Thursday, March 3, 2011

I'm Thinking Australian Food, Mate: A Primer Into Food From Down Under


Here is a brief tutorial about what the Aussie cuisine is looking like...

NORTHERN TERRITORY Barramundi fish, Mangrove Jack (fish), crocodile, buffalo
NEW SOUTH WALES Sydney rock oysters, Hunter Valley wines, Balmain Bugs, Illabo milk-fed lamb
VICTORIA Gippsland beef, Meredith lamb, Malle squab, cornfed chicken
SOUTH AUSTRALIA Barossa Valley wine (e.g. Penfolds), Coffin Bay scallops, olive oil, tuna, cultivated native food
TASMANIA Salmon, trout, cheeses, oysters, raspberries, King Island cream
QUEENSLAND Bowen mangoes, papaya, succulent reef fish, mudcrabs, Moreton Bay Bugs (a shellfish, not insects!)

Not so long ago, the term “Australian cuisine” would just have conjured images of meat pies, boiled beef, Vegemite sandwiches and sausage rolls.  Now the culinary scene is wide open mixing cuisines from around the world with one of the most diverse natural food cultures that exists!

Call it “Bush Tucker” or call it “Australian Native Cuisine” by the marketing blokes, Australia serves some of the most exotic food found no where else on earth, as some of those "critters" are simply found no where else, mate. Fancy a sumptuous kangaroo or crocodile burger, mate ? Wunderbar. Kangaroo meat has become extremely popular, partly because of its low fat content: the flesh has as low as 1 percent fat, compared to 25 percent in marbled red meat. That's because kangaroos jump around so much, mate.

If you go more “slightly” more up market, say in one of Sydney’s finest restaurants, you may come across a dish called “Anabaroo, Mango and Burrawong Soup”. It’s a blend of three food from the Northern Territory: water buffalo, roasted in an elastic net to keep the high water-content meat intact; the tropical mango; and the burrawong, a native nut that was first mentioned in the journals of the 19th century Outback explorer Ludwig Leichardt. Next on the menu might be reef fish served in a tart sauce of green billyoat plum – an Aussie fruit found by researchers to have 5,000 times the vitamin C content of an orange per gram!

From the aboriginal tribes to the influx of British pioneers and then on the the Italian settlers; each added their own element to Australia.  The great “melting pot” of Australian society meant that restaurants were suddenly opened by Lebanese, Turkish, Balkan, Hungarian and Spanish chefs. But the biggest impact by far of them all has been made by Asian migrants. Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and Indian restaurants are now Australia’s biggest success stories, with Korean, Sri Lankan and Indonesian cuisines waiting in the wings.  More recently are the Enterprising chefs in the 1990s proceeded to defy traditional cooking rules by mixing flavours from completely different ethnic traditions. Thus Modern Australian Cuisine was born!

Potent Asian flavours such as chili, lemon grass, coriander and cardamon can be added to many essentially European dishes. By the same token, a modern Asian cuisine has emerged with Asian chefs substituting traditional ingredients for unusual local Australian ones: Cantonese stir-fried kangaroo meat, or barramundi fish in Thai green curry. Young Australian chefs are coming out with great new culinary creations like:
• Angel-hair pasta with Blamain Bugs.
• Ocean-trout tartare on potato rosti with wasabi.
• Kangaroo tenderloin and emu fillet with bush-tomato chutney, yam (sweet potato) pancake and native pepperleaf glaze.
• Tandoori marinated buffalo fillet with curried spinach and beetroot relish and a roasted pear and saffron polenta.
• Schnapps and star anise-cured Mangrove Jack with basil aioli.
• Pan-fried marlin with olive and caper ratatouille.

Catch ya 'round.

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