Darwin and the outback of Crocodile Dundee
Divided into two distinct regions, the "top end" and the "red centre," the Northern Territory also has two distinct cuisines. Let's start our tour in Darwin. This is the northernmost city, closer to Asia than to Sydney, and its eating habits reflect this proximity. Often incorporating products from "the bush," the cuisine here is exceptional and unique. With its tropical climate, Darwin offers some adventurous choices like crocodile steak or kangaroo and chips (delicious) or perhaps water buffalo. There is also wonderful crab. The north is famous for its barramundi and crayfish that look like they were hand painted by some mad artist.
Try a Darwin stubby, a 2 litre "big neck" beer, whose slightly bitter taste makes it well-suited to curries and stir fries. The tropical fruits are also extraordinary: of course, it all has to do with the land and the climate.
For those who want to try some authentic Australian bush food, you have to head for the thousands of square kilometres of red earth known as the "red centre." In the evening, fires are lit here and there and you can try grilled camel or emu under the date palms.
This is the outback of Crocodile Dundee, where the land is red and more sun-baked than fertile. The country is flat and open and the train that crosses it goes for 275 miles in a straight line without deviation. Having a neighbour means travelling 100 miles to see him; going to school means sitting by the radio and taking classes by short wave. Few people will be able to brag that they captured the raw material for a pair of crocodile boots with their bare hands. These are open landscapes to be crossed on horseback, with vistas that extend as far as the eye can see.
In millennia past, the aboriginals hunted mammals, killed reptiles, and roasted fish and birds. Their everyday fare was complemented or seasoned by whatever could be gathered, whether fruits, grains, nuts or mushrooms. Even today, "bush food" includes some mysteriously-named ingredients: lemon aspen, bush tomatoes, Illawara plums, muntari berries, lilli pillies and lemon myrtle.
If you prefer luxury to camping, Alice Springs and Ayers Rock (Uluru) have become the posh spots of the Australian heartland. Imagine a hotel terrace hung with white silk, silver candlesticks contrasting with the red earth, and millions of stars providing the backdrop. Never will you experience the silence of the desert quite like this. Adelaide's restaurants were among the first to give rebirth to Australia's oldest cuisine, imparting to bush food a new refinement and serving it on fine china and white tablecloths.
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