When cultures meat: barbies with exotic flavours

Esther Han
Best of both worlds: Chefs Balu Gimeneg and Jose Santos barbecue Brazilian style with the finest Australian-grown meat.
Best of both worlds: Chefs Balu Gimeneg and Jose Santos barbecue Brazilian style with the finest Australian-grown meat. Photo: Peter Rae

Brazilian chef Jose Santos believes there is no better place in the world to have a barbecue than Australia.

"What is amazing is I can use the traditional Brazilian barbecue ways using juicy and good quality meats, like wagyu ones, that you wouldn't get in South America," said the owner of Barbicrew, a catering business. "I do love sausage sizzles though."

On Saturday he will be sliding chunky pieces of rump cap, chicken thigh and lamb onto metre-long metal skewers and cooking them in his portable barbecue at the trendy The Grounds of Alexandria eatery.

Santos, former churrasco chef at Wildfire, is one of many chefs smoking up Sydney for Barbecue Madness events part of Good Food Month, presented by Citi.

While turning snags on the backyard barbecue is a quintessential Australian summer image, the primal cooking style in multicultural Sydney means so much more, said Jacqui Newling, a food historian at Sydney Living Museums.

In the colonial era, frontier explorers using ramrods to broil salted pork and crows amounted to the typical barbecue. In the pastoral era of the 1800s, the burgeoning sheep population pushed lamb prices down and the meat on to dinner plates.

The tide of immigration in the mid-1900s brought the flavours of the world into the city, where barbecue emerged as the most obvious common thread.

"The style of cooking unifies us, one that every nationality shares," Ms Newling said. "It doesn't have the social strictures that indoor formal dining has."

Chefs Ben Milgate and Elvis Abrahanowicz have brought Argentinian barbecue to the forefront of Sydney's dining scene with their hatted Porteno restaurant in Surry Hills.


Abrahanowicz grew up enjoying large family parrilladas in the backyard, which paid homage to their Argentinian heritage. His father Adan mans the asador, or the fire pit, at the restaurant patiently stoking the flames for hours on end to cook pig and lamb into a succulent state.

"He pretty much taught us about cooking with fire. No other chef taught us about how to best get the coal going, how to maintain it at optimum temperature," said Milgate.

John Cho, of Hahn's Quality Meats in Homebush, will be serving Korean barbecue meats from his stall at the Strathfield Food Festival at the end of the month, after surprising success last year. The slices of bulgogi - Korean marinated barbecued beef - on a skewer was a big hit.

"The queue was endless and was still so long at 5pm that the organisers had to come and stop. I was trying to cook faster and faster. I was steady," he said. "I'll be ready this year with a hundred kilograms of more meat."

A recipe from Jose Santos, head chef at Barbicrew


Rump Cap in beer and wine marinade (Picanha na cerveja e vinho)


1.5kg of rump cap, cut into cubes
2 cups of beer 
1 cup of white wine 
1/2 cup of soy sauce 
2 cloves of garlic, crushed 
1 white onion, coursely chopped 
Salt and pepper


1) Combine the marinade ingredients in one bowl.

2) Add the cubes of meat and cover them in marinade

3) Place the bowl in the fridge for four hours.

4) Thread the meat onto bamboo skewers and add salt and pepper to taste

5) Preheat the barbecue grill to medium-high. Cook the meat on skewers to your liking.