Most Popular Ethnic Cuisine in Australia (It’s Not Chinese!)
Australia is a nation of immigrants, and while only the Witchetty Grub seems to remain of the indigenous cuisine, the Australian’s culinary taste features dishes from around the world.
But which comes up top? Here we use data from Google Trends to find out how the food of the world ranks on Australia’s palate.
Google provides data on a whole range of topics, including national cuisines, and allocates a score that indicates the level of interest in the topic.
Google uses AI to categorize search terms for national cuisines. For example, Japanese cuisine will comprise hundreds or thousands of searches related to the topic such as Japanese restaurants, Japanese rice, sushi, sushi recipes, Japanese food, and even names of well-known Japanese restaurants.
Google then counts how often they are used in countries, regional areas, towns and cities relative to all local searches and allocates an interest score.
For example, if Geelong scores 100 for Japanese cuisine and Sydney scores 80, it doesn’t mean more searches were done in Geelong than in Sydney; it means a higher percentage of people in Geelong than in Sydney searched for Japanese cuisine.
Let’s look in-depth at the top six favored cuisines, showing each region’s and city’s preference for a cuisine over the other four as a percentage. Of course, being not only down under but down under Asia, it is unsurprising that food from the region dominates the top six.
Read on to find out how the world’s food ranked in Australia this year.
6. Mexican (Popularity Score 27)
Australia is going taco crazy, headlines Quartz magazine in 2015. And indeed – Mexican food popularity has soared in the early 2010s in Australia, according to Google data, and is now one of the most popular ethnic foods here.
Mexican food is most popular in Victoria (Score 100), followed by New South Wales (Score 88) and South Australia (Score 88). Hover on the map below to view popularity scores for each state and territory.
On a city level, the top spot is shared between Geelong and Sunshine Coast, with Gold Coast and Central Coast coming up in the 3rd and 4th place.
Australia’s Capital of Mexican Cuisine: Geelong and Sunshine Coast
5. Indian (Popularity Score 29)
Indian and Mexican food fought for fifth position throughout the year, but Indian pipped Mexican (Popularity Score 27) at the post. And so it should, with Indians being the fourth largest immigrant community.
Australians love the intensity and color of Indian cuisine and enjoy foods from various regions.
Across the country a taste for curries and naan has mushroomed since the 1960s, but it was Melbourne that scored full 100 points in popularity this year, Hobart second, with Sydney coming 7th with 81.
On a regional level, Indian food is most popular in Victoria (Score 100), followed by Western Australia (Score 88) and South Australia (Score 88). Hover on the map below to view popularity scores for each state and territory.
Australia’s Capital of Indian Cuisine: Melbourne
4. Japanese (Popularity Score 32)
There’s a love affair with Japanese food going on in Australia that is driven by the cuisine’s seasonality, simplicity, and abundance of flavor. Australians are also thinking sustainability and the ethical sourcing of ingredients is driving interest in the cuisine.
Melbourne came top again in popularity stakes, scoring 100 points, with Sydney coming second with 90. The Northern Territory seems less sure of Japanese food with a score of just 40.
On a regional level, Japanese food is most popular in Victoria (Score 100), followed by Western Australia (Score 83) and Western Australia (Score 88). Hover on the map below to view popularity scores for each state and territory.
Australia’s Capital of Japanese Cuisine: Melbourne
3. Italian (Popularity Score 45)
Italian cuisine might have been voted the world’s most popular, but down here the only non-Asian food in the top five comes in third. Makes perfect sense as Italians are the third biggest ethnic group in Australia and Italian is the third most commonly spoken language – who knew?
It all began after World War Two when Italians began migrating to the country and bringing with them the delicacies of Italian food. But we weren’t quick to savor the taste but as the ingredients became easier to get hold of, the Aussies love of Italian food took off.
Perth scored the highest interest with 100 points, but Sunshine Coast, Sydney, Gold Coast and Melbourne all came in with scores in the 90s.
Italian food is most popular in Western Australia (Score 100), followed by New South Wales (Score 94) and Victoria (Score 80). Hover on the map below to view popularity scores for each state and territory.
Australia’s Capital of Italian Cuisine: Perth
2. Chinese (Popularity Score 57)
Every town in Australia has a Chinese restaurant, according to SBS. That’s just how popular the Chinese cuisine is. The food was first available in the 1850s but its popularity didn’t really take off until the 1960s and the end of the White Australia legislation.
According to a 2017 survey by research firm Roy Morgan, Chinese was the most popular cuisine across age groups in Australia. But that was a survey of 50,000. The beauty of Google Trends is that it picks up the interest of every computer user in the country, and that’s a full 86% of homes.
Moreover, most Google searches show a clear intent for consuming dishes specific to a certain cuisine, either at home or while eating out, whereas Roy Morgan survey shows a preference for a cuisine, but not necessarily how many people are actually enjoying it.
Chinese food is most popular in Western Australia (Score 100), followed by New South Wales (Score 96) and Queensland (Score 84). Hover on the map below to view popularity scores for each state and territory.
And the capital of Chinese food in Australia? Mandurah, which scored 100 in popularity with Central Coast second with 90.
Australia’s Capital of Chinese Cuisine: Mandurah
1. Thai (Popularity Score 73)
Australia hosts more Thai restaurants per person outside Thailand than any other country. That’s how much they love the food.
It’s the balance of sweet, sour, hot and salty, the wonderful of array of dishes that make up a full Thai meal, and the availability of ingredients that make the food so tempting to the Australian taste.
Clearly, the Australian palate has become far more sophisticated than a a few decades ago. It has come a long way and they have the migrants seeking new lives to thank for bringing such delights to their shores.
Thai food is most popular in New South Wales (Score 100), followed by Queensland (Score 93) and Victoria (Score 77). Hover on the map below to view popularity scores for each state and territory.
On a city level, Thai cuisine is most popular in Sunshine Coast, followed by Cairns and Central Coast.
Australia’s Capital of Thai Cuisine: Sunshine Coast
Chef’s Pencil has analysed Google Trends data for the past 12 months (November 2018 through November 2019). Google Trends popularity scores are relative and not absolute. Please see below how Google defines regional popularity scores:
Values are calculated on a scale from 0 to 100, where 100 is the location with the most popularity as a fraction of total searches in that location, a value of 50 indicates a location which is half as popular. A value of 0 indicates a location where there was not enough data for this term.
Note: A higher value means a higher proportion of all queries, not a higher absolute query count. So a tiny country where 80% of the queries are for “bananas” will get twice the score of a giant country where only 40% of the queries are for “bananas”.
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