Writer Shirley Sinclair hits the bush tucker trail at Kingfisher Bay Resort and discovers why it is becoming so popular. Shirley is the Features and Travel Editor for The Sunshine Coast Daily Newspaper. August 2010
FRASER Island has long been known for its harvest of the sea, with surf fishermen from near and far casting out in the hope of landing “a big one”. But these days, visitors are discovering the real bounty of the world’s largest sand island lies a little further up the dunes.
Bush tucker has always been the mainstay diet of the indigenous Butchulla tribe, but now Kingfisher Bay Resort guests are savouring its use in everything from cocktails to desserts in innovative creations from the resort kitchen and bars.
Those with a thirst for more knowledge can digest information on the smorgasbord of ingredients available on the island and beyond, and how to cook with each, during the popular Bush Tucker and Taste Talk – just one of the ranger activities on the menu at the resort.
Our journey of discovery pans out on the Seabelle Restaurant veranda, as head chef Ian and indigenous Ranger Jermaine take us step by step through a right royal taste-test where common plants, humble nuts and seeds, and “workaholic” spices are the stars of the show.
From the simplicity of adding wild lime to a margarita to the complexities of cooking game, we look, listen, learn and, more importantly, eat their words.
We dip into sauces – green (bunyah nut pesto), orange (bush tomato salsa) and beetroot- red (based on native rosellas), scoff down whole macadamia nuts, squish berries between our teeth, and take generous pinches of ground spices.
We dare to lick pepper berries, inhale lemon myrtle and ginger leaf fragrances, and gladly chew over the differences between pan-fried farmed croc or emu and our favourite rump steak.
Ranger Jermaine also shares stories of his auntie’s bush tucker recipes, and his uncle’s goanna dish that was made for special occasions.
Chef Ian says the challenge for Seabelle chefs and apprentices is to successfully marry bush tucker ingredients with conventional flavours, seasonal local produce and fresh seafood to create new dishes alongside signature favourites.
Some bush tucker additions are so subtle in taste, they are hard to recognise. Others create a sauce, rub or marinade that lift a piece of fish or slice of lamb to celebrity status. Taking the leaf out of traditional cooking methods, such as baking in paperbark, also produces melt-in-the-mouth taste sensations worth writing home about.
But the proof of the pudding (and entree and main meal) is always in the eating.
And dining in the award-winning a la carte Seabelle Restaurant – with its diverse selection of dishes incorporating bush tucker – is certainly a wake-up call for disenchanted tastebuds.
You’ll find yourself playing a guessing game over dinner to distinguish what added the zing here and the velvety smooth pizzazz there.
You’ll be blown away by entrees such as stuffed whole roasted quail
with lilly pillies and sage served with rice pilaf, baby carrot and thyme jus.
And you’ll need to re-read the menu to see why the half duck
twice cooked, on celeriac puree with poached quince, broccolini
and a muscat quandong jus – tasted so heavenly.
You’ll never look at the rainforest in quite the same way again.