Tag Archives: Australia

Trying Australian Damper and Vegemite in the Outback

AustraliaWhen we were in Australia last summer, we spent 4 days camping with a group tour in the Australian Outback en route to Uluru, eating well on a menu of camping cuisine. It was on this trip that we were introduced to the iconic Australian Damper. Damper is a type of soda bread, that is typically baked in a camping stove in the coals of a campfire (as below), and has long been associated with outback lore and camping cuisine in Australia. Now that we are in quarantine times, some people are turning to bread-baking as an activity – evidenced by the fact that flour and yeast are nowhere to be found – and this bread couldn’t be any simpler.

Damper just out of the fire by Matthew Klein

The Hook and the Cook has a nice video (below) on how to make damper in a camp oven over coals, which is how we experienced it. Adventure Dining Guide has a hack on how to cook damper in coals in aluminum foil if you don’t have a cast iron pot. You don’t even have to cook the damper over coals, an oven will do, as in this recipe from Taste, though of course it won’t have the same outdoorsy charm.  You can add anything into damper as a filling or flavoring, as in the Blueberry Damper from Dirty Drifters.

While we were on our Outback adventure, we also had our first taste of Vegemite, slathered on our damper bread. Vegemite is a salty, savory spread made from brewer’s yeast that is iconic, but quite divisive, even among Australians. Our Australian guides instructed us on the proper way to consume Vegemite, in a very thin layer, mixed with a healthy dose of butter. Tom Hanks recently drew some playful criticism for layering his on too thick. So what did we think? The Eaters were split down the middle, one for an one against. To me (pro Vegemite), the Vegemite had a very strong umami flavor, and kind of smelled like anchovies!

Leave a comment

Filed under World Eats

On the Laksa trail in Sydney

It has been a while since we have returned from Australia, and we now find ourselves new homeowners in Cleveland, delaying our writing just a bit. But don’t let the tardiness trick you into thinking we didn’t eat anything worthwhile in Australia, it was an amazing food adventure, particularly in Sydney! One of the things we were most looking forward to on our Sydney adventure was Malaysian laksa curry (which we have sampled a few times before). Sydney is known for its Malaysian food, and restaurants slinging laksa can be found in every neighborhood. The base of laksa is a smooth and creamy coconut milk curry with rice noodles, livened up with chili oil and sambal, a fusion of Chinese and Southeast Asian flavors. Fried tofu is traditionally included, but the main protein may be shrimp, chicken or beef (or more). From these core ingredients, restaurants put their own spin on their signature laksas, and that is where the real fun begins.

Finding the best laksa place in Sydney is a subjective, daunting enterprise, seemingly as contentious as finding the best pizza slice in New York City. We started sleuthing for the top laksa places before our trip, and were pretty quickly overwhelmed by choice. Fortunately, we found some great resources that helped us narrow down the top picks. We could never hope to replicate the 20-strong laksa list made by I’m Still Hungry, and we are grateful for their on-the-ground comprehensiveness. Using this master list, and triangulating with a few other options, we set off on the Sydney laksa trail.

The first place we tried for laksa was Happy Chef (f3/401 Sussex St, Haymarket NSW 2000, Australia). Happy Chef is located in a nondescript 2nd-floor food court in Sydney’s vibrant Chinatown, and may not look like much, but packs a powerful punch. We did particularly like the logo of the eponymous Happy Chef, which you can see on the counter above. One  feature we liked at Happy Chef was the large amount of different proteins you could add to your laksa including BBQ pork and scallops, we went with the potentially pedestrian chicken default. Not long after ordering, and despite the lunch rush, our order was ready. On the counter there are a wide variety of toppings including chili oil, scallions, soy sauce, hot sauce and more to customize your laksa. The coconut milk broth was rich, and had a little kick to it, which we garnished with a bit of scallions and hot sauce. There was also a choice of noodles, but we opted for the traditional mee noodles. The noodles themselves were particularly good, and had a substantial spring and bite to them. This place is cash only!

The second laksa place we tried was the venerable Malay Chinese Takeaway (1/50-58 Hunter St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia). Malay Chinese is located right in the CBD, which makes a popular place among local workers. Usually there is a line out the door for these laksa, so our odd eating time that day of 3 PM turned out to be pretty lucky. The main choices for laksa here are just chicken and prawn, so we split our orders a little bit to try some more of the offerings: 1 order of king prawn and chicken and 1 order of regular prawn. The broth at Malay Chinese was spicier and more flavorful than that of Happy Chef, though we slightly preferred Happy Chef’s noodles. One particularly salient part of the Malay Chinese Takeaway experience was the cook singing along to Michael Jackson while you order is being prepared. Though there were some slight difference, both were excellent bowls of laksa, and we can see why they are so popular. Our brief foray didn’t even  put a dent in the Sydney Laksa trail, and we hope to get a little further on our next trip.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews

Australian Food Adventures

AustraliaThings have been a bit quiet here, because we have recently moved, and we are going to Australia in a few days! We are excited to experience several different cities in Australia, from the cosmopolitan restaurant scene in Sydney to the night markets of Darwin. Leading up to our trip, we have been trying to learn more about Australian food (we do know that they love savory pies)! While in Sydney, we are excited to try Din Tai Fung, and all the laksa (Malaysian noodle curry, pictured below) we can eat. We are also reading up on the latest directions in Australian food, and what makes Australian food Australian. See you in August!


Chicken Laksa at MaMa Laksa House in The Grace Hotel, Sydney by Stilgherrian


Filed under News, Recipes

Pastry Post-Doc: What are Pikelets?

There is a new show streaming on Netflix called “Zumbo’s Just Desserts” which is a Cupcake Wars/Top Chef-esque cooking competition focused on – as you may have guessed – desserts. In one of the episodes the hosts mentioned Pikelets – and we had never heard that word before! It turns out that Pikelets are a type of mini, thick pancake found in Australia and New Zealand. These are based off of the English Pikelet, which is similar to a crumpet (A crumpet in the US is known as English muffin). The main difference between the two is that Pikelets are free-form, while crumpets are baked in a ring, making them perfectly circular. It seems like there is some debate as to whether UK and Australian Pikelets are one and the same. In each case, the recipe seems akin to a simple pancake batter. You can try your hand at Pikelets with recipes from Taste.Au, Genius Kitchen and Sweetest Kitchen in plain and chocolate chip varieties (seen below).

Leave a comment

Filed under Pastry Post-Poc

Merry Christmas from Australia!

AustraliaTomorrow is Christmas – and here it is blustery and cold – but imagine if you could go to beach! In this vintage Australia Christmas video, you can!

Leave a comment

December 24, 2016 · 10:14 AM

Pastry Post-Doc: Pavlova from Australia and New Zealand

AustraliaNew Zealand FlagIn the realm of foods named after famous people, none may be more famous than the Pavlova, a round meringue cake topped with whipped cream and fruit named after the famed Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova. The dessert is said to have been specifically created for the wildly-popular ballerina during her tour of Oceania in the 1920s. Though the exact origins of the cake in either Australia or New Zealand are still unknown (I definitely feel unqualified to rule on one vs. the other), the pavlova is deeply ensconced in the cuisine of both countries. Others hold that the cake is actually based on a older German recipe, later making its way to other countries. The structure of the Pavolva can vary somewhat, as can the toppings and flavors, though Pavolva in New Zealand is more likely to be topped with kiwis! Allrecipes has a classic version of the Pavlova, and here is a slightly more unique version topped with lemon curd and blueberries or one with three layers.

Leave a comment

Filed under Pastry Post-Poc

A Scotsman’s Australian Food Revolution

AustraliaScotlandFlagApparently Southern Australia is undergoing something of a food renaissance, thanks in part to the tireless work of an expat Scotsman. We are very interested to hear about this development in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, since Australian cuisine usually flies under the radar, especially outside of some mentions of Sydney and Melbourne.

Leave a comment

Filed under Links

Cooking Terms Across the Atlantic

Learning food words is usually our first priority when learning a new language. But as it turns out, even the English terms for food are vastly more regional than we thought. So we knew that eggplant is “Aubergine” in the UK and cookie is “biscuit”… but that’s only just the start. This post on Stack Exchange has a long thread about translating cooking terms between the UK, the US and Australia. One of the most interesting facts we learned was that snow peas are called “mange tout” in the UK, and when you get to jelly/jam/jello everything gets really confusing.


Leave a comment

Filed under Links

Easter Bilbies in Australia

AustraliaIn the USA, Easter is associated in pop culture with rabbits and bunnies. However, in Australia, you are also likely to see a bilby alongside the bunnies. Bilbies are native, endagered Australian marsupials that have floppy ears and a long snout. Rabbits are considered an invasive species in Australia, so it makes sense that they might prefer Bilbies at Easter time. The campaign for the Easter Bilbies was popularized by the Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia, and the concept has taken off since, with children’s books and chocolate Bilbies galore.

Easter Bilby

Easter Bilbies for sale in Australia – by Rose Holley

Leave a comment

Filed under Holidays

Sweets for Australia Day: Milo Cheesecake

AustraliaHappy Australia Day! We love celebrating national holidays with the appropriate food, and look at how festive this nice Australian Milo cheesecake with chocolate crackle crust looks. Milo is a malt and chocolate powdered drink (similar to Ovaltine, but definitely different). We first tried Milo in Singapore, and it enjoys popularity all over the world, but we were surprised to hear it originated in Australia in the 1930s.

Australian Milo Cheesecake

Australian Milo Cheesecake from Raspberri Cupcakes

Leave a comment

Filed under Cheese, Holidays, World Eats

Australian and New Zealand Sweets for Anzac Day

We have to admit that there is a bit of a blind spot in our repertoire for Australia and New Zealand, perhaps due to their geographic distance and the fact that we don’t have any Aussie / Kiwi restaurants around here. So unfortunately, we don’t often give this area of the world its fair due. We would like to thank our commentor Whitney for writing to us about Australian treats, and we figured we would do a link roundup of some Australian and New Zealander desserts, especially since ANZAC day is coming up on April 25th.

Pavlova by AnneCN


Filed under Holidays, World Eats

Australia via NYC: Tuck Shop

Tuck Shop
115 St. Marks Place
New York

We thought we would never get a restaurant from Australia, until we went there, that is. Suffice to say that when M and I learned about Tuck Shop, an Australian restaurant in Manhattan, we had to go. Lest we question the authenticity of the joint,  it was full of Australian tourists to New York and an Australian server manning the counter. The restaurant itself was tiny, with only room for about 8 to sit, and some counter space, with just enough room for an Australian flag.

The menu was rather limited and the majority of the entrees were savory pies (with a small assortment of soups and salads). Being assured that it was the traditional Aussie way to go, we decided to try a range of pies: from Macaroni and cheese ($6) to Green Thai curry ($5.50) and Vegetarian chili ($5.50). Perhaps the carb-bomb that is a Mac N cheese pie would be lost on most people, but L loved it. The Thai curry pie was more well balanced, and the vegetarian chili had us asking if he was sure it was vegetarian. It was that convincing.

For dessert, we tried to order the famous Aussie cookies, Tim Tams, but they had run out. Even without the added sugar rush of the Tim Tams, dinner at the Tuck Shop was a hearty carb-bomb that filled us right up, though it probably speaks to the mixed culinary legacy left by the Brits.


Filed under Reviews

Friday Foodie Link: Food Architecture

EdARc[Via Inside Out Blog] There’s an awesome exhibit in Melbourne that bears mentioning – Edible Architecture – building models made out of food. It’s taking place as part of the State of Design festival in Australia. More photos are available at Mel Hot or Not.

1 Comment

Filed under Design and Photography, Reviews