PAST FORWARD

Written by root. Posted in FEATURES

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Published on April 28, 2016 with No Comments

“Saltbush”, “quandong” and “bunya nuts” – the native haute ingredients that’s defining Australian cuisine now.

Words MIEN DEE
Images TOURISM AUSTRALIA

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Australia is celebrating localism in food.

 

Australian restaurants are valuing the taste, texture and versatility of native ingredients and integrating them into contemporary restaurant menus with great effect. From Rene Redzepi through to Kylie Kwong, celebrated chefs worldwide are championing and showcasing their use to the world.

Recently, one of the world’s best restaurants Noma relocated to Sydney for 10 weeks in January 2016. Head Chef Rene Redzepi has long championed the use of native ingredients to create awe-inspiring dishes in his home country of Denmark. In Sydney, this famous food forager combed the Australian continent for obscure native ingredients, such as Magpie Goose and green ants, proving that they are no longer reserved only for the adventurous eater.

Josh Whiteland of Koomal Dreaming has previously partnered with Redzepi to forage for bush foods as part of Margaret River Gourmet Escape. This year Whiteland will once again return to the festival to host two events: Didgeridoo Cave Experience and Kambarang–South West Aboriginal Gourmet Experience with renowned Aboriginal Chef, Mark Olive.
For those who are unable to attend the festival, Whiteland also has an Aboriginal Food, Culture, Cave and Didge Tour where guests can learn to forage for native ingredients and find out their traditional uses.

While in Far North Queensland, as part of Walkabout Cultural Adventures and Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours, Juan, Linc and Brandon Walker guide you through mangroves, mudflats and sandy beaches to find shoreline plants used for food and medicine. The tour also includes the opportunity to hunt for crabs, mussels and other seafood.

Elsewhere, restaurants showcasing native ingredients include Billy Kwong and Orana, run by prominent Australian restaurateurs Kylie Kwong and Jock Zonfrillo respectively. The two chefs showcase and promote the use of lemon myrtle, salt bush, riberry, finger lime, native basil and many of Australia’s own herbs and plants. They then combine these ingredients with native meats like kangaroo, wallaby, emu and crocodile. Redzepi had singled out Billy Kwong and commended Kwong’s clever use of warrigal greens in her dumplings, masterfully combining her immigrant heritage with native Australian ingredients. At Orana, stand-out dishes include the charred Kangaroo Tartare with Billy Goat Plum, Grass and Wild Garlic.

The trend has also put the spotlight in many Indigenous chefs. Since the beginning of their careers, Mark Olive and Clayton Donovan have championed native ingredients from masterclasses to catering for world-class events. This has allowed Olive and Donovan to showcase a range of dishes that include combinations of Asian, French and Italian-inspired dishes including Donovan’s Kangaroo Sung Choi Bao through to Olive’s Rolled Veal with Warrigal Greens Pesto.

The popularity of native ingredients has had a positive effect on the Indigenous community who has known about their benefits for over 50,000 years. One such example is Charcoal Lane, a social enterprise restaurant in Melbourne that provides guidance and opportunities to young people, many of whom are Indigenous. The contemporary menu is seasonally driven and draws on the best of native Australian food.

There has never been a better time than now to seek out Australian restaurants that weave these native delights into traditional and contemporary dishes. When it comes to local Aussie food, yesteryear’s ingredients are trending once again.

 

Royal Brunei Airlines flies Melbourne daily with connecting flights to other Australian cities.

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