Indigenous flavours: where to try Australian bush food in Queensland
From emu and kangaroo to native nuts and fruits, Australian bush foods have been on the menu for our Indigenous people for over 40,000 years.
Learn where to find traditional bush tucker and discover Australia’s best kept culinary secrets with this guide to bush food in Queensland.
Savour the sweetness of lilly pilly at Nudgee Waterholes
The first stop on your bush food tour is Nudgee Waterholes, just north of Brisbane. Not only is this a place of great spiritual significance to the local Turrbal People, it’s also the venue for Nyanda Cultural Tours’ bush food tasting experience.
Listen to ancient stories as your Aboriginal guide takes you on a journey through the wetlands, pointing out traditional tucker as you go. Then wrap up your morning with an Indigenous-inspired morning tea: wattle-seed damper baked over the campfire, served up with homemade lilly pilly jam. The pink, cherry-like fruit of the native lilly pilly is tart with a hint of cinnamon and can also be plucked and eaten straight from the tree.
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Taste locally reared emu fillets in the Queensland countryside
Embrace the concept of paddock-to-plate dining with a visit to the acclaimed Homage Restaurant at Spicers’ Hidden Vale, a 12,000 acre luxury country retreat just an hour’s drive from Brisbane. Complete with its own market garden, orchard, beehives and free range farm, every ingredient is grown onsite or sourced from producers who live just down the road.
Prepare for a bush food-inspired degustation menu to make your mouth water. Highlights include lightly pickled Murray cod, kangaroo sausage and emu served with whey butter, house curd and native pepper.
Once you’ve eaten your fill, find out what goes on behind-the-scenes with a complimentary chef-led tour of the market garden, smokehouse and fermentation room.
Pick your own mud mussels in Tropical North Queensland
Explore the silky mudflats and mangroves of Cooya Beach as you forage for native mud mussels and other local delicacies. Prepare to get messy: you’ll need to squish down into the mud with your hands and feet to prise them free.
Once your foraging mission is accomplished, fill up on a tasty bush tucker banquet of beach lettuce, damper and the main event: freshly-steamed mud mussels that taste just like the ocean.
Spear yourself a mud crab in Port Douglas
While still in Port Douglas, level up your hunting skills on a mud-crabbing adventure with Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours, also based out of Cooya Beach.
Learn ancient spear-fishing techniques as you join the Walker brothers and their family on their daily hunting and gathering expedition. Then, cook up your catch beachside as the sun goes down. Take a tip from the Walkers and roast the sweet and delicate crab meat in its shell or fry with chilli vinegar for an extra punch of flavour.
Munch on native green ants in Cairns
If you’ve got an adventurous palate but prefer someone else to do the cooking, head to Ochre Restaurant in Cairns for a fine dining experience with a difference. Run by chef and owner Craig Squires, this trailblazing restaurant has been celebrating bush food for more than two decades.
Expect to taste everything from kangaroo spring rolls to smoked crocodile. And don’t pass up the chance to try Ochre’s signature dish: salmon gravlax served with pepperleaf goat’s cheese and a generous scattering of native green ants. They pack a citrus-y punch that has been likened to kaffir lime and lemongrass – which is why they’re also the key ingredient in Australian Green Ant Gin, another Ochre crowd favourite.
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Feast on native yams cooked in an underground oven at Tjapukai Aboriginal Park
Cairns is also where you’ll find Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. One of Tropical North Queensland’s most popular Indigenous experiences, it’s packed with opportunities to enjoy the flavours of the bush.
By day, take a guided bush food walk and sample a tasting plate piled high with native ingredients. By night, participate in a traditional bayngaa feast – where native meats and vegetables are cooked in an underground pit lined with hot volcanic rocks, tea tree bark and lemon myrtle. Sample authentic Aboriginal flavours like wulmbi (yams) and meat wrapped in ginger or banana leaves, all served up on a traditional candlenut leaf plate.
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