IN AUSTRALIA, we proudly take our culinary inspiration from all around the world. American burger joints sit comfortably beside authentic Northern Thai street food restaurants.
But it’s less common for our influences to be felt overseas.
But there’s an Australian ingredient that’s suddenly making waves overseas, and it’s not what you’d expect.
Is it a plant or fruit native to our isolated ecosystem? Nope.
Is it a culinary byproduct of our extraordinary multicultural society? It is not.
It’s chicken salt.
Yes, that mystical shaker of yellowish deliciousness that’s wielded by fish and chip merchants across the country is actually an Australian specialty.
Although our Australian KFC chips wouldn’t be the same without it (in the US they use simple, plain, normal salt), many are surprised to learn that chicken salt has remained largely unknown outside Australia.
Lucky Peach, the reputable food journal launched by chef and international food authority David Chang, explained that ‘when Aussies get together [in America], the conversation inevitably turns to chicken salt, how it’s not available in the States, and how it should be’.
The same piece then swooned, rightly, that ‘it’s good on everything’.
American food website Epicurious has been even more glowing, calling chicken salt ‘the savoury umami magnet that’s good on everything.’
(Umami is the mysterious ‘fifth flavour’, describing anything with a savoury meaty quality).
‘Packed with mouth-watering umami and rich flavours,’ the website goes on to say, ‘chicken salt is the seasoning you need in your life and on your snacks. It’s from Australia, which seems to be the home of all cult savory condiments (we’re looking at you, Vegemite).’
The seemingly recent discovery in the Northern Hemisphere of our favourite chip seasoning has been a long time coming for some. In a post on her Facebook page a year ago, ‘liked’ more than 10,000 times, Australian singer Alison Wonderlandlaments “Americans don’t know what chicken salt is. It doesn’t exist here. It’s messing with me.”
Rarely guilty of half-embracing something, our US brethren have even found new ways to enjoy chicken salt, having been spotted using it as a seasoning for popcorn and even clinging to the rim of a Bloody Mary.
While a number of American restaurants have taken to making it themselves, a small range of chicken salts has appeared for general sale, including from online superstore Amazon.
One of the leading brands, a vegan version called Jada Chicken Salt, was the result of a successful ‘Staff Pick’ Kickstarter campaign.
Created by an American couple that discovered our hot chip staple while honeymooning here, the brand’s logo even features an image of our country.
“As a seasoning,” co-creator Sara explains, “it elevated the dishes that I cooked. We never forgot our love for Chicken Salt and knew that one day, the USA would catch on.”
“Welcome to one day!”
We Australians have long claimed to live in the lucky country, but we never realised quite how lucky we were.
Our national anthem might praise our “golden soil”, but perhaps we should raise a similar salute to our golden salts.