• Waterlily bulbs are used to create Indigenous damper. (Surfing the Menu: Next Generation)
You've tasted battered barramundi, grilled prawns and fresh mangoes, but what about pearl meat or the "chocolate pudding" fruit?
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3 Apr 2017 - 2:01 PM  UPDATED 7 Nov 2018 - 2:31 PM

They share Tongan feasts by the river, fresh Coolabah barramundi and luxurious pearl ceviche in Broome; the new installment of the popular Surfing the Menu series isn’t your regular food road trip.

Throughout STM: Next Generation, good mates Dan Churchill and Hayden Quinn head off on an adventure around Australia to unearth the country’s best food spots – with a side of surfing, where possible. They’re telling the stories of producers in the most remote corners of the country that seldom get told.

“At the same time, you’ll see you can cook with any ingredient, anywhere – the food and recipes are so accessible,” Churchill says. “You’ll get to see how beautiful and diverse this country is in relation to food.”

Defining the nation’s cuisine has been a constant challenge. There’s the Indigenous foods of our nation’s First People; global flavours imported by the booming migrant population; the rise of native meats such as kangaroo and wallaby; our diverse fishing waters (the third largest on the planet); and those dishes that, over time, have morphed into iconic national meals (think battered barramundi and chips; barbecued prawn and the mighty pav).

The MasterChef mates have done some serious leg work to find foods that are both native and global but are now being grown or harvested locally, that everyone should try.

Pearl meat 

It can fetch up to $100 per kilogram when fresh. Pearl meat is a delicacy, because only small amounts of the meat are harvested each year from oysters that are no longer producing pearls.

In Broome, Quinn and Churchill meet Pearl Hamaguchi, an Australian pearl diver who comes from a Chinese, Indigenous, Scottish and Japanese pearl diving background. Here, the guys prepare a quick pearl meat ceviche using the under-utilised ingredient, and are floored by the flavours.

Pearl meat is considered a delicacy in Australia and Asia.

Chia seeds

They can be eaten raw or added to dishes, and are packed full of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, fibre, iron and magnesium. Australia holds the second largest chia seed production in the world. “To see the level of detail and calibration the farmers go to in order to get the most out of each seedling without waste was mind-blowing,” says Quinn. The guys visit the German family-run Bothkamp Australia Farm in Kununurra to get a taste of one of the country’s favourite health buzz foods on a mass scale.

Quinn and Churchill turn chia seeds into coconut chia puddings, enjoyed for breakfast or dessert.

Indigenous honey and damper

At the Beswick Indigenous Community in Katherine, NT, Churchill and Quinn dig up a native honey ‘sugarbag’ before harvesting waterlily bulbs to turn into damper. Native honey is great in baked goods, like this banana cake with ricotta.

“It was really grainy and dense,” Churchill says of the seed damper. “It was the head of the lilly where we got the seeds out of and smashed them up with a rock. Then we wrapped it in foil and baked it in a fire. It was so good.”

Churchill and Quinn dig up a native honey ‘sugarbag' in Katherine.

Gourmet mushrooms

The mates pay a visit to a mushroom farm to propagate some unusual types of fungi on a petrie dish with help from owners Laurent Verpeaux and his wife, Kim Sellers at Bambaroo. “I really loved this mushroom farm, just outside of Ingham in Queensland,” Churchill says. “Then Hayden put these beautiful, diverse mushrooms in this earthy and rich linguini. They were really special.”

Unusual types of gourmet fungi are on the rise.

Moreton Bay bugs

After some snorkeling on the reef, Hayden and Churchill source some delicious Moreton Bay Bugs, known internationally as flat head lobsters or slipper lobsters. Although similar, Moreton Bay Bugs are a little smaller than crayfish in terms of size, and the edible meat on the bug is found on their tail. The guys do their own spin on the classic prawn roll using the sweet long-tailed bugs. 

Moreton Bay bugs from Bowen in tropical North Queensland are a local delicacy.

North Queensland's Black Sapote fruit

"It’s not bush tucker, it’s from the Amazon," Quinn says. "It’s like a custard apple, but it's black and it’s got a gooey, chocolatey, datey, custard centre."

This relative of the custard apple and the persimmon is also known as the "chocolate pudding fruit" due to its colour, taste and texture. While not originally from Australia, black sapote are now grown throughout Queensland.

"It's like you're holding a peach, you bite into said peach, and it tastes like chocolate mousse," says Churchill. "They're incredible.

Native to the Amazon but grown in Northern Queensland, the black sapote fruit is famous for its chocolatey colour, texture and taste.

Banana flour from Bundy

A visit to a banana plantation in Bundaberg, Queensland reveals an unknown baking wonder ingredient: banana flour. In developing countries, bananas are often turned into flour as a substitute for milk formula but can also be used to make everything from pancakes to pizza and smoothies. Plus, they have a high starch content, meaning a generally lower GI level, and it's free from gluten. Quinn and Churchill try their hand at baking using the flour.

And the research on bananas says ...?

View our TV Guide to find out when episodes  of Surfing the Menu: Next Generation are on air or catch up on missed episodes on SBS On Demand.

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Wattleseed and thyme damper

The wattleseeds add a nutty, coffee-like flavour and smell fantastic when sliced hot.

Seasonal weed calendar
For all you fans of foraging, here's a handy guide to weeds by the season from The Weed Forager's Handbook by Adam Grubb and Annie Raser-Rowland. As always, please exercise caution when gathering or consuming any wild or unknown plants.