I’ve been living in New York for nearly two years now, and can say with certainty that most of the things I miss about Australia are edible. Aside from my family and friends, it’s a burning longing for Tim Tams, jaffles, lamingtons, and meat pies that still makes me most homesick. Then, in a recent conversation with some of my US-born colleagues, I realized that there are millions of Americans across the country who have never experienced the joys of fine Australian cuisine—most of you probably have no idea what a “jaffle” even is, and that is truly upsetting to me.
Did you know a sponge cake exists that’s covered in chocolate and coconut with a sweet jam filling? Or meat-and-gravy filled pastries, caramel chocolate shaped like a koala bear, or a colorful, wonderful a thing called “fairy bread?” Didn’t think so.
In the interest of education and changing your life for the better, ahead you’ll find a complete guide to the greatest, best, most delicious snack foods and candies that every Australian knows, eats, and deeply loves. And, because, they’re that good, I had my American coworkers try out the snacks and give me their feedback. Keep reading—and don’t be shocked if your beloved Pop Tarts or Snickers start to pale in comparison.
Take a sponge cake, roll it in chocolate, and then cover it with coconut—that, friends, is a lamington. The sauce you see in the center is a little jam that’s applied to the middle of the cake, and it tastes like magic. I’ve never come across a sugary snack that’s this light, and so deftly dances the line between sweet and not too sweet. While this particular lamington is from Tuckshop in New York City, most Australian cafes around the US have them on the menu, so I urge you to try one with your afternoon coffee. Also, this is an Aussie food that you can make in your kitchen with a fairly straightforward recipe.
Lamingtons happen to be one of colonized Australia’s earliest desserts, thought to be named after Lord Lamington, who served as Governor of Queensland (a major Australian state) from 1896 to 1901. Considering Australia was only colonized by the British in 1788, this sugary snack’s officially fully ingrained in Aussie culture. Okay, history lesson over.
What is this magically photogenic sandwich I hear you ask? It’s fairy bread, the food of choice for children’s birthday parties and adults with a heavy sugar craving or desire to create something both edible and ‘grammable. The recipe calls for white bread, butter, and sprinkles, however Aussies are very specific about using the “100’s and 1000’s” brand. Insider tip: Never cut your fairy bread into squares, only amateurs forget to slice into triangles.
It pains me to think there are millions of people all over the United States who have never experienced the unbridled joy of satisfying a chocolate craving with a full packet of Tim Tams. I want to tell you what they taste like, but how do you describe nirvana? How do you articulate the most wonderful creation on planet earth with just a few words? Instead, I implore you to go online and buy a pack. Start with the regular old original chocolate flavor, and then go wild with iterations like caramel and strawberry champagne.
It kills me to say this, but the humble Anzac biscuit—note the absence of the work “cookies” here, Americans—was by far these least enjoyed snack on my buffet. Colleague comments ranged from, “Nope!” to, “I prefer the Tim Tams” (obviously), and to be honest, it’s the only leftover food I didn’t bother taking home after the shoot, because I knew my Aussie boyfriend wouldn’t eat them.
However, in saying that, this concoction of rolled oats, flour, sugar, butter, golden syrup, and baking soda is about as Aussie as you can get. Recipes date back to the early 1900s, and the term “Anzac” actually refers to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) established in World War I–the notable lack of eggs in the recipes is because the ingredient was scarce during the war, when the snack first gained popularity. You can buy a packet on Amazon, but the recipe is pretty impossible to mess up, so I suggest just baking your own at home if you’re curious.
Cherries and desiccated coconut wrapped in milk chocolate and beloved by millions of men, women, and children Down Under. This chocolate is a real crowd-pleaser.
Most coworkers who tried out a Crunchie immediately thought the candy was too sweet. After their second bite, everyone came around, realizing that the light honeycomb center perfectly balances the very sugary taste. The Crunchie originates from the U.K., but has become one of Australia’s most popular sweets.
Whenever I went inside to pay at a gas station, these individually-wrapped, 50-cent chocolates always stared up at me from the counter, tempting me. They’re small, not quite bite-sized but almost, and the koala-shaped dairy chocolate outside is filled with gooey caramel that oozes out when you take a nibble. Hungry yet?
The go-to tuckshop (that’s Australian for “cafeteria”) order for Aussie school kids and a easy choice for hungry workers grabbing a quick bite from the local bakery, meat pies are the quintessential Aussie savory food. Served hot, you will rarely pay more than a few dollars for one of these beef-and-gravy filled pastries, and they’re almost always topped with
ketchup tomato sauce. Just about every Australian has a few meat pies stored in their freezer, ready throw in the oven or microwave when they can’t be bothered.
I would like to drive home that while this is indeed a cocoa-based drink, it is not the same as a chocolate milkshake, hot chocolate, or anything you formerly associated with the combination of milk and cocoa. Milo has it’s own very distinct taste, and is heaped into a cold glass of milk and then vigorously stirred using a spoon. A lot of the powder doesn’t dissolve, but you just eat that out of the bottom with a spoon.
My taste-testers likened Arnott’s Shapes in pizza flavor with Combos, and the biscuits were a big hit. There are ton of different flavors, including bacon and cheese, barbecue, and cheese, and you can buy family-sized boxes and small individual packets.
Your eyes are fooling you, because this is not just your basic grilled cheese. No, the key difference between a jaffle and your humble toastie is in the equipment—the former is cooked using a jaffle iron (that you can buy on Amazon) that clamps down on all sides of the bread, and diagonally through the middle, causing the cheese inside to puff up in the center of the sandwich. I don’t know why, but for some reason it just tastes better. In addition to cheese, you may wish to add tomato, ham, or even vegemite to your jaffle. Trust me, you will love it.
Please, for the love of all that is sacred, do not do vegemite the disservice of comparing it with marmite. The two are nothing alike, barring the final syllable in their names. Vegemite is, in a word, enigmatic. The product is almost entirely made from yeast extract, is packed with B vitamins, and has a savory, pleasant flavor. Much like coffee, wine, and everything else you first hated but came to love, this spread will grow on you. The ratio of vegemite to butter that should be applied to a piece of toast or bread is a hotly and widely debated topic that divides many families in Australia, however I recommend the following: Two parts butter to one part vegemite.