My favorite part of traveling is sampling the local fare. I’ve learned far more from my searches for national cuisine than I have from any tour. The people I’ve connected with over a meal (or while hunting for that meal!) are always happy to chat about their love of this-or-that dish, and oftentimes, the conversation lasts much longer, and goes much deeper, than my original inquiry.
I once spent an hour chatting with a Japanese woman who was fascinated by this foreigner’s obsession with trying puffer fish. I’ve made friends sipping a fermented spit drink with Amazonian locals. I got a good-natured laugh out of South Africans when I told them I really wanted to try termites (they taste like popcorn btw!).
Food connects us. That’s why I think it’s so important to be open-minded and go for the gusto when I’m in a new country. Here’s my list of foods you have to try in Australia:
You can find this at any grocery store. Anywhere. It’s not my cup of tea, but it’s a must-try if you’re visiting Australia. Just don’t buy the big jar if it’s your first time sampling. Photo: StephenMitchell
These taste just like Zingers, but they’re usually chocolate with raspberry filling. You can eat an entire box in one sitting. They’re that addictive. Pro tip: Read the package before you buy. Sometimes there are other flavors, like orange, and that’s just WRONG.
It’s a white meat, but it was tougher than I expected and tasted just like (you guessed it) chicken. It needs to be marinated with something acidic like lemon, and I’d recommend sprinkling it with fresh dill. Overall, I wouldn’t get it again.
This was DELICIOUS. It’s sweet like lamb, buttery almost. It’s not too tough and not too tender. Goldilocks would’ve gone bananas for this dish. I give it an A+! You can pay for it online at Sam the Butcher in Sydney and hop on a bus to pick up your order.
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It’s a tart fruit. It’s OK. You can get it as part of your dessert at the Ochre Restaurant in Cairns, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to find it. There’s a company that sells it as a jam, but it’s way too pricey and, when I bought it, the package never arrived. Just as well! Photo: Jean and Fred
This is a native bread, and most people will have no idea what you’re talking about when you ask for it. We ended up finding a version of it at Woolworth’s after popping into a few different locations. We were told that you can make it fairly easily. (But, pssst, it wasn’t that good so I’d just stick with regular kaiser rolls!) Photo: Rebecca Siegel
They’re like snickerdoodles with oatmeal—and a fascinating backstory. Buy them at Aldi or a local cafe paired with tea/coffee.
This is a staple leftover from British rule. These mini pies are sold on street corners, and they’re good for a semi-on-the-go snack. Or, if you’re not a meat pie fan, check out the latest craze—meat pie hotdogs. Your tastebuds will love you, and your arteries, well… you’ll walk it off, right? Photo: Mr and Mrs Stickyfingers
Pavlova is mostly fruit, whipped cream and marzipan. I can’t stand it when desserts are sweet sweet (as in, new-couples-making-out-in-the-park sickeningly sweet) so I expected to hate this one. But, it turns out that Australians aren’t as heavy-handed with the sugar as us Americans! It was sweet, certainly, but not over-the-top, and I’d get it again. Buy yours from a cafe or at Aldi. Photo: Giles Colborne
Also cookies. Also delicious. If you haven’t guessed, I’m sure I gained at least 10 pounds on this trip.
These are like Girl Scout’s mint cookies on steroids. We loved them so much we brought a pack home to DC!
Yomie’s Rice Yogurt
People were lining up around the block for this treat! If you’re anywhere near Paddy’s Market, hop in line and grab one for yourself.
Hamburger with beetroot
Australians like to eat their hamburgers with beetroot. Yummmm, healthy!
Nope. Not a fan. These are basically hard sugar cookies with some jam, icing and coconut. They’re OK if you’re looking for a blood sugar fix, but definitely not even close to my favorite. If you want to try them, they’re inexpensive at Woolworth’s. Photo: Royston Rascals
I was SO EXCITED when I saw the word “bug.” But, for those of you who aren’t as adventurous, never fear… Balmain bugs are actually a type of shellfish. Darn. They’re like little lobsters, and they are delicious, especially when you buy them from Tha Fish in Cairns.
The Significant Other and I had a blast shopping for all these treats. I’m sure the cashier judged us when we walked up with a cartload full of various candy bars and cakes. Tim Tams come in lots of different flavors. Ours was the double chocolate. We even purchased some to take back to the states. They’re the perfect mix of crunchy and cakey! Photo: Joy
The Significant Other gave this one a thumb’s up for cherry/chocolate lovers. It’s akin to Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. NOMS. Photo: Andy Melton
Custard flaky amazingness. Buy it at Woolworth’s. This is the closest thing I’ve ever found to my favorite dessert—the Peruvian milhojas.
I ordered the fish Barramundi from Dundee’s in Cairns, and I really wasn’t into it. It’s a pretty lackluster fish in comparison to, say, salmon. When you sample it, make sure it’s covered in sauce and spices otherwise it tastes like nothingness. Photo: stu_spivack
PLEASE FIND THIS, AND EAT IT, AND TELL ME ABOUT IT! I wasn’t able to find any witchetty grubs, but they look fabulous and meaty, and I want to chew on one. Someone please tell me what they taste like in the comments! Photo: Daryl Fritz
Wallaby’s are adorable. I spent the day hanging out with them in the zoo, and then I went to Ochre Restaurant and ate one. It was so delicious it didn’t even feel (too) weird. Definitely give this a go. Also try kangaroo while you’re in Australia. Make sure it’s almost raw or it’ll be too tough to eat. Photo: Callan
Pancakes on the Rocks: “Another institution in Sydney, Pancakes on the Rocks serves all kinds of pancakes. There are plenty of things to choose from the menu, and best of all, it opens 24 hours 7 days a week.” The pancakes were NOT that good, but, then again, I’m more of a waffles person. I would suggest going here just for the Instagram photo—these ‘cakes are absolutely gorgeous. Photo: digipam
Apparently there’s a significant Vietnamese population in Sydney, and you should give one (or all) these restaurants a go: https://www.timeout.com/sydney/restaurants/banh-xeo-bar Photo: thy khuê