When your kids start to ask you for unagi in their lunchboxes instead of a vegemite sandwich with the crusts removed, it’s safe to say that the times are changing.
Today, the foods that we associated with “traditional Australian cuisine” are evolving. Charcoal chicken, fish and chips, and other staple dishes are no longer fashionable. Pizzas, sushi, curries, Pad Thai and even Souvlakis, are beginning to “curry more favour” in a country with a rapidly expanding palette.
According to recent studies, Australians’ taste in food has evolved beyond the basics into something far more representative of our status in the world as a truly multicultural nation.
Now, there’s no direct answer to the question of “What does Australian food look like?”
The Evolution of Australian Food
Since colonial times, global trends and migration have widely influenced the Aussies palette. The Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova, who toured Australia in the 1920s, inspired the Pavlova – Australia’s best-known dessert. Another Australian classic, the Chicken Parma, evolved from an Italian eggplant dish, and even Dim Sim, one of our favourite quick eats comes from a Chinese restaurateur in the 1940s.
What seems apparent is that since Australia began to welcome people from all backgrounds into the country, we haven’t just embraced them, but their cuisines too. What’s more, we’ve adapted the meals that we’ve discovered to suit our particular tastes and palette.
Our changing palette and appetite for more international cuisines are reflected in not just the menus of local takeaways, but also in our demand for cooking shows that are chock full of culturally-diverse chefs.
We love celebrity chefs like Greek-Australian George Calombaris and Malaysian-born Poh Ling Yeow. What’s more, over the last four years, ethnic cuisines like Turkish, Mexican, Greek, Ethiopian, and Indian have made up some of the fastest-growing food categories in the country, with an increase in sales of approximately 63%.
Experts equate the rise in popularity for these meals with the active participation of younger generations in Australia’s restaurant and food culture.
Australian Food is as Diverse as Australia Itself
If you look at Melbourne as a micro version of multicultural Australia, you can see how significantly different cultures impact geographical areas.
Where the Victorian capital once had only Chinatown, there’s now a range of distinct suburbs known for migrant communities and their cuisines. Richmond is home to stunning Vietnamese Pho dishes, while Oakleigh is renowned for its Greek Moussakas. What’s more, as we embrace these exotic foods, we’re also reshaping the way that we identify ourselves as a nation.
We’ve even created new ways of talking about our favourite foods in inspiring unique colloquialisms. It seems that Australia’s relationship with food is signifying a rapid shift in our attitude towards different cultures and races. As any food lover knows, a good meal can encourage conversation and understanding like nothing else.
People might say that Australia doesn’t have a national cuisine, but in reality, we have dozens. We’re ready to embrace any cultures that come our way, and to embrace diversity – as evidenced on our plates.
It’s our ability to adapt to these new trends so quickly that makes it difficult to determine what the next buzz will be in the culinary landscape.
All we know is that ethnic foods and cultures are now becoming intertwined with our national identity. Before long, there’s no doubt that you’ll be seeing some brand new taste-sensations on your street, and eventually on your dinner plate.