Stuff we ate and enjoyed on our #adventuredownunder

We always enjoy the food we eat in Australia whether that’s in restaurants, cafés or what we buy in the markets and shops. Going somewhere new gives us an opportunity to eat stuff not generally found in Europe. Here’s a few things that were new to both of us and which we particularly found interesting.

1. Moreton Bay Bugs

Let’s face it anything called “Bug” isn’t going to inspire, plus these are often the most expensive items on an Australian menu. Not everyone loves the cheeky name as much as the meat (marketers prefer the “official” term, bay lobsters). But Australians are notorious for their slang. Moreton Bay bugs (named after the bay near Brisbane) and their cousins, Balmain bugs, are crustaceans, not insects, and they’re much-beloved treats on ­Australia’s east coast.

Despite the bugs’ alien-like look – broad heads, flattened antennae, and no claws – they’re an Aussie delicacy. Most of the meat is in the bug’s tail, so a lengthwise slit down the centre is the fastest way to get at it after grilling, the most popular preparation.

We enjoyed them as part of a massive seafood buffet in a hotel alongside Brisbane’s beautiful river. Amusingly, we arrived with only an hour’s buffet time remaining so the waitress charged us half-price! Luckily she didn’t see how many of the Moreton Bay Bugs and oysters we ate! Easily our best value meal of the entire vacation. We may not like the name but we’re converts. The meat is sweeter and softer than lobster and you know how much I love that crustacean!

2. Jewfish

Instinctively, this feels politically incorrect and that’s maybe why it’s often called a King Fish or Mulloway in other parts of Australia. My beloved ate this as the “Fish of the Day” again at a riverside restaurant in Brisbane. Served as a fillet, the fish had firm, white, large-flake flesh and was very moist after having been grilled (skin on).

3. Coral Sea Trout

My beloved ate this fish a couple of times in Airlie Beach and Port Douglas. Its flesh is faintly coral coloured but it tastes nothing like a European sea trout. It has firm, moist, pearly flesh with a delicate sweet flavour and both times my beloved ate it as grilled (skin on) fillets with a buttery sauce.

4. Jackfruit

The jackfruit is part of the same family as figs and mulberries. Its native range is unknown but most sources place it from the area between southern India and Borneo’s rain forests. As you can see from the picture above, the fruit itself is huge; reaching as much as 55 kg (120 lb) in weight, 90 cm (35 in) in length, and 50 cm (20 in) in diameter. A mature jack tree can produce about 100–200 fruits in a year. The jackfruit is composed of hundreds to thousands of individual flowers, and the fleshy petals of the unripe fruit are eaten. The immature fruit (unripe, commercially labeled as young jackfruit) has a mild taste and meat-like texture that lends itself to being a meat substitute for vegetarians and vegans. The ripe fruit can be much sweeter (depending on variety) and is more often used for desserts.

I’ve never seen it on menus in France and ate it twice in Australia as a substitute for “pulled-pork.” It definitely has a similar texture but it’s pretty tasteless. Instead it takes on the flavour of whatever sauce it’s served with, which in both cases was a spicy, BBQ sauce. It made an interesting change from the usual vegan burger and I’ll certainly look out for some here. I might be able to buy it from one of the Asian supermarkets. if not, there’s always Amazon.

5. Hapuka

Cooked, this fish is not dissmilar to a striped bass. It has a wonderful big flake with a cream like finish. Hapuka can grow very large in size. Typically smaller Hapuka offer sweeter fillets, which are often steaked for the BBQ. The fillets are especially delicious cooked with the skin on. However, the parts of a Hapuka that are prized by those in the know, are the bellies, throats, wings, and cheeks.

6. Plant-based Burger

Returning to vegan burgers, at Grill’d in Townsville (a burger franchise) I ate a “Beyond Burger” which is a plant-based one free from soy, gluten and GMOs. It was okay but it tasted like a cheap “meat” burger. To be honest, I’d have much preferred a vegan one made from legumes and vegetables, but again it made a nice change.