Aboriginal people have survived on bush food for over 80,000 years and over this time have passed down from generation to generation a deep knowledge of Australian native ingredients and their myriad uses.
In recent times, Victoria has seen a marked increase in the use of native ingredients, with chefs at city and regional restaurants, cafes, food trucks and wineries exploring and celebrating these local flavours. While the influence of native ingredients varies, many Victorian kitchens feature these bush foods prominently and maintain their cultural integrity by being sourced and prepared by Aboriginal people.
For those with a taste for bush food but don't know where to start, three Victorian eateries pride themselves on showcasing native ingredients in their dishes: Charcoal Lane in Melbourne, the Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre cafe near Geelong, and Brambuk's cafe at Halls Gap. While all three have their own style, the staple meats and plants are featured, including Eel, which has sustained Aboriginal people in South West Victoria for thousands of years.
Charcoal Lane presents Aboriginal food in a modern way through a set and a la carte menu. Think paperbark smoked duck fillet with yam puree, chargrilled kangaroo, macadamia encrusted emu fillet. For something sweet, try the wattleseed crème brulee with strawberry gum tuille or chocolate beetroot and lemon myrtle cake. Charcoal Lane is also a social enterprise that trains and develops Indigenous and underprivileged youth, helping them to get a start in the hospitality industry.
Located in Melbourne's west, this cafe and catering business is Torres Strait owned and operated, named after a saying meaning 'help yourself'. Pick from a brunch-to-lunch menu of dishes infused with native flavours and ingredients, such as sago porridge, bush tacos with native succulent slaw and kangaroo tail bouguignon. Stock up on Indigenous ingredients for your own kitchen pantry, such as ground wattleseed, lemon myrtle spice and bush plum BBQ sauce.
Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre
Located just outside Geelong, Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre is part cultural centre, part retail outlet and part native garden, complete with native plants and animals. Stop at the cafe to sample the wattle-seed scones with wild rosella jam, wild bush berry pancakes, or the kangaroo burgers.
Bushfoods Cafe at Brambuk
Travel to the northeast end of the stunning Grampians/Gariwerd region where you'll find the Bushfoods Cafe at Brambuk, The National Park & Cultural Centre. Savour local and national native ingredients in dishes such as kangaroo pie or try the tasting plates, showcasing an array of different Aboriginal foods.
Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
Sign up for a bush food experience at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria in May and get a 'garden to plate' appreciation of Victoria's native plants. Walk with an Aboriginal guide and learn about the cultural connection to native plants and how they have sustained Aboriginal people for thousands of years, notably through food. Finish up with tastings of delicious food inspired by native plants.
Aboriginal food on show in Victoria
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