Six foods that are all the rage in Sydney

1. Halloumi. 

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Picture from foodytwoshoes.com

This salty, springy cheese hails from Cyprus and has been popular in the area encompassing Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan since the Byzantine era.  Wikipedia notes “Halloumi has recently become very popular in the United Kingdom.” Yup, an article in the BBC this past September attempts to address how halloumi took over the UK, elevating itself from a niche grocery store product to a staple at summer BBQs.

Add Sydney to the list.  Wherever you go, you’ll delight at spotting this salty, squeaky cheese on Sydney menus — whether in place of meat in burgers and sandwiches, as an ingredient in fresh salads (especially with watermelon) or on its own, as a side, grilled and dripping with flavour. My favourite halloumi in the city is in the form of Bondi Massive’s delectable pesto and halloumi sammy.

2. Muesli

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Picture from thekitchn.com

I’ve written about muesli a couple of times but it bears noting as a staple in Sydney.  Whether you’re in line for your morning cuppa or you’re browsing your local supermarket, muesli jumps out at you from every corner.  As in England, muesli is the king of breakfast here, beating back the efforts of that sugary sweet poster child for American healthy eating, otherwise known as granola.  Just so we’re on the same page, here’s the difference:

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Picture from Livestrong.com

  • Muesli and granola were both developed in the late 1800s in different parts of the world.  Muesli was developed by Swiss-German physician and nutritionist Max Bircher-Benner as a natural, raw food to help his patients during convalescence.  Granola was developed by Dr. James Caleb Jackson at the Jackson Sanitarium in New York.
  • Muesli is unbaked and doesn’t contain sweetener or oil.  Granola on the other hand usually contains one or more of maple syrup, brown sugar or honey as well as vegetable oil or butter.
  • Granola is typically harder than muesli.  The sweeteners in granola cause the oats, seeds and other goodies to clump together and, harden into sugary clusters.  While this gives granola that satisfying crunch and pretty glaze, it also gives it that tendency to get stuck in our teeth.
  • In other words, compared cup for cup as an average of all brands, muesli has 289 calories whereas granola has a whopping 500+ calories. A few interesting reports from Livestrong and Shape.

If that isn’t enough reason to switch, check out this delicious bircher muesli recipe by My New Roots.

3. Chia Seeds

I first came across chia seeds a few blocks from my old New York apartment in the West Village.  There is a deliciously quaint store on Carmine Street called Victory Garden that specializes in locally sourced goats milk, mastic and chia seed products.  They’re better known for their goat’s milk soft serve ice cream (check out their foursquare photo feed) but Victory Garden makes a to-die-for chia seed parfait that I’ve indulged in after many a morning workout, despite lingering doubts about where it falls on the healthy breakfast vs. dessert pudding spectrum.  The parfait is made with cashew milk and sweetened with a hint of agave.

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Victory Garden’s delicious chia seed parfait.  Pic by seriouseats.com

Anyway, I was intrigued to learn that chia seeds have had quite the impact on the Sydney food scene, with a conspicuous presence in breakfast foods, desserts and the ubiquitous grocery aisle.  I’m still figuring out how to reconstruct that delicious parfait, but in the meantime, I’ve incorporated this uber super food into my weekend breakfast drinks.

4. Passionfruit

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Passiflora Edulis: the other worldly flower of the passionfruit

Sydney, or Australia really, has an abundance of passionfruit.  You can buy three fresh passionfruit for $2 at Harris Farms (Sydney’s answer to Whole Foods) and any crunchy grocery store will have its own version of homemade yoghurt with fresh passionfruit. You’ll also encounter passionfruit in Sydney desserts (especially pavlova) and cocktails.

Coming from the US, where passionfruit sits squarely in the exotic category alongside mangoes (also somewhat more common here) it’s been a real treat to indulge in them here.

5. Laksa

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Get the recipe at taste.com.au

The first time I had laksa in New York, I was at Double Crown, sampling, what can only be described with political incorrectness, as their colonial British menu. It was tangy, spicy, smooth and delicious.  I loved it.  Funny then how you can find laksa on every street corner in Sydney’s CBD.  It’s so mainstream that the popular Aussie salad bar chain “Sumo Salad” offers it on their health-conscious menu.  Laksa is popular in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia and comes in a variety of preparations.  The kind I’ve sampled in Sydney is a rich coconut-based soup with thick noodles, prawns and a dollop of sambal.  It’s probably more popular with chicken.

While Laksa is an example of a popular Asian dish here in Sydney that isn’t (or doesn’t seem to have made it) big in the States, I could replace this point with an entire category of Asian food.  Central Sydney is an Asian food lover’s paradise with everything from fresh dumplings, “yum cha” (dim sum) and hand pulled noodles to elaborate duck and seafood preparations.  Thai, Malay, and Singaporean dishes, in particular, have more of a representation here than in New York.

6. Spices

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Dukkah-crusted salmon, recipe at taste.com.au

A bit broad and not technically “a food”, but I’m not sure how to put this other than to say Sydneysiders are the kings of spice.  Harissa, DukkahChermoula and Sambal are all fairly mainstream here and, again, feature prominently on both restaurant menus as well as in supermarket aisles.  Dukkah crusted salmon, in particular, is a popular dish that springs to mind.  I’m not complaining.  Although our small fridge coupled with my husband’s love for collecting condiments may soon lead to some challenges…

5 responses

  1. I followed your advice and got Bondi Massive’s halloumi and pesto sanga – WOW! Incredible. Now I’m gonna be hooked. Where else can I get some good hallomi in Sydney? So, so good.

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