It’s no secret Australia likes takeaway food, or taking away food to eat at home, work or elsewhere. On average, Australians make 30.5 million takeaway visits each month. With more eateries than we can count around many a corner in Australia, deciding on and picking our favourite takeaway can be hard.
There’s something liberating about taking away food and eating wherever we please; where, and what, we eat is a personal choice.
These days we can take away pretty much any dish and cuisine. Just like the debate over choosing our national dish, Australia’s favourite takeaways change from year to year, and from state to state too. Not much of a surprise since our tastebuds change over time and each of us feel differently about different cuisines.
When it comes to choosing a dish that represents Australia as a nation, us Australians have always been divided on this. There are so many foods we associate with our country. A few months ago, the Asian Cup 2015 tournament hosted by Australia chose the meat pie as Australia’s favourite food. But a few years ago, 8,000 Australians voted roast lamb as our national dish, with the meat pie coming in second.
As a kid, I never ate meat pie. In fact, the first time I had a meat pie was about five years ago. One afternoon while walking around a shopping centre, I was hungry and on a whim bought a snack-sized beef pie from Michel’s Pattiserie, a rather fancy, pricey bakery. The pie was piping hot and as my teeth sunk into the semi-crispy brown crust, and a savoury taste filled my mouth. Couldn’t decide if the meat tasted like beef. I chewed.
A few months ago, I got to meet the person who inspires me to call myself Asian Australian and be a writer – dancing violinist, Youtuber Lindsey Stirling. I was very lucky and managed to chat with Lindsey before lapping up her energetic performance at The Corner Hotel in Melbourne.
I never expected to look up to her. Her non-lyrical blend of music which is a mixture of classical and dub-step musical genres is (was) not my cup of tea; I’m not a fan of club-esque beats. One day while taking a break from writing an article, I chanced upon her Zelda Medley video. Being a video game nut, I curiously looked up interview clips of her on YouTube and was immediately drawn to the optimism radiating from her personality.
I was recently invited to give a talk at Kurunjang Secondary College on what it means to be “different”, an Asian Australian living in a predominantly white Australia.
As I walked to the front of the Year 12 class on a crisp winter morning, I noticed about twenty odd Caucasian and Asian students staring back at me from behind their desks. Some of them had Melbourne lawyer/writer Alice Pung’s Growing Up Asian In Australia in front of them, one of the texts they were studying for their upcoming final high school English exams.
The teacher shook my hand and I introduced myself to the class. I launched into a story about how as a kid living in the eastern suburbs, I rarely felt part of a group; all my Caucasian classmates refused to share their Shapes with me during lunch and my mum refused to buy these biscuits for me as I, according to her, was supposed to “eat Asian food”.
After mulling about this over the past week, I reckon: perhaps.
The dim sim can be more accurately described as a Chinese-Australian culinary item.
The famous Australian dim sim shop in South Melbourne. There are always long queues here for this Chinese-inspired Australian snack. Photo: Mabel Kwong
In a globalised world where mobility is rife, people, ideas and traditions are bound to transcend different corners of the globe. Even culinary methods and styles move across continents as chefs travel and share their cooking skills in foreign places. As such, a variety of gastronomic methods tends to influence the creation of contemporary cuisines in today’s food-mad world.
Growing up, I was always confused about what the term “Asian-Australian” meant, and today I still find it hard to define the term succinctly in a single sentence.
Why? Firstly, the word “Australian” itself is a complex term. It fundamentally refers to someone who has Australian citizenship as outlined on a piece of paper. When we call someone “Australian” or “Aussie”, we usually (rather stereotypically) refer to one who loves meat pies, Aussie Rules football, speaks with a plethora of Australian ockerisms and never hesitates to have a drink to wind-down the week. Being “Australian” has also come to mean giving everyone a “fair go”, encouraging individualism and having a relaxed outlook on life.
The Australian flag(s) flies high in Melbourne’s Bourke Street. What does being Australian mean, and what does being Asian-Australian mean? Photo by Mabel Kwong.
Secondly, the word “Asian” itself is also a complex term. When we describe someone as “Asian”, we often (rather stereotypically) think of one who speaks fluently in their mother tongue, speaks broken English, is bad at sports and is extremely studious or hardworking for no good reason. Being “Asian” also means adopting a fairly conservative way of life, appreciating team membership and respecting tradition heaps.