered a highly offensive gesture and there’s just no coming back from that.
Fish ‘n’ Chips
Australia is known for having really delicious seafood but there is really only one way to enjoy a good fish 'n' chips like a local. You need to head out of the cities to the suburbs and find a local, family-run fish ‘n’ chip shop. The older and sketchier it looks, the better it will be. Many places will have huge menus above the counters which can be a little daunting if you don’t know what you’re looking for. So, to save you the hassle of trying to decipher it, here’s what you should order:
First, order your fish. There is only one choice if you want the classic Aussie experience - flake. This is the cheapest fish you can get in Australia and it’s actually the meat from a gummy shark. You can choose to have it deep fried which will have a batter or grilled which is just the fish.
Next, order a hamburger with the lot. A real Aussie burger will come with beetroot, pineapple, and a fried egg. The authentic ones can only be purchased from these types of fish and chip shops.
Then, it’s time to order chips (fries for you, Americans). Ask for "minimum chips" with chicken salt. Minimum chips is always enough to feed at least 4 people. While I am sure most places use a more artificial version of chicken salt these days, the original was an Australian invention made from real, rotisserie chicken leftovers that were cooked, dried, and turned into a powder. For full transparency, despite it being the default seasoning at many fish and chip shops, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But, it’s very much an Aussie experience, so you might as well give it a go.
Finally, order your sides. Deep-fried dim sims and potato cakes are non-negotiables as they really tie the whole dish together. Depending on what state you’re in, potato cakes might also be called potato scallops. Either way, they are just a big, deep-fried patty of potato deliciousness. You might be wondering, do you need chips and a potato cake since they are practically the same thing? Yes… yes you do.
Now you wait. Once your order is ready, you’ll be handed a cardboard tray, wrapped in paper. There’s no need for plates or cutlery, as the paper is your plate and your fingers are your knife and fork. For extra points, take it down to the nearest beach and eat it there while you watch the sunset. The more sand you get in the box, the more authentic the experience! And be ready to fight off the seagulls.
So you have probably already heard of Tim Tams. Apparently, they are marketed in the US as Australia’s favorite cookie and although they would be correct, it’s important to be aware that it’s a big no-no to use the term ‘cookie’ in Australia. Instead, make sure to only refer to such items as a biscuit or ‘bikkie’ (pronounced like Ricky but with a B).
For those that haven’t heard of them, a Tim Tam is two layers of chocolate biscuit with a creamy chocolate filling, covered in a delicate layer of chocolate. The chocolate is always tempered just right so it always melts just on your fingers. No matter how strong your self-control is, that final finger lick guarantees you’ll be reaching for another. You can never eat just one. It’s criminally genius.
So, it might seem like eating a Tim Tam is pretty straightforward, but let me introduce the Tim Tam Slam. This involves biting off opposite corners of the biscuit and using it as a straw to drink a hot drink. Typically the drink of choice is a milk-based one, like hot chocolate or coffee. But, Aussies also drink beer out of shoes … so anything goes! The combination of the hot drink and the cold biscuit creates a delicious melted, chocolatey concoction in your mouth.
Cheezles are another one of Australia’s culinary treasures. Similar to Cheetos, they are made from corn and cheese flavoring. But that’s where their similarities end. This timeless snack is not only delicious but its ring shape also makes them the perfect party accessory. Like all good Aussie foods, there is a very specific way to eat them to fully appreciate their potential:
When reaching for a Cheezle, whether it is in the box or in a bowl, you must try to slip as many Cheezles onto your fingers as possible.
Add additional Cheezles to any bare fingers so you have 10 beautiful Cheezle rings. Take a minute to admire your new bling.
Eat the Cheezles straight off your fingers, without slipping them off first. This can be tricky but is an essential skill to master.
If you want to save some for later, it’s perfectly acceptable to wander around a party with your new accessories until you’re ready to eat them.
If you only try one type of pie in Australia, make sure it’s a Four ’n Twenty meat pie, straight out of the warmer. Yes, the ones from a bakery are probably much higher quality and arguably more delicious, but in case it hasn’t become clear yet, the less pretentious the food, the more it is loved in Australia.
Where can you get a Four ‘n’ Twenty pie? Just about any sporting event will have these pies on offer. Otherwise, head to the nearest 7/11 or petrol station. Buying the little tomato sauces in those easy-squeezy packets (if you know, you know) is an essential part of the experience, so don’t skip these. There is nothing quite like that initial pop as the tomato sauce bursts out.
Open the packet and place your pie down onto its packaging so it makes a nice little plate for you.
Carefully remove the lid of the pie, making sure not to burn off your fingerprints as the steam escapes. Put it aside for later.
Empty the sauce into the pie
Finish it off with eating the best part - the deliciously, flakey pastry lid
Milo is a chocolate-flavored malt drink with a pretty unique taste. Having the perfect Milo is all about ratios and there are 3 main ways to enjoy it:
Milo with milk
This is the most traditional way to enjoy a Milo and you can have it either hot or cold.
The hot version is pretty straightforward and is made the same way you would make a hot chocolate.
The cold version is much more of an art. Your milk to Milo ratio should be 1:3 at a minimum. So 3/4 of your cup should be filled with Milo and then topped off with milk. There are 2 preferences here:
Pour all the milk straight on top of the Milo and stir like your life depends on it. You will end up with somewhat flavored milk on the bottom and a beautiful iceberg of Milo at the top.
Or, add in just enough milk to cover the Milo and stir until it is somewhat of a paste. Then add the remaining milk. This will leave you with more heavily flavored milk and a smaller amount of milo on top.
Regardless of your preference, it’s best to consume the liquid part of your drink first before eating the remainder of the Milo.
Straight from the tin
This is only ever done in secrecy. The ratio here should be 1:1 for Milo to mouth volume - i.e. shovel as much Milo into one mouthful as possible. Then replace the lid and walk away, making sure to remain blasé so as not to draw any attention to yourself.
With vanilla ice cream
There is no greater pairing in this world than vanilla ice cream topped with a huge mound of Milo. The ratios for this one are a little less stringent but aim for at least half the amount of Milo as ice cream.
Aussie foods may not be the most refined or spectacular, but its magic is all in the details. Sticking to these guidelines will make sure you get to experience Aussie foods the way they’re intended to be enjoyed. Spreading Vegemite like a psychopath will be a thing of the past!