12 Culinary Experiences to Have in Australia

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1. Go to a sausage sizzle

All photos by Erica, University of Queensland (home university: Syracuse University)

When my apartment complex threw a sausage sizzle for the new students moving in, this was my first meal when I arrived in Australia. A “sausage sizzle” is a community event much like a barbecue. The main dish is a “snag” (aka. a sausage, usually made of beef) on a plain slice of white bread. (You can buy hot dog buns in Australia, but hardly anyone uses them.) Typical toppings include “tomato sauce” (aka. ketchup) and/or onions. Sometimes they also butter the bread. You’ll find sausage sizzles happening all the time on campus, often as fundraisers charging around $2 per snag, and for some reason, at the local Bunnings warehouse. Note: Snags should always go diagonally across the bread. I was just a rookie who didn’t know any better.

2. Eat kangaroo (or another Aussie animal, if you love roos too much)

Yes, Australians do eat the kangaroo, their national animal. That may seem odd to us (imagine eating a bald eagle), but kangaroo are like Australia’s deer. They’re abundant, they cause a lot of the same problems (like car accidents), and they actually taste pretty good. I once told a friend that I could never eat a kangaroo since I thought they were too cute, especially having hugged one at a kangaroo reserve. My friend, a chef who often cooked for the rest of the group, told me nonchalantly, “You already have.” Apparently one day he made spaghetti Bolognese for everyone using kangaroo meat and I didn’t even notice. That being said, if you refuse to eat Roo, opt for something just as exotic, like emu or crocodile.

3. Eat some good lamb chops

Photo by Kristin, University of Queensland (home university: Purdue University)

Although not indigenous to this part of the world, Aussies have adopted lamb chops as a national staple, and several restaurants make them really well.

4. Try an Aussie meat pie

All photos by Erica, University of Queensland (home university: Syracuse University)

Meat pies, often called “four-n-twenty” pies, are a junk food favorite in Australia. Recently, the Philadelphia Seventy-sixers actually started selling these microwavable snacks at their games, and it became apparent that Americans have no idea how to eat them. (See reporter Ben Simmons apologizing after the Queensland police, and most of Australian Twitter, called him out on mutilating a meat pie.) Unlike Simmons, I didn’t use a knife, but I did use a fork at first, until my friend’s dad told me to put it down. Learn from our mistakes; eat a meat pie with your hands.

5. Try Vegemite (even though you’ll probably hate it)

Ah, Vegemite, the iconic food spread made from brewers yeast extract that Australians love for some godforsaken reason. This brown, greasy stuff tastes both bitter and salty at the same time. Aussies usually spread it on bread and butter, so that’s probably the best way to taste it, not a dab on your finger like my friends and I did. Most foreigners hate the stuff, but my friend next to me in the picture gradually decided that Vegemite had grown on him, so you never know. Either way, you can’t go to Australia without trying it.

6. Get an Aussie Whopper at Hungry Jack’s

All photos by Erica, University of Queensland (home university: Syracuse University)

Hungry Jack’s is a funny creation — the exclusive Australian franchise of the Burger King Corporation, owned by a man named Jack Cowen. The fast food chain is literally almost exactly the same as Burger King. Notice the similarity in the logos and the meals (“Chicken Fries,” “Whoppers”). It’s just odd, because New Zealand has regular old Burger King. If you’re a student or otherwise living here for a long time, definitely stop by your local HJ’s (they’re everywhere; I had one right across from my apartment) solely for the experience.

7. Order Dominos

All photos by Erica, University of Queensland (home university: Syracuse University)

Speaking of American restaurants, Australia does have quite a few of them, including KFC, McDonalds (which the Aussies call “Maccas”), and Dominos. And out of all of them, Dominos definitely exhibits the greatest difference in quality — in that it’s a lot better. They sell $5 pizzas (the cheesy garlic is my favorite), and they also sell poutine and chicken nuggets with ranch dipping sauce. There was a Dominos right next to my apartment, so my friends and I ordered many late night pizzas during my time there. If you’re living in Australia and you want pizza, Dominos is the way to go.

8. Go to Melbourne, the country’s food capital, and eat at a restaurant the locals recommend

All photos by Erica, University of Queensland (home university: Syracuse University)

Melbourne has some of the most high-end restaurants in the country, the majority of which are out of most people’s price range, but the city is filled with affordable culinary gems as well. When I visited, I asked my Airbnb hosts (who happened to be a barista and a pastry chef), for some recommendations, and they told me to go to Hakata Gensuke. It was one of the best things I ever ate in Australia, and I might not have found it if I hadn’t asked.

9. And if you make it to St Kilda, go to one of the many cake shops on Acland Street, specifically Monarch Cakes

All photos by Erica, University of Queensland (home university: Syracuse University)

Acland Street is known for its cake shops, but Monarch Cakes — the original — can’t be beat. Family-owned for over 80 years, the shop’s tried and true recipes won’t disappoint. Make sure you grab at least one slide of the famous chocolate Kooglhopf, a cake made from yeast pastry with melted chocolate — not cocoa like most marble cakes — swirled throughout.

10. Drink from the goon bag

Photo by Erica, University of Queensland (home university: Syracuse University)

While definitely not the classiest drinking experience you’ll have in Australia, “goon” (aka. cask wine) is a staple in Australian student life, especially drinking it directly from the nozzle on the silver goon bag.

11. Go taste some quality Australian wines at a winery

Coriole Vineyards. Photo by Kristin, University of Queensland (home university: Purdue University)

Australia is a major winemaking country, producing the fifth most wine in the world. The southern states in Australia, primarily New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania, have the best climates for winemaking, so head down south for your wine needs.

12. Buy a box (or several boxes) of TimTams

Photo by Erica, University of Queensland (home university: Syracuse University)

Yes, you can buy these cookies (or “biscuits,” as Aussies call them) in America, but the US TimTams don’t taste as good. TimTams come in several flavors, some as exotic as litchi, but the tried and true chocolate is arguably the best. The TimTams in this picture were on the table of the sausage sizzle I went to the day I arrived in Australia, and I ate a shamefully high number of TimTams as part of my first meal in the country. After that, I always had a box of these in my apartment, and I bought a box at the airport to take home with me. If you go to Australia but didn’t eat any TimTams the whole time, you didn’t really go to Australia.

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