Epicurious Australia: What Is Modoz?


Prawns on the barbie. Image via matthewh.

While it’s usually easy to pinpoint the quintessential dishes of a country — chalupas in Mexico, paella in Spain, pasta bolognese in Italy — sometimes it’s a mystery. For example, when you think about typical Australian dishes, what comes to mind? Shrimp on the Barbie? That’s not a real thing. In fact, Australians call them prawns, not shrimp. Meat pies? Those were actually from the English. No matter how deep you dig, you’ll find there really is no quintessential Australian dish.

This is where “modoz” comes into play; however, before grasping the definition it’s important to understand Australia’s culinary culture.


Japanese sushi. Image via szarlota.

Cuisine Shaped By War

If you look at Australia’s history, the country has had many waves of incoming immigrants. While gold rushes in the 1800s brought the Chinese and Japanese, the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 led to displaced Vietnamese, Laos and Cambodian political refugees looking to make Australia a home. The end of the Gulf War and Desert Storm brought displaced Kuwaitis, while African conflicts and famine influenced the migration of Mogadishu, Sedan, Ethiopia and South African peoples to Australia. Most recently, the U.S. War On Terror brought displaced Afghanis to migrate to the country, as well.

While it’s clear wars displace people, the positive is they bring with them ingredients, cooking techniques and dishes from their native lands. Lemon grass, palm sugar and coriander from Asia, tumeric, garam masala and curries from the Middle East
and goat, slow-cooked braises and one-pot specials from Africa are now staples of typical Australian cuisine. To put it simply, the culinary culture of Australia is a melting-pot, with many international cuisines coming together in their most authentic form.

Yummy sausages almost grilled. Bon Appetit!

BBQ sausages. Image via Piku.

It’s Not A Dish, It’s A Philosophy

Instead of looking for a quintessential dish when in Australia, you need to look at their food philosophy. Along with being a melting pot of cuisines, the country uses locally-sourced ingredients for most of their meals. Even many ingredients that aren’t native to Australia have been planted and can be sourced in the country.

Moreover, Australian meals are typically eaten in a laid-back setting. While in the United States you’ll often find delicious, high-quality meals served in pretentious settings, this is extremely rare in Australia. More likely, you’ll dine in a relaxed restaurant or at a typical Aussie BBQ. Of course, you’ll still be eating an international buffet of foods — international salads, prawns marinated in an Asian glaze and Italian sausages.


Spices. Image via Chrobatos.

So, What Is Modoz?

Simply put, modoz refers to modern Australian cuisine where east-meets-west in a laid-back setting. Australians are open-minded and accepting of incorporating new cuisines into their culture; so much so these international dishes have actually become the culture. It’s basically everything previously explained, put into a neatly packed word.

What’s your opinion on the culinary culture of Australia?

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Jessica Festa

Jessica Festa is the editor of Epicure & Culture as well as Jessie on a Journey. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia, agritouring through Tuscany, and volunteering in Ghana.

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