Australian cuisine refers to the food and cooking practices of Australia and its inhabitants. As a modern nation of large-scale immigration, Australia has a unique blend of culinary contributions and adaptations from various cultures around the world, including Indigenous Australians, Asians, Europeans and Pacific Islanders.
Indigenous Australians have occupied Australia for some 65,000 years, during which they developed a unique hunter-gatherer diet, known as bush tucker, drawn from regional Australian flora and fauna. Australia became a collection of British colonies from 1788 to 1900, during which time culinary tastes were strongly influenced by British and Irish migrants, with agricultural products such as beef cattle, sheep and wheat becoming staples in the local diet. The Australian gold rushes introduced more varied immigrants and cuisines, mainly Chinese, whilst Australia’s post-war multicultural immigration program led to a large-scale diversification of local food, particularly under the influence of Mediterranean and East and South Asian Australians.
Australian cuisine in the 21st century reflects the influence of globalisation, with many fast-food restaurants and international trends becoming influential. Organic and biodynamic foods have also become widely available alongside a revival of interest in bushfood. Australia has become famous for the high quality of its exports, with major agricultural industries including cattle and calves, wheat, fruit and nuts, vegetables, milk, sheep and lambs (for meat and wool), poultry, barley, canola. The country is also well regarded for its locally-made wine, beer and soft drinks.
While fast food chains are abundant, Australia’s metropolitan areas have famed haute cuisine and nouvelle cuisine establishments that offer both local and international foods. Restaurants whose product includes contemporary adaptations, interpretations or fusions of exotic influences are frequently termed Modern Australian.
Australian National Dishes
Vegemite is a thick, black Australian food spread made from leftover brewers’ yeast extract with various vegetable and spice additives. It was developed by Cyril Percy Callister in Melbourne, Victoria in 1922. The Vegemite brand was owned by Mondelez International (formerly Kraft Foods Inc.) until January 2017, when it was acquired by the Australian Bega Cheese group in a US$460,000,000 (equivalent to about $470,000,000 in 2018) agreement for full Australian ownership after Bega would buy most of Mondelez International’s Australia and New Zealand grocery and cheese business.
A spread for sandwiches, toast, crumpets and cracker biscuits as well as a filling for pastries, Vegemite is similar to British Marmite, New Zealand Marmite, Australian Promite, MightyMite, AussieMite, OzEmite, German Vitam-R, and Swiss Cenovis.
Vegemite is salty, slightly bitter, malty, and rich in glutamates – giving it an umami flavour similar to beef bouillon. It is vegan, kosher, and halal.
An Australian or New Zealand meat pie is a hand-sized meat pie containing diced or minced meat and gravy, sometimes with onion, mushrooms, or cheese and often consumed as a takeaway food snack.
The meat pie is considered iconic in Australia and New Zealand. It was described by former New South Wales Premier Bob Carr in 2003 as Australia’s “national dish”. New Zealanders regard the meat pie as a part of New Zealand cuisine, and it forms part of the New Zealand national identity.
One factory of the Victorian pie brand Four’n Twenty produces 50,000 pies per hour and Australians consume an average of more than 12 meat pies per year. The average consumption of meat pies in New Zealand is 15 per person per year.
Lamb, hogget and mutton are the meat of domestic sheep (species Ovis aries) at different ages in its life.
In general, a sheep in its first year is called a lamb, and its meat is also called lamb. The meat of a juvenile sheep older than one year is hogget; outside the United States this is also a term for the living animal. The meat of an adult sheep is mutton, a term only used for the meat, not the living animals. In the Indian subcontinent, the term mutton is also used to refer to goat meat.
Lamb is the most expensive of the three types, and in recent decades sheep meat is increasingly only retailed as “lamb”, sometimes stretching the accepted distinctions given above. The stronger-tasting mutton is now hard to find in many areas, despite the efforts of the Mutton Renaissance Campaign in the UK. In Australia, the term prime lamb is often used to refer to lambs raised for meat. Other languages, for example French, Spanish, Italian and Arabic, make similar, or even more detailed, distinctions among sheep meats by age and sometimes by sex and diet, though these languages do not always use different words to refer to the animal and its meat — for example, lechazo in Spanish refers to meat from milk-fed (unweaned) lambs.
In Australia, the leg of lamb roast is considered to be the national dish. Commonly served on a Sunday or any other special occasion, it can be done in a kettle BBQ or a conventional oven. Typical preparation involves covering the leg of lamb with butter and rosemary sprigs pushed inside incisions cut in the leg, and rosemary leaves sprinkled on top. The lamb is then roasted for two hours at 180 °C (350 °F) and typically served with carrots and potato (also roasted), green vegetables and gravy.