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Aussie animals you can eat

Kebabs and patties being cooked on a barbecue.
Native Australian meats lend themselves well to barbecuing.

Supplied: Bryant Wells

Australia is well known for its iconic animals like kangaroos and emus. But as well as seeing them at zoos or wildlife parks, or perhaps even in the wild, did you know you can eat some of them too?

Executive chef and founder of Tukka Catering, Bryant Wells, has always been a fan of cooking with native Australian ingredients, and it's something he encourages international visitors to try as well.

"You're here to experience Australia and what Australia has to offer," says Bryant.

"You don't come to Australia and have lamb or beef, you can get that anywhere!"

Native Australian meats have a slightly gamey flavour to them, but many are also very healthy.

"Most of the cuts - kangaroo, emu - are very lean, very high in iron, very low in fat," he says.

If you're going to travel to Australia you might as well taste it too, so here are Bryant's top Aussie animals to try.

Kangaroo

Composite image of a kangaroo and a dish containing kangaroo.
A kangaroo and kangaroo with Davidson's plum gel, roasted baby vegetables and pea puree.

Kangaroo: Unsplash CC: Mark Galer & dish: Supplied: Bryant Wells

"Kangaroo is wild caught," says Bryant, "and there are strict rules on what you can and can't catch."

In terms of flavour "kangaroo is slightly stronger than lamb, but more like lamb than beef" he says, and you have to be careful not to overcook it.

"If you cook it anywhere past medium it develops a very strong smell, a very strong flavour, and it dries out because of the low fat content," says Bryant. "Medium rare is perfect."

"That's why it took so long to take off, people in Australia loved to cook medium well… and kangaroo is just not that kind of meat."

You cook kangaroo like a normal steak, either in a hot pan or on a barbecue on a grill plate, he says.

Sear it for about 45 seconds each side, and then finish it off in an oven set to between 180 to 200 degrees, depending on how efficient your oven is, for about six to eight minutes. After you bring it out of the oven, let it rest for about five minutes.

Emu

Composite image of an emu and a dish containing emu.
An emu and seared emu with pickled vegetables and an artichoke puree.

Emu: Flickr CC: Cars10s PhoToes & dish: Supplied: Bryant Wells

The other half of Australia's coat of arms is a much darker, richer meat, similar to venison.

"It has a very, very high iron content, so it has a bit of a mineral flavour to it," says Bryant.

"Your emu should be cooked perfectly at rare," he says. "Anything past medium rare and you're going to have to dry it out. It becomes very tough and again it develops a smell that's really unappetising."

You can cook emu similar to how you cook kangaroo, it just doesn't need as long in the oven.

Emu meat isn't yet very commonly available, so you'll need to find a specialty butcher that stocks it or can order it in for you.

Part of the reason for this, says Bryant, is that a lot of emus are farmed for their oil and the related beauty products that can be made from that, rather than their meat.

It's also quite an expensive meat, for premium cuts expect to pay anywhere from $35 to $45 a kilo.

"But your secondary cuts are quite inexpensive," says Bryant, "if you trim your secondary cuts down, and trim well you can get just the same sort of flavour out of it."

Crocodile

Saltwater crocodile.
A saltwater crocodile at Corroboree Billabong in Australia's Northern Territory.

Flickr CC: Andy Tyler

Crocodile is best described as a mix between chicken breast and swordfish, says Bryant.

"It's classed as a seafood, it has a slight swordfish flavour, and the texture is a mix between those two."

Saltwater crocodiles are farmed for their skins and meat in places like Cairns, in far north Queensland.

But don't undercook crocodile or "it's kind of like chewing a rubber band" says Bryant.

"It's very much like fish, if you slightly undercook it and let it rest, it's going to cook through," he says, "then that's going to be perfect."

You can either pan sear crocodile and finish it off in the oven in four or five minutes, or you could try cooking it ceviche-style; thinly sliced with a little bit of oil and acid, whether that's a flavoured vinegar or some lime juice. It's the acid in the vinegar or lime juice that cooks the meat.

"We used to do a really nice ceviche dish with fresh watermelon and some freeze-dried mandarin and a finger lime dressing," says Bryant.

"So we'd get some normal lime juice, some grapeseed oil, a bit of salt and pepper. Toss the finely sliced crocodile through and let it sit for three to five minutes, and then serve that."

Possum

Composite image of a possum and a dish containing possum.
A possum and confit possum with peach gastrique and strawberry apple salad.

Possum: Flickr CC: _TC Photography_ & dish: Supplied: Bryant Wells

Possums are protected by law in Australia but some are still culled in Tasmania under a special licence, so if you're eating possum it will be from Tassie.

Possum meat is slightly darker and has a similar, but slightly stronger, flavour than rabbit.

"[They] look big and fluffy and fat but," says Bryant, "when you get to the meat they're not."

Possum lends itself well to braising or being cooked in a confit style.

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