• Mark Olive is ready to give us a treat at A Taste of Kakadu. (Jimmy Fog)Source: Jimmy Fog
A Taste of Kakadu is here to teach us how to embrace traditional Indigenous cooking techniques today.
Mariam Digges

24 Apr 2019 - 11:59 AM  UPDATED 24 Apr 2019 - 3:29 PM

The world has cottoned on to the incredible flavour and nutritional offering of Indigenous Australian ingredients – thanks in part to a surge in urban foraging, some key voices sharing their insights and history, and of course menus that are featuring these flavours front and centre.

Many are now savvy to the earthy zest of lemon myrtle, the fibrous goodness of Warrigal greens and the textural magic of finger limes, reflected in their spike in popularity. 

Kakadu plum harvested by Kimberley Wild Gubinge.

But the fact remains that Aboriginal people are yet to receive adequate recognition for, or economic rewards from, the industry's boom. Some studies have indicated as little as one per cent of bush foods are produced by Indigenous people.

Enter A Taste of Kakadu, an immersive Indigenous food festival happening from 10-19 May with a program celebrating the local bush food culture. This year, the festival will be celebrating Kakadu National Park's 40th anniversary.

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Indigenous people living in and around the World Heritage-listed park in the Northern Territory – home to one of the world's most vitamin C-dense fruits, the Kakadu plum – have been foraging and hunting for many thousands of years, explains Anja Toms, Kakadu National Park's tourism and visitor service manager.

"This festival is a great opportunity for visitors to experience a snapshot of what nature provides in terms of food, how to prepare it and what it tastes like," Toms says.

A Taste of Kakadu, an immersive Indigenous food festival happening from 10-19 May.

For this year's program, Toms has engaged with several Indigenous people from Kakadu to flaunt the 65,000-year-old site's abundance of natural food. There will be forage walks guided by traditional owners, riverside cook-ups run by local Indigenous ranger groups, and TV host and Bundjalung man Mark Olive will also be hosting cooking demos. 

With every year that A Taste of Kakadu returns, Toms says popularity and interest continues to spike. 

“Our families, our Elders, lived off the land for generations."

One of the traditional owners appearing this year is Mandy Muir, a Bininj woman who runs bespoke traditional food tours and the Kakadu Billabong Safari Camp.

"My family are traditional owners of central Kakadu – I'm what they call a 'Djungayi', a caretaker for mother country," Muir tells SBS.

Muir has spent the last 30 years working in tourism in Kakadu, providing eco accommodation and Aboriginal cultural experiences. She will be hosting a safari experience and preparing a traditional ground-oven feast at this year's event.

"A Taste of Kakadu is a great opportunity to talk about our land and our life from our perspective."

"Our families, our Elders, lived off the land for generations. Living life around the wetlands – it's where I've grown up all my life. A Taste of Kakadu is a great opportunity to talk about our land and our life from our perspective."

Get amongst it at the Taste of Kakadu Festival.

Muir says it's important that visitors spend more than just a day at Kakadu, if possible, to really understand its living cultural landscape. 

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"I suppose people in the city don't always realise how everything's [not] got to be on time. In the bush, it takes however long it takes. That's why having that quality time, staying longer here, will let people be able to experience it [Kakadu] in a real meaningful way," she says. 

Toms and Muir share three ways to embrace Indigenous cooking techniques today.

Muir says it’s important for visitors to spend more than just a day at Kakadu if possible, to really understand its living cultural landscape.

Preserving and pickling

An easy and accessible way to enjoy Kakadu's local produce is by preserving it into jams, spreads and breakfast smoothies, Toms says.

"Mandy's family are actually looking into bottling up and making these available to the local community. It's a great way to bring the old local native ingredients into modern products. 

"Who would've thought a few years ago about breakfast smoothies with Kakadu plums, for example?"

Gubinge jam with scones and cream

Gubinge, also known as Kakadu plum, is packed with nutrition, it's delicious and I loved learning about something I'd never seen before.

Cooking in the ground

This is a great way to cook meat and vegetables and retain maximum moisture, explains Toms. 

"During the demos, visitors will see large pieces of meat go onto hot rocks and coal and then get covered with leaves [for taste] and large sheets of paperbark to cook in the ground. It takes several hours to cook, but keeps all the juices in."

Cooking in a ground oven.

Mindful foraging

It's important not to over-harvest, Muir urges. "Stick to small experiences at a time, not huge ones. We want to be able to provide enough to keep it for future generations, too. That's really important.

"We want you to embrace some of our bush food – we want to share our old knowledge and continue passing it down for thousands of years because that's how truly long our people have been here."


A Taste of Kakadu

10 - 19 May, 2019

For the full program and ticket information, visit the website.

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