Is Bush Food on the Menu?

Categories Trends and News

Indigenous Ingredients

Indigenous ingredients are going mainstream in Australia. Lemon myrtle, quandong, muntries, saltbush, and warrigal are just some of the native foods that are being embraced by the country’s leading chefs and transformed into culinary creations.

Bush tucker, or wild food, is definitely on the menu.

Aboriginal people were the first to subsist on native foods and thrived on over 5,000 local food species for thousands of years before the European settlers arrived in Australia.

The revival of indigenous ingredients is due in part to the global movement of localism and sustainability that is sweeping across the world.

This celebration of local ingredients has inspired Australian chefs to go out and rediscover these native foods in their own backyard.

Here is a taste of eight native delicacies that are exciting the minds and palates of both talented chefs and adventurous diners…

  • Kangaroo

    It is not uncommon to see kangaroo meat lining the meat aisles in Australian supermarkets.

    A traditional indigenous food that was enjoyed by the Aboriginals, early British settlers, and now health-conscious diners, kangaroo meat is known for its very low fat content, high protein, and abundance of healthy minerals.

    Hearty tail soups, Asian-inspired stir fries, and succulent burgers are just a few examples of this plentiful protein finding its way onto the most sophisticated menus of contemporary restaurants.

  • Emu

    This wild, flightless bird offers a deeply flavoured and lean red meat that was prized by the Aboriginals. Emus today are harvested for their meat, oil, and leather.

    With a taste that is similar to lean beef, emu meat cooks quickly and can be grilled, roasted, smoked and cured.

    Because of its rich, slightly gamey flavour, this meat is usually introduced at the end of a meal and is ideal for emu steaks, burgers, and kebabs.

  • Marron

    These freshwater crustaceans are the closest thing to lobster Australia can hope to get. Considered a luxury ingredient, marron-inspired dishes are a mainstay on menus of fine-dining establishments and winery restaurants. Its sweet, white, and delicate meat is excellent for pan-frying, poaching, and roasting.
    Highly sought after by chefs, this rare delicacy is being used in creative, flavorful dishes like charcoal-grilled marron or house-smoked emu fillets.

  • Wattleseed

    Belonging to the acacia family, this hardy shrub offers up nutritious seeds that can be roasted and ground into a flavorful, versatile flour.

    With a taste similar to hazelnuts and an aroma similar to coffee, wattleseed infuses sweet and savoury dishes with a rich, nutty flavour.

    Ideal for baked goods like biscuits and cakes, it can also be used in creamy desserts to flavour delicious sauces and ice creams.

  • Saltbush

    This desert shrub produces flowering seeds that were used by Aboriginals to make a hearty, rustic soda bread in the ashes of their cook fires.

    The leaves of the saltbush shrub offer up a highly salty flavour to dishes and is rich in nutrients such as essential minerals and protein.

    Often used as a seasoning, saltbush adds an extra salty punch to grilled meats and seafood. Some have even used the leaves as stand-ins for salt-and-vinegar chips.

  • Warrigal

    Also known as Cook’s cabbage, these wild, edible leafy greens were the first native foods used by European settlers. Similar to spinach, warrigal can be used in a wide variety of culinary dishes.

    However, the greens should be blanched first for fifteen seconds to remove the harmful oxalates.

    This native spinach adds a savoury twist to sautéed and stir-fried dishes as well as to pies, quiches, and steamed vegetables.

  • Lemon Myrtle

    One of the most popular native herbs from a flowering shrub, lemon myrtle offers a refreshing fragrance and citrus flavour to most savoury and sweet creations.

    Used fresh or dry, lemon myrtle is known for its versatility and intensity of flavour and can be harvested year round.

    Lemon myrtle adds a fresh, lively twist to fish and chicken-based entrees, as well as a dash of citrus to frozen desserts like ice cream or sorbet.

  • Davidson Plum

    This bush fruit boasts a vitamin C content 100 times higher than a typical orange.

    Although it looks similar to a European plum, this plum grows in grape-like clusters and is highly acidic.

    Adding additional sugar is usually necessary to tone down the sour nature of this native plum.

    Similar in taste to rhubarb, Davidson plum makes a flavorful addition to rich sauces to accompany native game like magpie goose or wallaby. Some enthusiasts have even crafted this fruit into sparkling cordials.

    Inspiring the country’s most innovative and creative chefs, and delighting the palates of eager enthusiasts, bush food may well have a place at the dinner table once again.


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