Thursday, May 8, 2014

Will Shane survive in Australia: Foodie Edition

On a skype conference with my Australian employees this summer, I was casually chowing down on a PB&J on what we'll call a "lunch meeting," when they asked me what type of sammie I had. I was dumbfounded to learn they had never heard of this childhood classic. We spent the next hour discussing the differences between Australia and America in a topic near and dear to my heart: FOOD.

And so the saga continues. Last week we talked about some typical Australian stereotypes. Care to take a stab at what's on the menu today?

Week 2: Australian Cuisine

American quirks I'll miss:

1.  I was shocked horrified to learn that the sweet and savory combo is not a thing down under. Their McDonald's (aka Makka's) does not sell McGriddles nor do they do pancakes and syrup. No caramel sea salt or chocolate covered pretzel goodness. Apparently our bread is overly sweet for them and heartier as it's loaded with fiber instead of sugar. And don't you even dare dip those fries in that Frosty! Sounds like I'm gonna have to bring the fun myself and show the Aussies what's good!

2. Coffee: my lifeblood. Much to my dismay, I won't find a Starbucks on every corner in Australia. They have more local cafes. There is no drip "house" coffee, you can get a long black with extra water or a flat white (espresso + steamed milk, no foam). Most places will only do the more expensive espresso drinks. The worst part? These cafes close around 3 pm! However will I get my afternoon caffeine fix?!

The universal norm of home-brewed coffee in Australia is instant coffee, made from a kind of crystalline powder by just adding hot water, which is boiled in an electric kettle. Having any other kind of coffee making equipment in your home will mark you out as a definite coffee enthusiast and is considered a bit of a luxury. No Keurig to wake me up in the morning?!

3. No Mexican food! We Americans don't realize how spoiled we are sharing a border with Mexico. Instead, Australia has an excellent selection of Asian foods, due to its proximity and the large number of Asian immigrants. Lots of great Thai, Vietnamese. Japanese, Korean, and Chinese  Sydney has lots of great Bubble Tea, Sushi, dumplings, etc. 

4. No American style barbecue. Ribs, wings and fries with barbecue sauce, you can’t get it as good anywhere as the US has it. 

Bizarre Foods

1. If you order a burger at a restaurant, they will automatically put beet root on it. Eggs, pineapple, BBQ sauce and fried onions are common toppings too. Bleh! Oh and they call ketchup "tomato sauce"- less sugary with a more liquid texture.
2. Vegemite on toast makes for not a bad brekkie (breakfast) Bearing a salty, meaty taste, it is literally leftover yeast extract from beer brewing. God has blessed Australians with a special coating on their taste buds which gives them a natural resistance to the horrifying taste of this spread. It's like their version of Nutella. Ironic enough, Vegimite is owned by American brand, Kraft.

3. Meat pies and sausage rolls. Buttery pastry stuffed with meat and gravy are popular "take-away" (takeout) foods. How could one go wrong? 
4. Grilled kangaroo is widely available, although not that commonly eaten. Why not eat the national animal and control the overpopulation? They are equivalent to the deer of America. Not quite as dry as deer but still leaner than buffalo. It has a wonderful gamey taste (because roos live in the wild and feed on grass and shrubs) that adds a lot of flavor without being overpowering.
In a pinch? Find Kanga-bangas at a grocery store near you! Crocodile and emu are also eaten..

5. Tim Tams: Rectangular chocolate cookies covered in icing that are apparently to die for. Now who's ready for a Tim Tam Slam?
6. Cadbury chocolate is sold EVERYWHERE (vending machines, checkout lines, etc). We know the Easter egg version but that's about the extent of it. Cherry Ripe bars (cherry in dark chocolate and coconut) are a popular candy bar.

7. Fairy Bread: White bread cut into triangles with butter and colorful sprinkles is common at birthday parties.
8. Pavlova:  Delicious meringue cake with a crisp crust, soft and airy inside, sugar coating and fruit on top.  Sickingly sweet. 
9. Barramundi: Their most famous fish, a seabass prized for its sweet flavor, delicate texture, and intense versatility. Cooked the same day as caught for the highest quality.The seafood-y in me is excited to try this!
It's no secret, chain restaurants are abundant in America. There is a certain sense of "trust" when you go to a place you know, that is well established. This is less so in Australia. They do have a handful of all the big chains - Starbucks, McDonalds, Outback Steakhouse (I thought that was an American thing) but mainly individual restaurants and cafes. People usually open restaurants here not for attaining great wealth, but instead because they have something special they want to cook. 

While every American restaurant is competing to have the biggest portions, this is a stark contrast to Australia where going out to dinner involves a huge almost empty plate with two mouthfuls of food. What the rest of the world would call “large”, is the smallest possible size in the US. And in the US you never run out  of coke because the waitress dutifully fills it up again if she notices it less than half full. Again not something you’d see in Australia- if you want a "refill", you’d be expected to pay for a second one. 

How will I ever survive the limited coffee options and smaller portions?! Stay tuned next week for a little lesson in Australian lingo! 
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Amy Fashion Blog said...

It will take you some time to get used to but you can do. Americas are super spoiled I learn that back in 2006 from living in Germany. Our Mcdolands isn't the same as the US one. Also strabucks aren't open on Sunday. All store close at 7pm on Monday thru Saturday and closed on Sunday.

Kelly Genn said...

I'm not gonna lie…
I read the coffee part and immediately thought "that sounds good!" , got up and made a cup, and then sat down to read the rest.
How will you survive!? :P

Lauren Elizabeth said...

I spent a couple weeks in Australia the summer before I graduated college. They really do have SO much good Asian food! I did find a few Australian chains that were more American with normal burgers.

Sarah Farris said...

I had a couple of roommates in college who studied abroad in Australia. They brought back Tim Tams/bought them at World Market. Our townhouse was obsessed! So, so good!

Shanondoah said...

OMG I forgot about fairy bread. It seemed so crazy to me!

Anna Belle said...

My dad swears that Vegemite on toast is the best hang-over cure. Period.

Kellee the Caffeinated said...

Wow that's going to be such a difference!!!!

Treasure Tromp said...

oh my gosh, you are making me miss Oz so much! A few things:

1) don't mistake Vegemite for nutella. Been there, done that, huge mistake. Take small bits!

2) Tim Tams are the best thing you'll ever try. Eat them every day.

3) I ate meat pies and sausage rolls every single day. I also gained a ton of weight but it was worth it.

4) Fairy bread - so good. SO GOOD!

jackie jade said...

sounds like when i lived in london - at my job, we had only instant coffee (but starbucks were pretty popular). and i was always craving mexican food which was suuuuuper hard to find.

Kerry @ Till Then Smile Often said...

The coffee would be hard for me too! Beets do not belong on a burger!!

The Grits Blog said...

Okay. I am seriously concerned here. Please tell me that they at least have gummy bears and gold fish?? OH and pizza? You can survive if they have those specific food groups available...yes food groups because there are so many possible variations of each one they each get their own group ;)

Caroline Topperman said...

Okay that fairy bread is a little odd. I know what you are going through, I've gone through this myself in past 6 months! The coffee thing, I guarantee you'll find places open past 3pm you aren't the only ex-pat. Also, find yourself an international store and they'll have all the flavours from back home!

The Rachael Way said...

Fairy bread looks great but probably tastes gross! haha.

Cece said...

I'm not very adventurous when it comes to food so I feel your pain!!

Beara said...

I'm Australian and I can assure you that we DO like the sweet and savoury combo! Maybe you won't find those things in the middle of nowhere and small towns but the major cities are full of places you can get salted caramel, chocolate covered pretzels, American candy (Reese's, Hershey's etc) and while McDonalds doesn't have McGriddles, They do hotcakes and syrup for breakfast (although I haven't eaten that since I was a kid).

Coffee IS different. We have nice espresso cafes everywhere but we also have Starbucks on almost every corner in every major city. Much to the annoyance of our resident coffee snobs ;)

Mexican food is something I eat every week. In the last couple of years we have had chains and independent Mexican restaurants open up everywhere in Brisbane.

I've eaten Kangaroo once and never had crocodile or emu but I am a vego so my knowledge in that area is pretty slim! Most of my meat eater friends are more partial to lamb and beef. And pork belly is still a trendy option for those that are into it.

You'll be totally fine! x

Kristen said...

don't worry - they wont put egg or beetroot on your burger without asking, I promise :) and tomato sauce / ketchup tastes exactly the same :) Vegemite is my life blood, I can almost guarantee you wont like it ;) OMG meat pies & sausage rolls, equally amazing. I had kangaroo for the first time in June, it was actually quite good!I personally never liked Tim Tams but fairy bread heck yes. the bomb. And oh my Pavlova, are you trying to make me miss home?! And Barramundi is positively delicious!

Kristen said...

ugh blogger deleted my comment!
don't worry, they wont put beetroot or egg on your burger without asking! i have never had egg on a burger but beetroot is amazing. and tomato sauce / ketchup taste the same! if you say ketchup people will know what you're talking about. vegemite (you probably wont like it) is amazing, kangaroo was yum, lamb is better, fairy bread is fabulous but mainly for kids. oh how i miss meat pies and sausage rolls! you are making me homesick. pavlova! yummmmm to all the yums.