Modern Australian cuisine has been embraced in Australia as we search for a unique food culture to call our own, yet unashamedly takes its inspiration from countries all over the world.
Native Australian bush tucker sustained Aboriginals for thousands of years. However, when the first settlers arrived over 200 years ago they looked to the motherland for their culinary inspiration. British traditions such as the Sunday roast, meat pies and "meat and three veg" still permeate Australian food culture.
The Gold Rush of the mid-19th century brought an influx of Chinese immigrants to Australia. When the rush petered, many Chinese immigrants remained in Australia and turned to market gardening and cooking, thus leading the traditionally British palates on a tour of the Orient. Chinese restaurants can still be found in almost every Australian town, many serving Westernised dishes such as sweet and sour pork and beef with black bean sauce. As the Australian palette has developed, so too has the complexity of these Chinese dishes with a much wider array of authentic, regional Chinese cuisine now being available.
The second great culinary revolution came post WWII, with massive European immigration in the 1950s and '60s. As the Mediterranean immigrants poured in, so too did spaghetti, youvetsi (lamb and tomato with risoni) and baba ganoush.
It has been joked that "spag bog" (spaghetti bolognese) is now Australia’s real national dish. If so, then Thai pad Thai and Malaysian laksas surely can’t be that far behind. Australian food culture has been as influenced by South East Asian cuisines as it has by Italian home cooking and American fast food. Television, the Internet and international travel ensure that if there is a new culinary technology being employed successfully in a restaurant in Spain, it won’t take long to find it replicated in some form in Australia.
Modern Australian cuisine brings us the eclectic menus that can be found in pubs and clubs around the country; dishes such as pasta, laksa, bangers and mash and crème caramel all sit side by side on the menu card.
In fine dining restaurants, the trend has also been to mix different cultural influences from around the world, however, the styles tend to be more closely linked with fusion food combining these different flavours and techniques on the one plate.
Photo: Australian Fusion. Asian Crab Cakes with Mango Chutney