Today we feature a healthy, grilled seafood salad, perfect for an appetizer or light lunch. Grilled shrimp and calamari are tossed with baby spinach, (red) salad onion, red bell pepper and avocado to deliver a colorful salad full of crunch. Topped with a simple dressing this dish is quick to make as well as easy.
Melbourne’s café culture makes this style of dish a very popular choice especially for the health-conscious. Many Melbournians take advantage of the proximity to Port Phillip Bay and the availability of great seafood to enjoy an el-fresco seafood meal in the sunshine on offer.
Seafood restaurants are a highlight in Melbourne. We take a look back at how the humble fish and chip shop has matured into a gourmet treat and how Melbournians’ tastes have expanded to cook and enjoy seafood in an almost never ending range of methods, tastes and flavors.
Humble Fish and Chips Turn Gourmet
Melbourne’s British heritage, and a large catholic population, meant that fish and chip shops were extremely popular in the 1960’s when I grew up.
Until the mid-1960’s in Australia, Catholics were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays. As well, people were not as proficient or confident about cooking seafood. Along with the fact that multi-culturalism was in its infancy at the time, meant there was very little choice for takeaway (carryout) in Melbourne. Maybe the odd Chinese café. The bottom line was that there were fish and chip shops everywhere in Melbourne at the time and generations of Melbournians grew up eating them on a regular basis.
“Flake, 2 potato cakes and minimum chips” was a common order at the time. Flake is actually gummy shark and is a Melbourne favorite. It’s also very good. “Minimum chips” is a distinctly Australian term you saw and heard in every fish and chip shop and represented the cost of 1 big scoop of chips. It was the minimum quantity of chips you could order. There is even a racehorse in Australia called “minimum chips”! It is a much loved term! All orders were freshly cooked in large deep frying vats.
But now times have changed and many fish and chip shops have disappeared, primarily because of the greater range of foods now available as takeaway. Surviving fish and chip shops have had to compete and there is a much healthier emphasis on cooking methods, healthier oils and a higher prevalence of grilled fish. Ingredients offered in fish and chip shops have also become more gourmet. Think scallop skewers, healthy salads, light beer batters and a greater range of fish to cook.
Now a visit to a fish and chip shop has become a real gourmet experience. Melbourne fish and chips are good and if you want to experience some of the better offerings, the Herald-Sun (a local Melbourne newspaper) nominates some of the best to try.
A good place to enjoy fish and chips and get a sea view as well is to go to St Kilda. It is certainly an eclectic place and has maybe the best footpath dining in Melbourne. Both Acland Street and Fitzroy Street have brilliantly wide footpaths where you can enjoy some of that el-fresco dining while you people watch in one of the best places in Australia to people watch!
Seafood Delicacies in Melbourne
From humble beginnings, seafood consumption has really matured in Melbourne. Melbourne is a fabulous market city. There are numerous major markets all around Melbourne and its suburbs. The Queen Victoria market and South Melbourne market (both close to the CBD) are particularly good for seafood.
Some of the more popular, local fish include Flathead, Flake, King George Whiting, Snapper, Calamari and Rock Lobster (a highlight). Shellfish is also extremely popular, including Scallops, Prawns, and Mussels.
It’s not just the home cook embracing seafood but restaurants and cafes as well. Given Melbourne’s large, multi-cultural population, there is no shortage of seafood styles to try. Spanish, Greek, Moroccan, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese methods are all very popular.
It’s no wonder it is hard to define “Australian-style” cooking. Australia is a young country with many different cultural influences. But to me this grilled seafood salad recipe is a great representation of Australian cooking, el-fresco style and perfect for the Australian climate.
November is Melbourne month. To read more about Melbourne and its cuisine, try here:
- Melbourne, world’s best for sport?
- Healthy avocado squash for breakfast
- 5 Insider Tips for Enjoying Fantastic Food in Melbourne
- Butternut Squash Quinoa Soup
- 11 of Melbourne’s best food shops and cooking classes
- Quality Gourmet Cheese Platter
- Guide to Fabulous Melbourne Markets
- Home-made Muesli with Yogurt, Rhubarb and Honey
- Insider Tips to Make the Most of your Melbourne Visit
- Traditional Roast Pork with Better Crackling
- How to Eat your Way Around the World in Melbourne