Prawn cutlets feature in the fisherman's basket from The Fish Shop in Sydney's Potts Point. Photo: Jennifer Soo
Some fast foods are ubiquitous. I can grab a meat pie in Middlesbrough as easily as in Mildura. But other takeaway items can be found only in the wilds of specific countries – regardless of whether they're an introduced or native species.
Here's a guide to the take away classics of Australia.
Fifti centae eachus
Want fried egg on your burger? Just ask for ''the works''. Photo: Fiona Morris
Or “potato cake” to residents of Victoria and the Apple Isle. A trip to the takeaway isn't complete without one of these golden boys and a minimum $3 worth of chips (remember the days when it used to be 50¢?!). Chicken salt is not an option, of course; it is a must. Sweet, flavour enhancer 621, oh yeah.
Natural habitats: school bus stops, kitchen benches on takeaway night, beachside picnics, train station kiosks.
Giantae cabbagis springos
A Dagwood Dog at the Royal Queensland Show or "Ekka". Photo: Harrison Saragossi
The Chiko is a spring roll we can call our own. A chewy, and at times impenetrable dough, encasing cabbage, carrot and meat that tastes like grey. Discovering the home-cook could pick up four packs of these from the supermarket freezer section was a holy moment for dads nationwide.
Natural habitats: supermarket freezers, grand-final parties, Puberty Blues movie nights.
Steamed or fried? The dim sim was the first introduction many postwar Australians had to Cantonese cooking. Mind, the dimmies found in service stations around Oz today have about as much in common with Chinese siu mai as ravioli does with rice paper.
Natural habitats: yum cha party packs, regional truck stops, South Melbourne Market, Hobart's Salamanca Market, old-school fish 'n' chipperies.
All the glory of a pie with the convenience of a sausage roll! Perfect for the trucker on the go now that those pesky point-to-point speed cameras are everywhere. Probably avoid any versions containing chicken and mushroom (this applies to in-situ pies too).
Natural habitats: Kenworth gloveboxes, AFL games, post-music-festival road trips.
Works burger with egg
Hamburgerae withae lotus
Want to bestow an “Aussie” prefix to pizza or burger? Slap an egg on it! And don't forget the beetroot. This mainstay of fish'n'chip shops had a brief foray into the world of fast food franchises courtesy of McOz. Now relegated from the full Maccas menu to a "promotional item", you can DIY at the magical cutover time of 10.30am and request fried egg as an extra (while you're there, remember that a cheeseburger made with a Sausage McMuffin sausage is one of the world's great brunches).
Natural habitat: industrial estates, suburban takeaways, Queensland.
Hawaius value packus
Is it a side dish or a dessert? Who cares? This golden circle of Golden Circle is delicious. The pin-frit's talent is its ability to send the eater on a time-travelling jaunt to 1970s Hawaii with each bite. Something of an endangered species in the southern states, we thank the Red Rooster Trust for keeping the deep-fried lineage alive.
Natural habitat: northern NSW fish-and-chipperies, rockabilly parties, tropical-themed office shindigs.
Canis onis stickus
Pluto Pup to some, Dagwood Dog to others and battered sav to anyone who tuned into Roy and HG's Olympic coverage. Most members of the meat-on-a-stick club are chargrilled and can hold their own without condiments. This guy, however, needs enough tomato sauce to fill the local showground before becoming anywhere close to edible.
Natural habitat: country shows including Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Sydney Speedway, Dungog Rodeo, travelling 'carnies' in seaside towns over school holidays.
“Creamed corn is already awesome," said Marketing Man No. 1. “How can we make it better?” “Deep fry it in batter, silly!” replied Marketing Man No. 2. Between this, the namesake spring roll and those brown fish cakey things, Chiko has a monopoly on Australia's takeaway market. These oozing batons of calories are the pick of the product line.
Natural habitat: fluoro-lit seafood shacks, vegetarian-catered family days, the bicycle baskets of ironic under-30s.
Ball of mystery
Growing up, the cornershop near my high school guarded what my mates and I referred to as “the ball”. It was the kind of thing eaten as a dare or used as a doorstop. A rissole in name only, these balls of mystery meat can be found under warming lights from Broome to Burnie. It's always one mystery ball per bain-marie – usually partnered with a cantankerous kransky and a chicken skewer.
Natural habitat: Old-school takeaways, Upper Hunter servos, Holsworthy Barracks munitions depot.
A seafood basket staple and the perfect thing to get kids who don't eat prawns eating prawns. Why? Because most of them are so far removed from a prawn they might as well be a chicken nugget. Some keen takeaways go a bit further and do a prawn cutlet burger. Please let me know if one of these is near you.
Natural habitat: Fisherman's baskets, Sydney Fish Market, Newcastle.