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If Canberra had a signature dish, what would it be?

By Elias Hallaj - 23 July 2017 16

I recently read the story of how the Coney (a grilled chilli-hot-dog) became Detroit’s signature dish. It’s a fascinating yarn that reminds me how important good, affordable food for workers is critical for any city. It also made me think – does Canberra have a signature dish? Dr Google couldn’t answer that question, so I began to think … if Canberra had a signature dish, what would it be??

When I started food writing a few years ago, one of the meals which struck me with its ubiquity across our city was the humble schnitzel (or schnitty for the true connoisseurs). Is there another meal that is served in every single club, pub and many restaurants across the ACT? In terms of calories for cost, its value is pretty hard to beat as well.

The RiotACT previously covered reader’s recommendations for Canberra’s best schnitty in and the Austrian Club in Mawson was declared the winner after a taste-off between the two most popular destinations. The other was the Tradies. My favourite memory from the Dickson Tradies was in early 2001 of eating a massive schnitty in an old tram carriage, surrounded by vintage bicycles.

There are lots of places I would recommend trying a schnitty in Canberra, including the three mentioned above. Also high on my personal favourite list are the Durham Castle in Kingston ($10 lunch specials), Eastlake Football Club, Knuckles Restaurant at the German Harmonie Club, Edgar’s Inn Ainslie and there’s a few schnitzel burgers around too.

Speaking of burgers, maybe Brodburger could be considered Canberra’s signature dish? It has a lot of competition for burgers these days, but is still a quintessential Canberra brand, especially now that they have second van serving their burgers at ANU!

OK, I know schnitties are Austrian and burgers are American food, but is there a real authentic Canberra food? No doubt someone will suggest Bogong moths or Kangaroo Tail, but last time I looked there weren’t too many commercial kitchens serving them up.

How about the famous Freakshake by Patissez?!

Bentspoke beer? Beer is made from grain and hops and yeast, so it is definitely a kind of food don’t you agree?

The Yabby Jaffle at Hotel Hotel’s Monster Kitchen and Bar?

I’m all for letting the readers decide once and for all what is Canberra’s signature dish. What other foods should we add to the list for a survey?

I’ll put in an early vote for schnitties, but strongly recommend only trying one per day. And probably not more than a couple per week, just to be on the safe side.

Last year I visited Schnitzel House in Erindale (not sure why, but I enjoyed eating here more than the one in Braddon, it just seems a bit more noisy, friendly and authentic) and tried their “schnitzel challenge” and lived to tell the tale. You’re meant to polish off two large schnitzels, a large serving of pork belly, large bowl of chips, salad and a pint of beer. Anyway I passed the test, but boy did that second schnitty wipe the smile off my face!

Please add your comments below, what do you think is Canberra’s signature dish? Where is your favourite example? What other foods should we add to the list for a survey?

Elias Hallaj (aka CBRfoodie) is a part-time food blogger and full-time political staffer who has joined RiotACT as a regular contributor. All his opinions about schnitties are his own. Don’t worry he is trying to cut back on eating too much, but insists schnitties are just too damned tasty. If you have any tips or feedback or advice about schnitties or your own favourite signature food around Canberra you can add a comment below or find him most nights on Twitter @CBRfoodie.

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16 Responses to
If Canberra had a signature dish, what would it be?
Kiriel 4:53 pm 25 Jul 17

If you are thinking of things that really did emerge in Canberra, you can’t help but think of these things:
1. Kingsley’s (chips in particular)
2. Ali Babas
3. Zambreros (most people don’t realise Zambreros started here!)
4. Freakshakes
5. Ricardos amazing desserts of evil goodness.

Aragornerama 10:54 am 25 Jul 17

Lucy Baker said :

Something from the food & multicult festivals that doesn’t have an established nationality: Chips On a Stick!

Chips on a stick are Korean.

A genuine signature dish should be something that was actually developed in Canberra, not just a passable imitation of food or drink from elsewhere. Freakshakes and the yabby jaffle are the only two mentioned here that remotely qualify. I’d go with freakshakes for their relative ubiquity.

Holden Caulfield 10:05 am 25 Jul 17

Ian said :

I’d hate Brodburger to claim the title … there is no hamburger in the world worth waiting that long for.

If you’re complaining about Brod wait times, you’re doing it wrong. Order online ahead of time, walk in and collect straight away when it’s ready.

Holden Caulfield 10:03 am 25 Jul 17

Matt Donnelly said :

This may not be the fanciest of suggestions but I reckon a bag of Kingsley’s chips, soaked in vinegar, shared on a public bench in the dead of winter, is pretty Canberran.

Fancy food is good, of course, but it’s good to keep things real too.

Chips and gravy from Rolls Choice, back in the day, was a thing of magnificence!

astrojax 6:53 am 25 Jul 17

ali baba is a local franchise that does very good standard fare, so is my pick on this one. washed down with a wig and pen beer – original and still best local brews…

schnitties are ubiquitous across the country, so hardly a local signature dish.

Ian 11:57 pm 24 Jul 17

As much as I like a good schnitzel I can’t really say it’s a Canberra thing.

I’d hate Brodburger to claim the title … there is no hamburger in the world worth waiting that long for.

Matt Donnelly 8:44 pm 24 Jul 17

This may not be the fanciest of suggestions but I reckon a bag of Kingsley’s chips, soaked in vinegar, shared on a public bench in the dead of winter, is pretty Canberran.

Rollersk8r 12:22 pm 24 Jul 17

I’m 100% behind local things! Especially when they’re punching above their weight!! The clearest examples I know of are beers – Bentspoke, PACT and Capital. I’m sure there a few wines that are semi-well known too, Helm for example?

Food trends don’t seem to last – but I do know schnitzels and parmas (and other stuff like nutella donuts and cronuts) were already big things in Melbourne/Sydney before becoming more common/popular here. Definitely can’t be claimed as Canberran.

We do alright with coffee, surely? There’s Frugi ice cream, which is a bit overrated in my opinion. I know there’s some local chocolate makers, although unfortunately nothing on the same scale as Haighs.

Holden Caulfield 11:26 am 24 Jul 17

+1 for the Yabby Jaffle from Monster Bar.

John Moulis 9:26 am 24 Jul 17

For 15 minutes of fame a few years back we had a signature dish which went viral. Remember the freakshakes from the cafe in Kingston? As we all know, the whole freakshakes thing played out like the Flaming Moe episode of The Simpsons. The creators revealed on national TV the secret ingredient – a jar of Nutella in each shake – and pretty soon freakshake copies were being made and sold by everybody until the public lost interest and everybody moved on.

Lucy Baker 8:44 pm 23 Jul 17

Something from the food & multicult festivals that doesn’t have an established nationality: Chips On a Stick!

andrewwhiteau 6:17 pm 23 Jul 17

For a while it was the cronut. Countless visitors from Sydney and Brisbane clamoured for Penny University’s and Ricardo’s cronuts but couldn’t obtain them back home.

Lucy Wilson 4:05 pm 23 Jul 17

Schnitty at the Tradies!

Maryann Mussared 1:33 pm 23 Jul 17

We need to talk about sausages.You can’t go to Bunnings, Harvey Norman, many community get-togethers on a weekend without being seduced by the smell of frying onions and neatly browning sausages. But there are good sausages and some quite awful sausages. Any sausage that comes from Country Pride is good whether it is the humble breakfast sausage or one of their remarkably tasty ‘fat’ gourmet sausages – lamb and rosemary is particularly good. I am a fan of over 20 years standing.

Tommy Southern 10:13 am 23 Jul 17

You can’t go past Pialligo Bacon! CBR icon…

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