Long before the first beachside fish-and-chip shop opened its doors, Indigenous Australians had perfected a menu of unlikely delicacies you won’t see anywhere else in the world (swollen honey ant abdomen anyone?).
Since many of these native species enjoyed their status as apex-predators and weren’t overly keen on the idea of getting wrestled, speared and seared – native Australian cuisine fell out of fashion for nearly 200 years as the country turned to safer dinner options.
But after two centuries of farmed chicken purgatory, bush tucker is back with a vengeance with more diners abandoning bland pub fare to take a walk on the wild side.
Want to impress your friends at the next barbecue? Plate up a few select cuts of this Jurassic-style steak and watch the crowd go wild. High in protein and tasting like a cross between chicken and fish, studies suggest crocodile meat might have contributed to the early growth of the human brain. That’s what you call smart dining.
Birdsville is a bustling outback town (population: 115) known for two things: the annual Birdsville Races, and as the story goes, a visiting sheikh who once cleaned the shelves of the local bakery’s signature treat.
The curry camel pie is an Australian staple with an outback twist – served best with an ice cold beverage of choice (preferably beer) while watching the hack and stock horses battle each other to the finish line in the region’s most prestigious event.
With a top speed of 50 km/h and standing tall at 1.8 metres above sea level, what the emu lacks in flying ability it makes up for with a long set of legs and a thousand-foot-stare telling you it means business.
We probably don’t have to tell you this is not your average chicken. With a gamey texture and taste more similar to red meat than anything else, emu is a versatile meat suited to smoking, roasting, braising or the Sunday afternoon barbecue ritual.
For less confident hunters, Public Bar & Kitchen in Brisbane makes a Rabbit and Emu Papardelle which mixes equal measures angry bird with hearty Italian flavours to be enjoyed in a safe setting. Or for those more game, Ochre restaurant in Cairns offers up emu carpaccio on their Australian Antipasto platter.
A long time ago, before Skippy put Australia on the world map and Paul Hogan went to New York, kangaroos played an important part in indigenous culture as a spiritual totem and a critical food source ensuring the tribes’ survival.
Famous for its ability to taunt less talented players on suburban golf courses, this cheeky marsupial also provides our state with some of the most nutritious meat money can buy. Apart from being a perfect barbecue alternative to red meat it also scores green points with a far lower environmental footprint than regular beef.
Enjoy traditional kangaroo roast with indigenous Dreamtime stories in a candle-lit rainforest setting at Flames of the Forest near Port Douglas and learn more about the spiritual connection between our ancestors and the land.
Depending on who you ask, the Australian possum is either the country’s least favourite marsupial (some have even called it a mouse with a spin doctor) or a cute and cuddly addition to your backyard. It’s also delicious.
The good news is the possums appearing on restaurant menus around Queensland are not the protected house guest you hear trying to break into your backyard beer fridge at night, but a larger, wild variety imported from a place far-far-away called Tasmania.
While it was traditionally a staple item for the less fortunate, the possum is making a resurgence in indigenous and modern Australian restaurants around Queensland. Tukka Restaurant in Brisbane’s West End boasts a possum confit served with sautéed brussel sprouts and pork belly pie on their winter Á la carté menu. Yum.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever eaten? Tell us in the comments!