The day before I left for Australia, I made a last minute trip to Target and picked up a small jar of Skippy Peanut Butter. "I've heard that I won't be able to get peanut butter down there," I explained to my mom after she questioned the jar laying on top of my suitcase. We share a great love for peanut butter, so there were no more questions after that except, "Is that going to be enough?"
I really didn't expect much as far as food was concerned coming to Australia. In the U.S. the only notable Australian cuisine that is available is Outback Steakhouse. I love a blooming onion as much as the next person, but it definitely wasn't something that I was hoping to eat regularly. Numerous people had told me that the food in Australia isn't really something to get excited for. They eat vegemite (a spread made from yeast products like beer and vegetables), kangaroo and crocodile. And for some reasoned I envisioned that those things were the only things that they ate. So I followed their advice and didn't get excited for it and mentally prepared myself for five months of cooking eggs, pasta and tossing flavorless salads.
My stomach and my budget weren't prepared for the beauty that is actually Australian food. Oh My God. Everything is amazing. Walking down the street is like watching Tasty videos on repeat - I WANT IT ALL. IN MY BELLY. RIGHT NOW. RIGHT NOW.
Did you know that Australia is home to all of those trendy healthy foods like acai bowls, avocado toast, muesli and everything else that is good in life? Neither did I. I thought that all of that started in California. Nope. There is a fresh food store or restaurant on almost every block offering these varieties of foods or ingredients so that you can make them yourself. This past week I took a day trip to Bondi Beach and ate at the highly recommended Speedo's Cafe, which offers a variety of dishes from soft shell crab burgers to vegan pancakes, classifying them as "Mean", "Clean" and "In-Between". I ordered everything on the menu. That's a lie. I really wanted to, though. What I did end up ordering was a Coconut Chia Pot (pictured above, an "In-Between" choice), basically a work of food art bottled up in a mason jar containing cocowhip, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, veganola and macqui. I never knew that healthy could taste so good.
The next thing I want to talk about is fish. Typically I'm not a huge fish lover, at least not like some people I know who could literally eat salmon every night (you know who you are). You're probably aware that Australia is a giant island with tons of water surrounding it, hence TONS OF FRESH AMAZING FISH. One of the first nights that I was here I felt daring and ordered barramundi for lunch. I'd never even heard of barramundi before, so I asked the waiter what it was and he explained that it was a "light, white fish". It's also know as the Asian Sea Bass. My taste buds died and went to fish heaven when he brought my meal out, as they would do several more times in the weeks and meals that followed. At a restaurant near Manly Beach, I tried fried calamari and giant prawns with chips (a small step up from plain ol' fish and chips). Fried calamari is one of my favorite foods, so I figured it was a safe choice. The calamari rings were basically as thick as one of my fingers, and yet still so soft and flavorful. They weren't at all chewy or rubbery like squid sometimes tends to be. The prawns were, in fact, giant and also delicious.
Oh and sushi. I went to a tiny place in the trendy Newtown neighborhood of Sydney. It was called Sushi Train and they served their sushi on a conveyer belt. In case you're not familiar with the term "conveyer belt sushi", as I wasn't a few days ago, they basically put small plates of sushi and rolls on a slow moving conveyer belt and you just go at it. Let me tell you, it was one of the most stressful experiences of my life. The sushi started rolling past me and all of a sudden I had no idea what I wanted, or what anything even was. The first dish I grabbed looked amazing, but didn't even end up being fish. It was chicken disguised as fish in a sea of avocado, seaweed and soy sauce designs. I made the same mistake when grabbing my second dish and thought that sun-dried tomato was chopped tuna. Luckily, both dishes were good and I was able to easily pick out the fish dishes for the rest of my meal. I tried the salmon and tuna and some fishes that I don't even know the names of. Everything was delicious and everything was fresh. I think that next time I'd opt for a restaurant where I actually know what I'm eating, though. But it was definitely an experience!
I could write a book about all of the food that they have here. I could probably spend an entire lifetime just trying every different type of food and restaurant that Sydney has to offer. I'm already so tempted to go back to some of the restaurants I've tried, but there is so much still out there. I have yet to even see kangaroo or crocodile on a menu and I've avoided vegemite like the plague. I know, I know - it's a traditional Australian cuisine that I really do have to try. If I brought myself to try snails in Spain, I know that I'll be able to talk myself into trying vegemite at some point while I'm here. Just give me a chance to enjoy all of the good food they have to offer first. Oh, and you can totally buy peanut butter here and it's not even that expensive (unlike everything else - if you're coming to Australia, prepare yourself to drop some serious $$$$ on food).