Nine Things You Didn’t Know About Australian Cuisine And Food Culture
More than Vegemite and “barbie” (barbecue), Australia is home to a rich and interesting food culture. As a culturally diverse country, this diversity and openness is heavily reflected in their cuisine.
Chef Adam Liaw is an Australian chef of Malaysian origins who gained fame after he won the second season of Masterchef Australia in 2010. Since then, he has written five cookbooks, appeared in a number of cooking shows, and won the 2016 AACTA award for Best Lifestyle Television Program for Destination Flavour. He is considered one of the most influential chefs in the Australian food scene.
Chef Adam drops by Manila for Tim’s Table, where he prepares a sumptuous Australian feast for host Tim Yap and his guests on the show. But more than beautiful presentation and mouth-watering dishes, he is able to impart an immense amount of wisdom and information on Australian cuisine.
If you’re planning to go to Australia soon for travel or are just curious about what makes a dish “Aussie,” here are nine things you didn’t know—but have to—about Australian food culture.
Australian food is simple food
“Australians are very good at relaxing. It’s our national sport,” jokes Chef Adam. But the very chill nature of Australians actually translates into how they like to enjoy their food. According to Chef Adam, Aussies like their food simple, straight-forward. A simple meat-and-salad pairing like this steak and salad that he prepared for Tim’s Table encapsulates the kind of food that you’d find in any Australian household.
Good produce at the core
One of the biggest reasons why Australian food is good despite its simplicity is because of the fact that Australia has very good meat, poultry, and produce.
“I think the most important thing to know about Australian cuisine is that it’s underpinned by really strong produce. We’ve got amazing produce in Australia—our meat, seafood, vegetables—all of these are spectacular in quality. That allows us to cook dishes that are very, very simple. When you have good quality ingredients, you don’t have to do a lot to them to make them taste good,” says Chef Adam.
Quality Australian Wagyu beef, abnormally large fruits and vegetables, and fresh seafood and fish are all standard in any Australian home. And Chef Adam says it’s because of the skill and quality of their farmers. It’s not just about the production, the growing, or the harvesting of the produce. Even the delivery and the way they transfer the food is done in the best way possible with the strictest standards upheld.
The seafood is great—really great
What’s better than fresh seafood? Fresh and sustainably sourced seafood. And Australia enjoys this kind of seafood because Australia’s fishing waters are the third largest on the planet, encompassing all five oceanic zones. And more than that, they are huge on protecting marine life that they are known to have the largest network of protected ocean areas on the planet.
Australian cuisine is international
It’s hard to put a finger on what makes Australian cuisine Aussie in nature because all the dishes that Australians eat have origins all over the world. Australia is a nation of immigrants. When you have a population as diverse and broad as it is in Australia, all the food cultures would have intersected and married into one mash of flavors.
But when asked, Chef Adam says that one dish that encapsulates Australian food culture is Salt and Pepper Squid because it’s a dish that almost every Australian loves and you can find it everywhere—in every restaurant, pub, or café.
Noodles is Australian—sort of
“One of the things that you eat that you don’t realize is Australian is noodles. I’m not saying that Australia invented noodles, but down south of the country produces a lot of very, very good quality wheat,” says Chef Adam.
Because of the good quality and quantity of wheat produced in the country, Australia is able to export heaps of instant noodles and pasta all over the world. Did you know that some of the noodles in Japan even come from Australia?
Australians love Thai food
Did you know that the biggest concentration of Thai restaurants outside Thailand is in Australia? Chef Adam says Thai food in Australia is fantastic mainly because the country is host to a big Thai community. It’s so huge that Thai places can be found in every suburb, even in the most rural places in the country.
Australians aren’t eating enough Kangaroo
The kangaroo is Australia’s national animal, and also happens to be a dish. But contrary to what people may think, Australians don’t eat kangaroo as much as they should. In fact, in 2017, the Australian government tried to encourage Australians to eat more kangaroo meat because wild kangaroo levels were becoming unsustainable.
Just like beef, kangaroo meat can be a bit tough if not cooked right. It is enjoyed in Australia mostly as medium rare steaks, or minced to become meatballs and burgers.
Coffee is a big thing
Many would agree that Australian coffee culture is one of the most refined in the world. Australians did invent the flat white, and any café anywhere in the country would offer at least eight different types of coffee on their menu.
But probably one of the most interesting things about the coffee culture in Australis is that more than 90 percent of all cafés in Australia are independent. As opposed to the dominance of Starbucks elsewhere in the world (it’s so hard to find Starbucks branches in Australia!), Australians love going to their local café for their daily caffeine fix.
Australians also grow their own Arabica beans, with coffee plantations spread out in the very north of Queensland and down south in New South Wales.
Chef Adam gives a glimpse of Australian’s thriving coffee culture in the dessert that he shared with the Tim’s Table guests, which is a different take on tiramisu: ladyfingers dipped in the Aussie signature flat white, with caramelized coffee syrup on top.
Family is at the core of food
There are many things that you can say about Australian cuisine, but Chef Adam says that it all boils down to how food is tied to family. Just like the Filipino family culture, Chef Adam says, “Australian cuisine is basically how important food is to family life. We love to eat at home, we love to eat out. But the core of Australian cuisine, you find on people’s tables at home.”
Catch Chef Adam Liaw and Tim Yap on Tim’s Table, airing on July 17, 7:30 p.m. on Metro Channel, channel 52 on Sky Cable and channel 174 on HD. If you miss it, you can watch this episode on demand on iWant.