Updated on Tuesday, 15ᵗʰ February, 2022
The final meal taken on board the Endeavour after leaving Botany Bay was skate and warrigal greens, according to the diary of ship’s botanist Joseph Banks. However, at that time warrigal greens were not known as such—it was the name given to them by veteran forager and wild food researcher, Peter Hardwick, in the 1980s.
Continuing his rich contribution to the understanding and acceptance of indigenous ingredients, Hardwick supplies a line of native food-based products for Harvest Newrybar, a regional café located in the Byron Bay hinterland that showcases a distinctly hyper-regional cuisine.
At her Sydney restaurant Lucky Kwong, chef Kylie Kwong continues her love affair with local ingredients, using warrigal greens in her spicy sung choi bao pork dish and native bush mint as a fresh flavour accompaniment to steamed prawn dumplings.
NATIVE INGREDIENTS TO THE FORE
In Melbourne, Attica’s Ben Shewry leads the charge with native ingredients in diverse and ever-changing dishes such as sticky wattle and pearl dumpling, saltbush lamb pie, marron with sunrise lime and tomatoes with bunya.
While some top chefs—James Viles (Harvac Group, Canberra) and Jock Zonfrillo (MasterChef, ex-Orana, Adelaide)—hunt and gather their own wild and native food, the emergence of specialist bush tucker providers, such as Jude Mayall’s Outback Chef, make it easier than ever before to include these fascinating ingredients on any menu.
LOCAL PRODUCE LIGHTS A PATH
At Restaurant Leo, chef and owner, Karl Firla (ex-Est., Marque and Oscillate Wildly), brings together a lifetime of skill and knowledge to design a menu that demonstrates a love of cooking with sustainable local ingredients, including cuttlefish, Murray cod and Sydney rock oysters.
In Cairns, Ochre owner Craig Squire continues to showcase local produce and on-trend indigenous ingredients in dishes such as wattle seed pavlova with a Davidson plum sorbet, and chargrilled kangaroo sirloin with a sweet potato fritter, bok choy, quandong and chilli sauce.
NATIVE TO NEW ZEALAND
Mokoia Restaurant is a contemporary fine diner in Rotorua that features a Pacific Rim cuisine using indigenous herbs and spices. The menu includes the native herb kawakawa in dishes such as pan seared chicken breast and a mini pavlaska dessert, as well as the woody evergreen horopito in an Angus beef open sandwich layered with a micro salad and grilled vegetables.
On the casual side of Kiwi cuisine, at Depot Eatery in Auckland, local produce is found in the tuatua clam fritters with sour pickle, egg mayo and fried capers. Pāua is a go-to indigenous shellfish and can be elevated to the next level, including at Logan Brown on Wellington’s Cuba Street strip, which serves pāua ravioli with coriander, basil and lime beurre blanc.
DOMESTICATING NATIVE VEGGIES
For future food trends, experts in Western Australia have been domesticating native vegetables that grow in sandy soil otherwise unsuitable for grains or grazing. The vegetables, including youlk, a native radish, and kulyu, like a sweet potato, have long been cultivated by indigenous Australians and now chefs are starting to show interest in using them.
In South Australia, growers Mike and Gayle Quarmby of Outback Pride have had such success with their domesticated indigenous plants that they supply 50 tonnes of native leaf each year to top chefs including Kylie Kwong, Mark Olive and Peter Gilmore.
INNOVATIVE USE OF INDIGENOUS CUISINE
At Hiakai in Wellington, Māori–Samoan chef Monique Fiso has a focus on the innovative use of indigenous cuisine in dishes such as her sweet potato-like kūmara gnocchi and a seed-coated avocado with vinaigrette made from the native shrub karamū. Hiakai has been named the best indigenous food experience in the world by Lonely Planet, and Fiso herself is also an award-winning author.
You’d be mad not to look in your own backyard for ingredients that are bound to set your venue apart.