Though once dominated by British culinary tastes, Australian cuisine is now influenced by a variety of Mediterranean and Asian foods introduced by immigrant cultures. Many people living outside of Australia think of native Bush Tucker when they contemplate Australian food, but Southeast Asian, Greek, Lebanese and Italian influences are now more common.
Australians are some of the largest consumers of meat in the world and the quality is extremely high.
Cooking methods have changed significantly over the past decade, due partly to the European and Asian migrants who have introduced culinary traditions, and partly to a new health consciousness.
The meals are lighter with less heavy sauces and gravy. More use is made of marinades and lighter sauces such as soy sauce and teriyaki sauce. Classic European dishes are still popular but the current food fad is Asian in origin—with Japanese and Thai joining Chinese which has long been a favorite. Meat is increasingly being used in stir-fry, kebabs, rolled roasts and noisettes.
Australians, however, still relish a traditional roast of beef, lamb or pork and visitors will find these on many restaurant menus.
There is a seemingly endless supply of ethnic restaurants catering to the many nationalities that now live here. The combination of the high quality local foods with ethnic cooking methods has produced some of the best meals in the world.
Barbecues are very popular with Australians who like a casual lifestyle and eating outdoors. Most homes would have outdoor barbecue facilities or portable barbecues. Many parks and beaches have designated barbecue areas. You will hear the steady sizzle of meats and seafood over coals around the country on balmy summer evenings and during weekends.
Many small hotels and clubs have outdoor eating or barbecue facilities where customers can choose and cook their own steak. Often a band will be playing on Saturdays and Sundays. This is a good place to meet young Australians.
Milk-fed lamb and veal is served in top restaurants. It usually costs a little more but is valued for its fine, delicate flavor. Top restaurateurs have their own breeders who are contracted to supply them with suckling lamb (5-6 weeks old). Cattle is predominantly pasture-fed, compared to the US where they are generally grain-fed in feedlots. This produces lean beef by world standards; a 100 gram-portion of cooked lean rump steak contains about 6.7 grams of fat and 80 milligrams of cholesterol. Grain-fed beef would have approximately twice this fat content.
The sheep flock of 170,000 million is the second largest in the world after Russia. Three quarters of sheep are merinos bred initially for wool, then mutton once their wool-growing days are over. The remaining 25 per cent is prime lamb production. Australia has no native breeds of sheep or cattle but has cross-bred the imports to produce strains better suited to its climate.
Australians are not big pork eaters but there has been an active campaign by breeders to produce a leaner meat and new cuts.
Chicken is the most commonly used bird for eating. Duck, goose, turkey, quail, guinea fowl are also bred and Australian pigeon is rated as among the best in the world.
Kangaroo and water buffalo are also slaughtered for consumption in some states. At present, kangaroo can legally be served in restaurants in South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. The taste is similar to venison but less gamey. The cuts are not large, so kangaroo is usually served in small medallions.
Over the past 10 years migrants have had a significant influence on the introduction of many varieties of small goods and a growing awareness of their uses. Most of the varieties available originated overseas but they are increasingly being made here by experts from those countries. Salamis include Danish, Polish, Italian, Milano, Pepperone and Hungarian. And speck, coppa, bratwurst, coteghini, smoke beef, bastourma, berliner, pate, bloodwurst, cabanossi, strassburg and csabai can be bought at most good delicatessens. Ham and bacon are popular, bacon being an integral part of the traditional Australian breakfast.
Sausages are eaten by 70 percent of Australian households at least once a week. Australians have always regarded the sausage, or snag, as a cheap form of meat to fry, grill or barbecue. But this is changing. Immigrants from countries where the sausage has gourmet status are introducing new varieties and more interesting ways of cooking and serving. There are strict standards for ingredients in fresh sausages. They must contain at least 75 per cent meat (this does not include intestines, lungs or other bits of the animal not usually eaten) and the fat content is limited to 25 per cent. Frankfurters must contain a minimum of 66 per cent meat.
For an explanation of some of the more unusual Australian food stuffs, see the Bush Tucker article in this section.
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This page modified January 2007
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