Friday, October 21, 2011

Eating the World: Australia

So, my brother and I like to travel, and have done a decent bit of it, but are always starving for more.

Which is where the eating comes in.  We also like to eat.  So, last year Brian had the brilliant idea to cook a dinner from each country in the world, in alphabetical order.  We could travel without leaving the kitchen. 

At least one problem we will have is that people rarely agree on just how many countries there are, but it's currently in the 190s, I think.  And anyway, who cares?  (I know who: people from that country!)

We won't sweat the small stuff and have given ourselves the liberty of not being entirely faithful to the food's origins, because, of course, that would be impossible anyway.

And, fortunately, we are in no hurry.  I say fortunately because we are in our second year and only just now approaching the end of the As.

I plan to post pictures from each country, but am only getting around to it now, with Australia. 

But what the hell is Australian food, you ask?  Well, there are the basics that every U.S.-type person knows, thanks to stereotyping, or marketing, or both, such as Foster's beer (I know, I know, not a popular beer in Australia, but re-read the first part of my sentence), vegemite, and shrimp on barbies (called prawns in Australia, I think; Paul Hogan's been lying to us for years, apparently).  Also, the dessert Pavlova, which I had never heard of and which, apparently, the Kiwis also claim as their own. 

But never mind, because I don't have a sweet tooth and don't make desserts.  I have an umami tooth and cook accordingly. 

So, what else is there?  Well, there's Kanga and Roo.  Brian's been Down Under many times and eaten the tasty looking marsupial, but I never have.  So, a query on facebook and Kayla C. provided the answer:  Stewart's Meats, a fine old-fashioned and very busy butcher shop.

Head toward Mt. Rainier on Yelm Hwy and you'll find Stewart's on the right.
Among other meat wonders, they have a freezer case with exotic meats, including, in Spanish, cangoro, $12.99 a pound.

But what to do with it?  A good red meat like that can certainly be spiced and eaten on its own, with some kind of mash on the side.  And, according to the Kangaroo Institute of Australia this is a perfectly Aussie thing to do.

But it seemed too boring.  And, as Australia is more or less in Asia (in school, they never tired of telling us that it was somehow its own continent, which, upon reflection, seems like a racial/colonial issue of some kind), I wanted something else.  So when I found a recipe on their website for Red Thai Coconut Curry I knew I had a winner.

(Note:  I also learned from the KIA (how appropriate) that kangaroo is not farmed but hunted under strict guidelines.  Or, so they say.)

Speaking of which, as recipes are but guidelines, I made my own version, which includes pre-made red curry paste from a local Asian grocery and whatever veggies I had in the fridge and the cabinet:

CSA carrot, onion, leek and lettuce with tomato, asparagus, canned baby corn.

First, I seared the kangaroo in a cast iron pan, then cut it up into bite-sized chunks.

Then, I stir-fried the chili paste on its own before adding half the can of coconut milk.  Next, the meat, cooked until almost done.  Lastly, throw in all veggies but the tomato (added at the last moment).

Added the rest of the coconut milk, a little water, and cooked until veggies just tender.  Served on jasmine rice (always buy at an Asian grocery, never at Safeway et al., a bloo'y rip-off).  Served with Foster's, because, remember, this is technically Aussie.  Canned rambutan for dessert.

Delicious, mate. (I couldn't resist, the "mate" or the dinner.)
Only 190+ posts to go, but surely this is a noble cause.  Surely.  Noble.  Or, if not noble, then hopefully quite tasty.

Next up:  Austria.

Note to self:  No more shooting with the yellow kitchen light.  Flash needed for real colors.


  1. "in school, they never tired of telling us that it was somehow its own continent, which, upon reflection, seems like a racial/colonial issue of some kind"

    Maybe, but Australia also seems kinda . . . big and not contiguous with the Asian continent. I mean, Japan's not contiguous with the Asian continent either, but Japan's of a size that if we called it its own continent, we'd have at least 11 continents, at which point continents wouldn't be as useful as a coarsest geographical subdivision ( Australia, on the other hand, is pretty big. Where to draw the line in size? Traditionally it's between Greenland and Australia, which differ in size by a factor of almost four--which happens to be the sharpest jump in size, by far, between the world's continents/islands ranked in size.

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  2. Fun facts about rambutan- it's used mainly as an astringent and to palliate fevers, but is also used to get rid of dysentery. Food+ native culture+ magic+ medicine!
    your kangaroo curry looks delicious.

  3. Good to have an expert foodie on the team, Alicia, who knows the real benefit of such things.

  4. All good points, Jon. I will compromise and allow that Australia is part of Oceania, but its own continent? Well, as such boundaries are more or less political, still seems colonial/racial to me...

    But my teachers filled me with all sorts of lies and simple (non-)truths in school. The fun is to unlearn the damage over the course of a lifetime.

  5. Isn't saying that "there's a continent called 'Oceania' and Australia is part of it" kinda like saying "there's a continent called 'The Carribean' and North America is part of it"?

  6. I see the analogy Jon, but it doesn't work for me. NA is a continent with 3 countries and not an island. Or, is that 2 countries. Is Greenland a continent?

    Anyway, my main point is that these demarcations are mostly political (where does Europe become Asia? What continent is the Middle East in?) but in school we were taught they were geographically land-based. But for me, it makes no sense on multiple levels. If it does for others, I get that. It's what we were all taught in school...