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authentic Australian eating experience--crocodile? kangaroo?

authentic Australian eating experience--crocodile? kangaroo?

Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 08:42 AM
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authentic Australian eating experience--crocodile? kangaroo?

Hello! I've been doing lots of research for our September/October trip to Australia. I've come up with a question about the more "exotic" types of food.

If you live in Australia, are kangaroo and crocodile something that you typically buy at the supermarket and serve at home on a regular basis? Or are they more for the tourists? Are they something that you would typically choose in a restaurant, or, again, are they mainly on the menu for the tourists?
What about Barramundi?

When we visit a country we like to eat what people who live there actually eat. So, for example, when we went to Germany, we not only tried the sausages and sauerbraten, but we had a wonderful sushi dinner when my husband's cousin took us out. When we went to his house we ate lasagne.

Anyway, back to Australia. So far, it seems that there is a wonderful mix of cuisines from all over the world, since Australia draws its population from such a variety of countries. It also sounds like there is wonderful seafood--different kinds being freshest depending on where you are. I'm also getting the impression that "pub food" may be really good in Australia.

Comments? Advice?

caligirl56 is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 11:55 AM
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Kangaroo is available at supermarkets, but I have rarely seen crocodile, well not in Melbourne. I am sure it is available as it is supposed to taste like chicken. Neither are considered Aussie staple fare. Every imaginable cuisine is available in Australia with the produce far superior to many countries and the restaurants equal to anywhere. In most places you can dine superbly on Italian, Greek, Chinese, Thai, Indian etc.etc.etc. The BBQ is a great Aussie tradition and something not to be missed.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 01:35 PM
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A bit of background - leaving aside the indigenous peoples, Australia was overwhelmingly Anglo-Celtic from 1788 until the post-WW2 immigration boom, and so there was no equivalent to the early ethnic/regional diversity that gave the US so many local cuisines.

By and large, white Australians stuck to their British culinary inheritance until quite recent times, with a strong focus on lots of meat cooked plainly - pretty understandable given that for many of our early settlers, being able to eat meat daily was an undreamt-of luxury. Given this, in rural areas there was considerable stigma attached to having to resort to eating kangaroos and wallabies. And their meat certainly didn't make it into the cities, where the poor lived in conditions not too different to Dickens' London.

In addition, little of the kangaroo's carcase is edible - it's lean, gamey meat that needs to be cooked somewhat rare and isn't to everyone's taste (the most popular cut was actually the tail, used for stews like oxtail). As for crocodile, the only time I tried it (as crocodile tempura) I found it hard to distinguish from chicken and certainly not worth the cost.

Some restaurants specialise in Aboriginal "bush tucker" ingredients, but I don't think you could call their food "authentic". As far as I know the indigenous peoples used them for medicinal purposes rather than to flavour food, and their cooking was about as basic as it's possible to get.

Barramundi is certainly popular, but wild is better than farmed.

By the 1970s it was said that Australia's national dish was either spaghetti bolognese or sweet-and-sour pork, which about sums it up, even though we've moved on from those two dishes. "Mod Oz" is very popular - a sort of fusion school, mostly influenced by South-East Asian and Italian cuisines.

When you arrive it would be worthwhile to buy a copy of the Good Food Guide published by the "Sydney Morning Herald" and the Melbourne "Age".
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Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 01:56 PM
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In terms of eating national emblems I think you can have emu as well, but as Neil and Downunder indicate they are not common fare.

Some things you might like to try when you are here: wattleseed icecream (one of the few bush tucker things to enter mainstream markets), crustaceans (mud crab, balmain bugs/moreton Bay bugs, yabbies) fish (whiting, barramundi, red emperor, red snapper..). There's a fabulous array of oysters also.

In Sydney there a quite a few gastro-pubs and they do emphasise local ingredients. Try Four in Hand (Paddington), Three Weeds (Rozelle), The Grand National (Paddington).
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Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 01:59 PM
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I can buy kangaroo in my (Sydney) supermarket, but neither crocodile nor emu. You can buy those in speciality shops. Barramundi is readily available and not really considered exotic. It's a sensational fish - particularly if you can get it 'just off the line'. Kangaroo is more often seen on restaurant menus than crocodile or emu, which it is pretty rare to see other than in restaurants specialising in Australiana. I like kangaroo (bit like venison) and emu - good in a French cassoulet or slow roasted. Crocodile ... somewhat like a cross between prawn & chicken to my tastebuds, and a little dry. It would probably be good in a capaccio.

We (20+m of us) eat an internationally flavoured menu - diverse as we are. Some of us will and do eat anything & everything - others' sense of adventure peaked at tinned spaghetti & regressed from there (() The question of what is "Australian cuisine" is raised in foodie circles frequently, without a definitive answer.

I suppose it is akin to the quest to identify North American cuisine - or that of any relatively young country built on a base of numerous cultures.

To continue the parallel, I guess a similar number of us would eat the traditional foods of our Aboriginals as would North Americans eat the traditional foods of the American Indians. We are starting to appreciate and have greater access to native Australian spices, herbs & fruits ... lemon myrtle (a tree, use the dried leaf), quandong ( a piquant fruit, good in pies & sauces, jus) - to think of two I use frequently.

What traditional American Indian foods would you find in your supermarket?

Here's the menu from the Red Ochre Grill ... just to whet your appetite

http://www.redochregrill.com.au/menu.html

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Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 03:13 PM
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>>What traditional American Indian foods would you find in your supermarket?<<

Pumpkin, squash, beans, corn, chile, potatoes... Buffalo and venison are found at some butcher shops.

This is an interesting thread; thanks for starting it, caligirl56.

Lee Ann
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Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 04:20 PM
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We eat a fair bit of kangaroo as a change from the usual beef, veal, pork and lamb - available from supermarkets and my local butcher. The better cuts are fine for bbq'ing, but as there's no fat they do need a bit of a marinade. Also offer kangaroo sausages to overseas visitors, they're quite a hit I think for novelty value, although I do find them a bit dry.

Crocodiles are protected in wild and only farmed crocodile meat is available at a few butcher shops, at least around Cairns. As farmed crocodiles are fed on chicken, that's more or less how they taste. Most farmed crocodile is exported for meat, skins, even their blood is used for cancer research.

Barramundi can be wonderful and it can be fairly ordinary - not so great if its farmed and frozen. In North Queensland you'll also see fresh Coral Trout, a fine eating fish and Red Emperor is pretty good.

Bokhara's given a link to Red Ochre in Cairns which is popular with both tourists and locals, also see Dundees - www.dundees.com.au (prepare yourself for the blast of kookaburra cackling) - look under "bush tucker" section for native foods.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 05:07 PM
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Caligirl -

<I'm also getting the impression that "pub food" may be really good in Australia>

I've visited WA, TAS and VIC a few times during the past couple of years and I was really surprised to discover how good pub food can be.

I went in expecting the fare I've had in some NZ pubs - nachos, fried foods and loads of chips, but instead, I found nice soups, grilled meat and poultry, curries and salads made with fresh local ingredients.

Give it a try, you might be pleasantly surprised.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 05:16 PM
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Hi calgirl56
Breakfast, try vegemite on toast.

Morning tea, cappucino with an Anzac biscuit

Lunch try seafood at a cafe or restuarant near the harbour eg. catch the ferry to Manly for Fish and chips or catch the ferry to Watsons Bay for a choice of seafood (or theres also the fish markets)

Afternoon tea, time for a midi of beer (not a beer expert so cant advise the brand) or a cuppa (tea)

Dinner, a meal at a pub, some have steaks that you cook yourself around a central BBQ where you can chat to other people.

Also, the following terms may be of use.

anzac biscuits - traditional biscuit/cookie dating back to World War I


bangers and mash - sausages and mashed potato
billy tea - bush tea boiled in a tin container
biscuits - cookies
booze - alcohol
bundy - Bundaberg rum, eg 'bundy and coke'

champers - champagne
chips - French fries
chook - chicken
cuppa - cup of tea or coffee

damper - bush bread

grog - alcohol

lamington - traditional small sponge cake squares covered in chocolate
icing and sprinkled with coconut
lollies - candy

middy - medium sized glass of beer

pavlova - traditional meringue dessert

sanga - sandwich
schooner - large glass of beer
snag - sausage
stubby - small bottle of beer

tinny - can of beer
tomato sauce - ketchup
tucker - food

VB - Victoria Bitter, brand of beer
Vegemite - spread for toast or sandwiches, made from yeast extract

XXXX - 'four ex', Queensland brand of beer
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Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 07:15 PM
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Yes I quite often have kangaroo in restaurants but never cook it at home. As Neil says it should be rare/medium. I never see crocodile although I did have it in Port Douglas. I found it underwhelming.And yes,if you have barramundi, make sure it is wild not farmed.You will find an enormous variety of food here but the specalities mentioned here would be interesting for you but not common.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 10:04 PM
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I'm cooking kangaroo for dinner tonight. My family loves it! Yes, it's only been available for a year or so in supermarkets, but it's low in fat and economical. Very nice if cooked correctly.

Emu was available a few years back. I have a friend who had a farm but it didn't take off as a meat. I only ever bought it in salami-form.

I've never eaten crocodile.

Barramundi is readily available. I prefer the saltwater variety which I think is harder to get than the freshwater.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2008, 11:42 PM
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Wild croc is good but as it is unavailable, ... The stuff one gets in restaurants is so fatty but lacks the taste of a fat wild one. Still an interesting experience.

Surprised no one mentioned Pavlova or Peach Melba as national desserts.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2008, 01:10 AM
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Bokhara2 and Suelynn, you're ahead of me on 'roo - maybe I should give it another try. I did once have a kangaroo stew in a Canberra restaurant and it was certainly like venison.

AmanteDelLimoncello has provided an interesting glossary. Personally I wouldn't go out of my way to find an Anzac biscuit - they taste like compacted horse food to me - and I think VB is very possibly the worst beer on the face of the planet, but who knows? You might like it.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2008, 02:06 AM
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Hi Neil,
If you like venison, I think you'd like 'roo grilled. As Peterh says, it needs to be quickly seared, rare to med-rare to be at its best, I think. Good with a shiraz or a GSM.

I also quite like it cappacio (sp?).

Agree about the VB; for my 4 beers per year, I'd choose a Cascade, Little Creatures,James Boag or a Heinekin.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2008, 09:41 AM
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Oh my goodness. Thank you all so much for your wonderful answers.

As I research this trip, I keep a list of things that I want to remember. You have given me a whole new section. All sorts of foods to try, how to have them cooked, websites to remember, and even a bit of history!

September is too far away. I wish we were there now!

(By the way, I showed this thread to my 23 year-old son, because I knew he would be interested in it. His first comment was, "you have some really nice people on this forum." So there you go!)

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Old Mar 3rd, 2008, 10:55 AM
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This review of top Sydney beachside restaurants appeared in the New York Times' travel section recently - the descriptions of the dishes will give you an idea of the local top-end cuisine.

http://tinyurl.com/2u7tr8

Thanks, Bokhara - I really should strike a blow for marsupial cuisine. I'm tempted by the brushtail possum that lays waste to our aprocot trees.

I'd add the James Squire range to the list of good beers. They're very similar to the sort of 'artisan' brews popular in Oregon and other parts these days - but don't expect American beer prices, more's the pity.

BTW, BYO restaurants are more common in Australia than the US. You'll be charged a corkage fee, but bringing your own is still a good way to keep the restaurant bill down. If the restaurant has a liquor licence (some cheap Asian places don't, but most do) BYO applies to table wine only. Tipping is either not practiced or is on a more modest scale than the US - 10% tops. Dn't feel guilty, the staff are paid a living wage.

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Old Mar 3rd, 2008, 05:52 PM
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This is a bit off the topic, more about being eaten by the native fauna rather than eating it. Val Plumwood has been found dead at her property outside Canberra. She is the eco-feminist philosopher who survived the death roll with a crocodile, her account of that ordeal is well worth reading.

http://www.smh.com.au/news/environme...402331572.html
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Old Mar 3rd, 2008, 06:33 PM
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(apologies Caligirl)
Susan7: How sad. She was obviously a very gutsy person who really did walk her talk. And, at only 67, how sad too that both her children predeceased her.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2008, 09:20 PM
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Yes, Bokhara, it's very sad indeed.

Apologies for the hijack Caligirl!
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Old Mar 4th, 2008, 01:18 PM
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Caligirl, the food in Australian restaurants is soooooo good, no matter what you order almost. We aren't gourmets or eat at expensive restaurants, but loved loved loved their fish and chips and barramundi cooked almost anyway (not farmed). I had fish almost every meal in pubs, bistro-type places and nicer places and it was all good. Beef isn't as readily available as you would expect since it is mainly exported and expensive. Expect beets to be in every salad AND the sandwiches AND the hamburgers! If you go to Cairns, right next door to that Red Ochre restaurant is the best little Italian place called Fettucina with great food and service at about half the price for the exotic dishes at Red Ochre (which didn't fit into our budget.) No kangaroo on the menu, though. Up the street is a nice place to get a quick meal called Fasta Pasta which was surprisingly good and really quick for starving tourists. It's a good thing that the food is so good in Australia because it is really expensive especially with the American dollar so weak.
Sally
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