Australian foods we miss as expats in the USA

EXPAT LIFE: Now that some time has passed since I wrote my last post, I feel I can move onto talking about some of the things we enjoyed in Australia on our home visit – one being Australian food!

One of the greatest luxuries about going home is the ability to indulge your senses in your own homeland’s delights, whether they be visual, auditory or in this case olfactory. Now I know that to some of you, we may sound rather self-indulgent. After all, we live in the USA, so we are hardly deprived of western food. It’s not like we are living in deepest Africa or in remote Amazonian wilderness, where supplies of anything remotely edible are accessible only through air drop or river boat once every six months or so.

Nevertheless, I am sure that many expats will agree, there are just certain things that after a long absence, you realize are so representative of ‘home’ that it is only when you are surrounded with these wonders that you truly understand and appreciate how special they truly are.

And so it was with great relish that we were able to enjoy these again on Australian soil. Despite being overfed at every meal with friends and family as we did the rounds of catchups, eating out at restaurants regularly in between and particularly on our holiday to tropical Cairns in Queensland, we still managed to satiate ourselves on those few items we missed the most.

What are the foods that make our indulge’ list?

For every Australian family it will probably be slightly different but in no particular order, the foods we miss are:

Cadbury Chocolates: they actually sell a version here in NJ supermarkets but this is manufactured by Hersheys and tastes completely different. We are lucky enough to have a great local shop in Montclair that caters for British and Australian tastes locally, and they stock an English version Cadburys. But even this is slightly different than at home and because it is imported, it’s pretty pricey. What is so different about our chocolate you might wonder? Cadburys is a very smooth, sweet chocolate that just melts in your mouth. Americans may likely find it too cloyingly sweet but to us, it is like liquid gold. In comparison, chocolates from the US, particularly Hersheys, seem bitter and leave a less pleasant after-taste. And when it comes to dark chocolate, there is a huge difference! Due to the use of higher amounts of cocoa in the US products here, this is a very bitter experience for the palate and must be, we assume, an acquired taste. Australian dark chocolate is still very sweet, so I am doubtful we we will ever acquire the taste for this particular local food.

Favourite Australian foods such as Weetbix Cadbury's and Special K
Favourite Australian foods such as Weetbix Cadbury’s and Special K

 Special K cereal: They sell this brand here in the US as well but it is completely different to that made in Australia. The Aussie version has been my breakfast staple for umpteen years and to my sense is extremely tasty and made from rice and wheat grains. The US version tastes much more like bland cornflakes which I cannot stomach so early on in the morning.

Weetbix: As above, there is something like this called ‘Weetabix’ sold in NJ but this is still quite different from the Aussie version. The less picky of us in the family do eat the local version but we still fight over who is going to eat the Australian Weetbix, when we have had some sent in home parcels or brought some back with us to the USA.

Meat pies: Although some Australians might think we are culturally bereft for listing this, we are (mostly) unrepentant meat pie lovers. Certainly, not every Australian meat pie is a gourmet creation, and in fact some popular brands are sometimes almost inedible. These seem to be the ones you purchase at the football, or local kiosk at children’s soccer matches, or sometimes from a cheap bread shop. Our English neighbours remember them from an Australian trip as meat gristle in pastry being passed off as meat.

An Australian meat pie made in QLD

An Australian meat pie made in QLD

However, not all meat pies are this poor quality. We used to purchase the most wonderful handmade meat pies from a fantastic little bakery in Rose Bay, Sydney, which were so tasty that we bought them en masse to eat for dinner every night until we couldn’t stomach another one.

Meat pies are not generally available here in NJ. The next best thing is the Australian pie franchise called PieFace, now operating in NY which is apparently very popular with lunchtime crowds.

 True Italian pizza: Our home in Sydney was near an area heavily populated with Italian cultural heritage called Haberfield. One of our fondest memories of Sydney life is when we were lucky enough to be able to eat out here regularly: a real treat as Haberfield is known for it’s fine food fare and a popular stop for foodie tours. The pizzas we are used to from Italian restaurants in this area, all have a very thin crust, with extremely tasty sauce and toppings, cooked in a way from my own experience, that is closer to true Italian pizza. While NJ is a heartland for Italian heritage, the pizzas we have seen and tasted here so far, are very different. We spent a lot of time in Haberfield while in Sydney, soaking up local food, coffee and desserts.

Home cooked pizza from my Italian friend: Yum!

Home cooked pizza from my Italian friend: Yum!

So good was the food, that almost in every case we had eaten our dishes before I even remembered to photograph them! So I include here a photo of my Italian friend’s home cooked pizza which was absolutely wonderful to eat. This is the sort of pizza we had been accustomed to in Australia, but we are now back eating local NJ pizzas and will keep pretending we like it until the next home trip comes around.
Lattes and cannolis: Also in Haberfield, we were able to overdose excessively on good quality local lattes, which are commonly found almost everywhere in Sydney but especially around Italian areas. One of our favourite places in Haberfield is ‘Papas’ in Haberfield, where this local Italian bakery/eatery is so popular people line up outside on the footpath to purchase their food. Papa’s is not as famous as the Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, popularly featured on the reality show ‘Cake Boss’. Regardless, Papas supplies consistently good coffee, cannolis and  gelato to die for.

Beef sausages: Beef sausages are an iconic part of the traditional Aussie BBQ. We don’t always put shrimp on the barbie, contrary to Paul Hogan’s oft-remembered tourism pitch. However, barbequed beef sausages are relatively common, especially as food fare for children. Suprisingly, beef sausages are non-existent in NJ, with pork or turkey sausages as the normal option available. These just don’t have the same appeal. Perhaps with time, we’ll aclimatize but whenever we get the chance to indulge in this traditional food back home, we now grab the chance!

Toast with margarine: Also available in the USA but not with any form of bread that is as tasty! It seems our idea vs what the US locals consider bread, is so…oooo very different. After all, where else in the world can you get bread made of potato or corn? This is one of the things we miss the most out of anything on this list. Naturally, if we were hungry enough, we would eat it and not even comment! Perhaps a sojourn on the Survivor series may help us.

Of course, all expats have their eating challenges. I found this blog post from a US expat living in Sydney talking about how hard it is to like the local sausage sizzle! (A Typical Aussie Sausage Sizzle). It shows you how hard adopting local food as an expat can be for anyone!

What local foods have you found difficult to adopt as an expat or traveller?

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19 thoughts on “Australian foods we miss as expats in the USA

  1. Hi, thanks for linking my post! FYI, I live in Adelaide, not Sydney.

  2. I too am a Expat living in New jersey. Further south than where you are. I enjoyed reading about your food comments, I found your blog looking for spearmint syrup. How hard is that to find in the US. Very!
    You are fortunate to at least be close to New York City, where there are so many Australian restaurants. Some great and some not so great. But they are using USA regulated food so it all tastes different, just as the choccies here taste different.
    Have you tried Tucks for the take out meat pies and sausage rolls? I really like Eight Mile Creek restaurant as well. Their meat pie was a bit gourmet but delicious. I am going to have to try Pie face, I haven’t heard of it before.
    My husband and I spent a weekend sampling as many Aussie restaurants as possible. And to be Quite honest I didn’t expect so many. Philadelphia has an Expat community but there are no Aussie restaurants to be had in Philly. But they do have their own Footy team and gather weekly.

    Well, off to do more research on Spearmint Syrup.

    Thanks again for sharing.

    Cheers

    Shazza

    • Thanks so much for dropping by and commenting:) Know what you mean about getting the hard-to-find food ingredients. I managed to find a website with US ingredients (swapped other thingsthat weren’t available here) for making a few Aussie faves like chocolate crackles etc and that helped. We buy our vegemite from a British pie shop at exorbitant prices. Every time we bring one back in our luggage it seems to get kept by the customs guys! We haven’t tried too much of the Australian offerings in NY, just the TuckShop kiosk in Chelsea. I was pretty unimpressed with their meat pie to be honest. Had better at a soccer match kiosk. However, I hear Pieface’s stuff is superb from Americans and Australians. We don’t go in to NYC too often as kids don’t like it too much: they find it smelly, smoky and noisy. We do too but don’t notice it at all b/c there’s so many things to enjoy. Next time we go in we will have to try one these. Any suggestions besides 8mile creek? Have you tried Sunburnt Cow/Calf or Rubys?
      We haven’t met almost any Aussies here at all. V. hard to find it seems but have made friends w Americans or other expats. Thanks for the nice comments:) Very much appreciated;)

  3. Hi,

    So sorry it has taken me so long to comment.

    I agree with you about Tucks and I did hear good things about Pie face. They have a French Pastry guy for the pie crust. Yum.

    Yes, to Ruby’s. Cute, but very small. Just walked by it yesterday. The others, I have heard of but have not tried. Eight Mile Creek is now closed. Unfortunately. Was a very nice space and good food.

    As far as meeting other Ozzies. There are footie teams practically in every state. Philadelphia’s team is the Hawks. And I forget the New York team. And they gather for b-b-ques on a regular basis. They also have websites that you can become a member and follow for updates, fundraisers as well. there is also a group on facebook that I am a member of. But most of the meetings are in New York and that is not an easy commute for me either. Try Advanced Global, they are for Australian professionals in the US. Their office is across the hall from the Australian Consulate. They send you a list of things that are going on here in the states.

    I just recently lucked out and can now buy vegemite in this small beach town that we live in. Very excited. And this woman’s other store has just about everything, including meat pies, sausage rolls, etc. Although she didn’t have violet crumbles or Cherry Ripes. But she is looking into it. Very exciting. she is also relocating closer to where I live. Could be dangerous.

    As far as other Australian’s. For me there is one on the island. Very nice and funny but we only bump into each other on occasion.

    Hope you have been adjusting to your new homel.

    Shazza

  4. Thanks for this post – on some level its good to hear of similar struggles from other expats in the area. I live in SE PA myself and miss my meat pies…but your post has just made me miss many other things now! 🙂 I recall the pizza places in Haberfield and Leichardt area growing up (in Strathfield)…especially the cabanossi – why is that not available here??! Admittedly I have not done as much research into the foods and their differences, which may provide a reason for their absence here I suppose… I look forward to trips into NYC (more frequent with my old job, and now with kids only as day trips in the summer) and eating at The Australian in midtown. I have to check out these other places as well this year. I wish there was something in Philly though 🙁 I have met one other Aussie near me during the recent Soccer World Cup in fact, but otherwise not much else. Anyway, I am gonna go off and daydream of my meat pie and Flake bar…and dont get me started on the milk bar hamburgers (with salad and egg)! Its also a rare treat to see my Bulldogs play in the NRL on TV…but I will keep searching.
    Take it easy

    • If you are in NYC, you should check out the Pie Face stores for sure. I look forward to going there too one day this year. Going home in June for a visit, so may be able to refresh our memories on those foods then. I think with time here, you do adapt to food much better. I am even now surprised when I hear Aussie clients and friends comment on how urk they think American bread is. I have even adapted to that although it is not my favorite food.

      This whole expat experience does make you appreciate back home those simple things like bread etc that you took for granted all your life until moving away!

      Cheers
      Anne-Marie

  5. Thats interesting to hear about how much you miss Aussie food. If you are interested there is a shop called “The Australian Shop” which posts food from Australia World Wide, you could certainly get your Auusie Weet-Bix and anything which can be found in a grocery store. The Shop can be found at http://www.theaustralianshop.com

  6. This was really enjoyable
    I’m a Perth Australian expat living in Las Vegas Nevada.
    California didn’t have blue skies it was mostly cloudy so we moved to Vegas and it’s much more blue but I do miss Perth beaches!

    I’m a professional photographer and videographer!
    http://www.skysimonephotography.com

  7. That’s a good list.
    I just recently moved to Seattle, WA from Sydney.
    Apart from the obvious I think two things I’ve missed like crazy would be chicken salt! Every chip shop (“fries” for our US friends) would have a bottle of it on stand by.

    Also chicken flavoured chips (chips for our US friends this time… confusing, I know) seem to be non-existent.

    However, I’m spoiled for meat pies, a couple hours north of Seattle in a town called Bellingham is a store called Man Pie. The owner lived in Melbourne for several years and opened an Aussie style pie shop when he came home.
    It is amazing and FAR better than Pie Face 🙂

  8. I am so envious of you guys, Brisbane expat living in Indianapolis.
    Other than tim-tams in the Kroger and tiny vegemite at the ‘international store’ there is no such thing as a pie or sausage roll here, let alone beef sausages!

    I miss musk sticks something chronic and proper australian Milo (South am Milo tastes and is textured odd)

    • Yep it’s hard to get by without missing at least one or two favorites. Not to be too insensitive, I just returned from an arduous trip to Australia for a sick parent but managed to snag some real Aussie lollies such as caramel buddies, milk bottles and teeth, and a huge block of Cadburys for the kids back home in NJ. I couldn’t resist helping sampling these once home and then I realized how much I missed these little pleasures. Needless to say, the food plunder didn’t last long!

  9. Well I never knew..I’m a former Aussie living in Portland Oregon the past 17 years an all this time i thought the weetabix was the same as back home weetbix.didnt even notice name diff.i also thought the British Cadburys was the same which brings me to ask the question how much does the milo tins here differ in drink.? I love milo.

    Australia def has better food in my opinion.

    • Hi Sammi,
      I haven’t tried Milo here- not sure if it is the same or different. I feel after all this time, I am starting to forget the differences as much. Amazing how you get used to something over time!
      Cheers
      Anne-Marie

  10. Bread, bread, bread!! I’m sick of eating stale, sweet sandwiches. I miss visiting my local bakery and getting fresh baked bread. The chocolate is a biggy too. Hershey’s tastes like vomit. My American husband had the honour of trying Cadbury and now is as big a snob as I am. I refuse to subject my kids to low quality chocolate. Pieface is an embarrassment to pies. No good. The pie got Americanized and ruined the whole thing. Whistler has the closest thing to a pie and sausage roll if your ever out that way.

  11. Julienne Pape says:

    What is the shop in Montclair where you buy Cadbury chocolate?

    • Hi Julienne,
      I go to the Pie Shop on Watchung Ave, near the station: https://thepiestorenj.com/
      They stock a variety of British goodies as well as vegemite and English Cadburys choc plus more. They are the only place I have found that stocks chocolate Easter Eggs that the kids know and love. Although it can be an expensive exercise, it is well worth it and their range of fresh baked goods is wonderful!
      Cheers
      Anne-Marie

  12. My son is an expat and I have been looking for food gifts to order.with everyone these days having so much stuff/clutterI would rather order them foods or experiences. In my searches I have found the following :
    I had attempted to make sausage rolls and pies when I visited but failed unfortunately. However, I know of a few places that can help you all-
    1. https://www.facebook.com/TheGreatAustralianBite/menu/# It’s an Australian restaurant in Aurora Colorado. They sell pies and sausage rolls too.
    2.www.dubpies.com ship their pies and sausage rolls across US from Brooklyn NYC.
    3.www.aussieproducts.com are good for other stuff like mustard pickles, solo soft drinks,biscuits,Bundaberg ginger beer, cereals, Cadbury chocolates,fan tales lollies etc.
    Btw I agree about US bread it is the pits! I ended up buying the more expensive wholegrain breads just avoid the sugar breads.
    I hope this helps someone out!

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