Despite being an incredibly vast country, regional specific food in Australia isn’t really a thing. That’s not to say some cities haven’t crafted their own attempts to fill the gap.
While we all know the popular foods associated with Australian culture — the halal snack pack, the meat pie and lamington — finding food that is specifically regional is a much tougher ask.
It’s an interesting feat that a country as large as Australia would have such little in the way of regional dishes compared to other countries such as the United States or China. Even countries as comparatively tiny as Italy and Japan have distinct dishes depending on the city you visit.
With that in mind, here’s our best attempt at finding foods or dishes that originated in a certain city, state or territory. Some might have since been exported but you can trace them back to a single origin.
Perth’s continental roll
It’s fitting that one of the world’s most isolated capital cities, Perth, has its very own claim to a regional food. The continental roll was first created by Italian immigrants living in the city during the 1950s, according to SBS, and is characterised by its mix of Italian deli meats, cheese and pickled vegetables slapped into a crunchy bread roll.
Outside of Perth and nearby regional centres, it’s not really found anywhere else so it might just be Australia’s most obvious regional snack.
Tasmania’s scallop or chicken and Camembert pie
Being separated by a body of water would make you think Tasmania was full of weird and wonderful foods not seen on the mainland. Sadly, it’s not entirely true but some towns do claim to be the home of the chicken and Tasmanian Camembert pie. While the combination hardly seems that rare, I’ve only ever had a chicken and Camembert pie in regional Tasmania and it seemed to be in every cafe compared to other Australian cities.
The scallop pie is also a worthy mention because no other state dared to go there. It’s a blend of local scallops and curry sauce inside a puff pastry casing.
South Australia’s Smiley Fritz and Frog Cakes
South Australia has a reputation for giving everything a wacky name but it turns out, they are home to some unique foods too. Rating high on the list are Smiley Fritz, known as devon or polony elsewhere, which is a piece of deli meat designed with a smiley face.
Frog cakes are also only found in the state. Introduced in the 1920s by Balfours Bakery, the frog cake is exactly as described — a small cake in the shape of a frog — given to actual children and big kids alike. It’s become an iconic treat for the state, unavailable anywhere else in the country.
It’s also got pie floaters too — a meat pie swimming in a pea soup, which probably rates as Australia’s least appetising dish.
Melbourne’s dim sim
Finally, we reach the last well-known regional food Australia offers up — the dim sim. There are two distinct types of dim sim originating in Melbourne in the 1940s. The first was created by William Chen Wing Young, according to SBS, and based off the Cantonese siu mai, a steamed pork and prawn dumpling. The other was crafted a few years later by Ken Cheng and is now known as the South Melbourne dim sim. They’re much bigger at around 100 to 120 grams compared with the 50 gram regular dim sims.
Unlike the others on the list, the dim sim has experienced relative popularity in other major cities like Sydney since its creation. Still, it remains one of Australia’s first truly regional city foods.
Can you think of others that might rate a mention? Drop them in the comments below.