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Glossary of Australian Food Terms
So you're going to Australia and one of the things you're looking forward to is the fact that the Aussies speak English, which means a lot less stress all around. Right? Well, yes and no on that one, mates.
Yes, they do speak English and no, one can't always understand it. Even after tuning into the cadence, broad pronunciations and vocal upturns at the end of sentences, it's soon clear that the Aussies have their own distinctive brand of English. The fact is that the Australian fondness for using nicknames and colloquialisms for almost everything leaves most people completely in the dark as to what they're talking about. "Bikie" is short for a motorcycle-gang member, "bangers" and "snags" are just two of the several terms for sausage, "ripper" means excellent, "snaffle" refers to quickly grabbing something, "titch" is a tiny amount, "chook" is chicken, and it goes on and on.
The list below gives a few of the most common Australian food-and-drink terms, plus many of their "slanguage" idioms. For a complete reference to Aussie colloquialisms see the excellent The Penguin Book of Australian Slang by Lenie Johansen.
Adam's ale Water.
adjigo A yam native to coastal Western Australia.
amber fluid Beer.
Anzac Biscuits; Anzacs A cookie flavored with rolled oats, coconut, and golden syrup. During World War I, tins of these popular cookies were shipped to ANZAC ("Australian and New Zealand Army Corps") soldiers, hence the name.
avocado pear Avocado.
b & d Brandy and ginger ale
baked dinner A traditional Australian Sunday meal of chook (chicken), lamb or beef and vegetables.
Balmain bug Small, sweet crayfish found in Sydney harbor and eponymously named after a Sydney suburb.
banger Link sausage.
bangers and mash Sausages and mashed potatoes.
barley water A drink made from a boiled mixture of water and barley.
barra Abbreviation for barramundi.
barramundi; barra Aboriginal name for any of several types of large Australian freshwater fish, particularly those found in northern Australia.
beer-up A beer-drinking party.
bicarbonate of soda Baking soda.
billy tea Traditionally, tea made in a billy (metal can) over a campfire.
binder 1. Cheese. 2. A hearty meal.
black and tan A mixture of beer and stout.
black velvet A drink made with champagne and stout.
boiler A fowl that's tough and must be boiled to become tender.
bottle shop Liquor store.
brekkie; brekky Breakfast.
brownie Beer that comes in a brown glass bottle.
bubble and squeak A dish made by frying leftover meat and vegetables (typically mashed potatoes) together.
bunya nuts Large nuts from the cone of the huge Bunya pine tree. These nuts have a tough fibrous casing. The starchy nutmeat has a texture similar to a chestnut and a subtly sweet macadamia/pine nut flavor.
bush tomato A small, pungent berry from a tomato-related shrub found in Australia's central desert regions. Also called "desert raisin."
BYO Restaurants that do not sell alcohol have a "bring-your-own" policy; the corkage is minimal, typically no more than $5.
capsicum Sweet bell pepper.
chewie; chewy Chewing gum.
Chips - French fries or potato crisps. To "spit chips" means you are very angry.
chips French fries.
coldie A cold bottle of beer.
counter meal Pub food.
crisps Potato chips.
cuppa A cup of tea
cut lunch Sandwich
damper A simple outback bread made with flour, water and leavening. The dough is kneaded, formed into a round, and cooked in a pot buried in the coals of an open fire.
desert raisin see BUSH TOMATO.
dodger 1. Bread. 2. Sausage.
entrée Appetizer; starter. See also MAIN.
Esky The trademark name for a popular portable food and beverage cooler.
flagon Two-liter bottle of wine.
flake Shark meat.
floater A meat pie sitting in a pool of gravy or soupy peas.
Frankfurt Hot dog.
German sausage Bologna.
greasies Fried food, such as fish and chips.
green one A bottle of Victoria Bitter.
greens Green vegetables.
grog All-purpose name for alcohol.
ice block; icy pole Popsicle or ice cream bar.
kakadu plum A round, tartly sweet, green plum that is extraordinarily high in vitamin C.
Lamingtons Sponge cake cubes dipped in chocolate icing, then coconut. Reputedly named for popular-nineteenth century Queensland Governor Baron Lamington.
lemon aspen Small, pale yellow fruit with a tart citrus flavor.
lemon myrtle Lemon-flavored leaves and stems of a native rain forest tree.
lolly; lollies Candy.
main A meal's main course (what Americans call "entrée").
Marmite Brand name of a concentrated dark brown yeast-extract paste with an assertively salty flavor (though less so than its cousin VEGEMITE) and a slightly sweet undertaste.
mash Mashed potatoes.
meat pies Individual meat pies (often turnover-shaped), with the meat-and-gravy filling completely enclosed in the crust.
middy New South Wales and Western Australia colloquialism for a medium-size (about 9-ounce) glass of beer.
milk bar Convenience store.
Morton Bay bug Crayfish from the waters of Queensland.
muddie A large crab found in the wetlands of Queensland and New South Wales.
muntries Small, crunchy, apple-flavored berries found in South Australia. Also called "native cranberries."
native cranberries see MUNTRIES
nosh 1. A snack. 2. To eat.
nosh-up 1. A raid on the refrigerator. 2. An excellent meal.
Pavlova; pav A large meringue filled with whipped cream and fruit. Named after the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova.
plonk A super-cheap wine.
pot Large mug of beer.
quandong The outback's most famous fruit has a bright red skin and a flavor reminiscent of a tart, acidic peach. Quandongs are high in vitamin C. They're also called "native," "wild" or "desert peach."
roast dinner Beef or lamb roasted with potatoes and other vegetables.
sambo; sammie Sandwich.
saveloy Hot dog.
serviette Table napkin.
shandy A drink comprised of beer and lemonade.
short black Single espresso (tall black is a double).
silverbeet Swiss chard.
silverside Corned beef.
smoko Tea break.
snatch-and-grab Take-out food.
spag bol Spaghetti Bolognese.
stubby A squat bottle of beer.
takeaway; take-away Take-out food.
tall black Double espresso ("short black" is a single espresso).
tatie; tater Potato.
tea 1. Dinner (main evening meal). 2. The beverage.
tinny Can of beer.
tomato sauce Ketchup.
tucker Food. Bush tucker is outback food, such as grubs, and so on.
tucker box Refrigerator or other container for food.
Vegemite Brand name of a thick, dark brown, intensely salty yeast extract paste flavored with a variety of ingredients including celery and onions. It's used as a bread spread and is a favorite on breakfast toast.
wattle seed A small, oval, black variety of the Acacia seed. After being dry-roasted and ground, the seed's color changes to mustard-brown, its naturally nutty flavor becomes rich and coffeelike. Wattle seed is used in myriad foods including rice, soups, meat rubs and baked goods.
wild lime Small, round citrus fruit with a color that ranges from pale yellow to pale green and a flavor reminiscent of limes and grapefruit. Also called "desert lime" and "tropical yellow lime."
witchetty (witjuti) grub A large, white grub (thick, wormlike larva of certain moths and beetles). Definitely an acquired taste, though greatly prized by many. They're typically barbecued and sometimes eaten raw.
yabby; yabbie Crayfish.
©Sharon Tyler Herbst