Australia's indigenous cuisine is making a comeback

Ali Wunderman

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Foods like Vegemite and fairy bread steal the international spotlight when it comes to Australian food, but it’s bush tucker – the native-derived ingredients that have sustained the continent’s indigenous population for more than 65,000 years – that is starting to regain its position on menus Down Under.


Lately, popular Australian cuisine has been shifting toward a greater emphasis on organic, local and sustainably sourced ingredients – all key components of bush tucker, which is largely foraged and hunted. For example, kangaroos, a bush tucker staple, are as common in Australia as deer are in the U.S., making it a cheaper protein to farm than beef.

Kangaroo has become relatively commonplace in restaurants throughout Australia, but it’s the seemingly desolate Northern Territory where Aboriginal Australians are cooking up true bush tucker in greater amounts, sharing it and the worldview it encompasses with visitors.

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The fourth bush tucker botanical in our spiced is the kakadu plum, or gubinge by the traditional land holder of Australia. This baby from the bush packs more vitamin c and currently has the world record for the most vitamin c! We use the kakadu plum in a way to create the tartness needed for overall balance in our Spiced, it leaves a more distinct flavour as your kept guessing with what it is that your tasting. Many reports from the cellar door is they can taste something but the customers cant quite put their finger on it . Link below for online orders: #kakaduplum #bushtucker #aussiemade #buywest #Rum #Distillery #midwest #supportaustraliancraftspirits #amazing #delicious #design #Dongara #Illegaltenderrumco #westernaustralia #australian #handmade #handcrafted #australianmade #onlinestore

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The top end of Australia is a vast red landscape of tropical savanna and endless desert that embodies the outback image many non-Aussies associate with the country, thanks to our good friend Crocodile Dundee. While it may seem inhospitable to most of us, Aboriginal Australians know from millennia of experience that this land is teeming with sustenance, thanks to plenty of wild wallabies, delectably fresh barramundi, and the Kakadu plum – the latest trendy “superfood” – to go around.

Given that the Northern Territory is almost 15% indigenous (relative to the country’s overall 3%) it’s the perfect place to head for traditional Australian food. The local communities have managed to pass down their knowledge of gathering and preparing bush tucker despite colonization and the loss of land that came with it.

Just this year, the second annual Taste of Kakadu food festival took place in Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, showcasing the breadth of businesses run by Traditional Owners, introducing visitors to Culture and Country while defying stereotypes all at once.

The festival kicked off with a sunset sampling of ground oven-cooked buffalo, a hot, gamey meat that paired well with former footballer Daniel Motlop’s green ant gin, a floral liquor infused with the citrus flavors found in the insect’s rear end. Grow Tours led a modernized food safari with savory kangaroo skewers and spicy mud crabs out of the world’s first Aboriginal food truck, while Ben Tyler and Kylie-Lee Bradford of Kakadu Kitchen led guests through the bush to experience foraging lotus flowers and anything else waiting to be plucked from along the billabong.

Traditional Australian cuisine is slowly reclaiming the spot it has been denied for more than 200 years, and whether the chefs cooking it are sticking to old recipes or innovating new ones, they tend to incorporate the Aboriginal Australian worldview of humans being custodians of the land, rather than owners of it, which lends itself to the sustainable practices inherent to bush tucker. Because much of bush tucker is grown on land that has been returned to its original owners (and then leased back to Australia to be used as parks), Aboriginal Australians have greater agency in exercising that worldview.

That’s one of the reasons it’s uncommon to find authentic Aboriginal food far from where it’s found in the wild, though it’s not impossible. If a trip to the top end can’t be made, head to Charcoal Lane in the Fitzroy neighborhood of Melbourne for a gourmet interpretation of bush tucker, or look for a Wadandi man called Josh ‘Koomal’ Whiteland in Yallingup in Western Australia to go on his Dreaming tour.

As respect for Indigenous Australians grows, so should the opportunities to experience bush tucker.


Ali Wunderman

About Ali Wunderman

a 4th-generation San Franciscan, Ali Wunderman has left the city for a life in the mountains of Montana with her two dogs, Sophie and Vinny.  Her work has been published in Travel & Leisure, Hemispheres, Sunset, Salon, VICE, Backpacker Magazine, and many more. She is also the author of Frommer's guidebook to Belize. In her spare time Ali fosters and trains dogs, explores America's national parks, and rafts whitewater any chance she can get.

Read more about Ali Wunderman here.

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