Sure, Australia is home to adorable creatures like koalas, kangaroos, and platypodes, but that's not the only reason to visit. The continent also has its fair share of delicious treats. Here are a few we tried—and gratuitously instagrammed!—on a recent trip to South Australia.
1. Kitchener Bun
Imagine a fat, holeless donut, sliced in half and stuffed with whipped cream and jam and then dusted with powdered sugar and you’d have something like the Kitchener bun. If it seems vaguely familiar, that’s because it’s a cousin of the Berliner. In fact, this South Australian specialty was known as such until World War I, when it was re-christened after the British secretary of state for war, Horatio Lord Kitchener, as a matter of patriotic duty.
2. Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee
Order an “iced coffee” in many coffee shops in Australia and what you’ll get, in fact, is an iced coffee with a scoop of ice cream floating in it. Which is pretty awesome. South Australians like the combo so much it's inspired a convenience product. Farmer’s Union is like a grown-up chocolate milk—it tastes like coffee ice cream and pairs ideally with a Kitchener bun.
3. Kis Affogato
The affogato—a scoop of ice cream doused in a shot of espresso—is Italian in origin, but the Australians evidently have a special fondness for it. The tiny distillery Kangaroo Island Spirits raises the bar substantially with its hyper-local iteration. In pairing espresso with ice cream made from Kangaroo Island honey (more on this below!) and homemade Honey & Walnut liquor, KIS has taken dessert to a whole new level of caffeination.
Take strawberry shortcake. Now, remove the flour from the biscuit so that it's more like a puffy, melty meringue. Inject with whip cream. Then, add the flavor explosion that is passionfruit to the mix. Voila: the eminently graceful pavlova. This Australian classic (which arguably originated in New Zealand) is a graceful affair befitting its namesake, Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. This particular work of fruity beauty is courtesy Umberto's restaurant in Coober Pedy.
5. Quondong Pie
The quondong is the native peach of Australia, common in bush areas across the continent. Denser and more intensely flavorful than the peach we know, the fruit is petite and brilliant red, and grows on stout bushes. A staple of Aboriginal diets and a scurvy deterrent for European explorers (they're super high in vitamin C), these days they're commonly preserved in chutneys and baked into one of Australia's favorite food forms: the pie.
6. Wattleseed Ice Cream
A member of the acacia family, the wattleseed is an interesting native Australian plant. Historically, the seeds were milled and made into coarse flour and used to bake a type of bush bread. (They're low in glycemic value, so today they're used in lots of products for diabetics.) In the 1980s, Australian cuisine expert Vic Cherikoff refined the seed into a commercial spice: it has a delicate, nutty flavor that's likened to coffee, chocolate, and hazelnut (and to me seemed almost like toasted sesame). It's used in a variety of savory dishes but also in desserts and ice creams, like this one, served alongside chocolate-mint and local quondong at the insanely remote outback watering hole the William Creek Hotel. The dish was subtle and sophisticated, as you'd expect any wattle worth it's salt would be.
7. Banana Bomboloni
You can get a bomboloni in a lot of places—namely Italy, where it originated. It's kind of like a more sophisticated version of a stuffed donut hole. But the one at Andre's Cucina—a creative polenta bar in Adelaide—is something singular. This one is a chocolate-filled banana donut, served in a nest of coffee custard. Even after the entirety of the decadent five-course tasting menu, you still won't be able to stop at one.
Soak a square of sponge cake in a thin chocolate icing and then smother it in coconut flakes, and you have the ubiquitous Australian lamington. (Sometimes they're sandwiched and filled with cream or jam.) It's thought that they were named for an early Queensland Governor, Lord Lamington, who reputedly did not appreciate the honor of being affiliated with "those bloody poofy woolly biscuits." Today they're popularly whipped up for "lamington sales" at churches and schools—the Aussie twist on the bake sale.
9. Ligurian Honey
In the 1880s, Bologna, Italy sent a shipment of Ligurian bees to Kangaroo Island, a Puerto-Rico sized outpost off the coast of South Australia which was then on its way to becoming a sheep-farming mecca. Thanks to the political foresight of the island's beekeepers, Kangaroo Island was declared a bee sanctuary—limiting the import of other species—which means that today the bees on the island are one of the last pure strains of bees in the world, and that it's the only place the pure Ligurian bee lives. In addition to producing delicious local honey at Clifford's Honey Farm and other local apiaries, they play an important role for scientists studying how to protect bee populations elsewhere in the world suffering from disease and colony collapse.
10. Tipsy Marmalade
Americans tend to shun marmalade, thinking it the tart terrain of stuffed British bears. But what if we told you there was a marmalade that was less like orange-juice concentrate and more like a mimosa you can spread all over a hot buttery scone? The Clare Valley's Evilo Estate makes a Tipsy Marmalade that changes everything we ever thought about Paddington.
11. Choccy Froggys
The Adelaide chocolatier Menz has been producing an iconic line of fruit-and-chocolate candy cocktails for the past 150 years, but Choccy Froggys are by far the most adorable. Chocolate on the outside, chewy (like a frog!) on the inside.