It should perhaps come as no great surprise that Australia, given its isolation, is home to a good number of bizarre things found nowhere else.
Bogans being one of them, plus the monotremes, the order comprising the platypus and the echidna. Mammals by virtue of being warm-blooded, but they lay eggs, and females have a cloaca (they poop, pee and give birth from the same, uh, opening) like reptiles, birds and amphibians.
And like all other mammals, monotremes produce milk to nurse their young, but express it through pores in the skin, versus the nipples in placental mammals (like you and me) and marsupials (not like you and me).
The true hipsters of the animal kingdom, they’ve been marching to their own off-beat tune for the past 123 million years.
It should stand to reason, then, that the continent that gave rise to the monotremes, should also birth some odd snacks that defy conventional wisdom. Arnott's Tim Tams certainly don't count among their number.
To be certain, Australia is hardly the only country obsessed with coconut desserts. Local kueh features coconut in all its myriad forms, as does maja blanca, a Filipino coconut pudding dessert that has Spanish origins.
Or Bounty bars, which has a dense core of compressed dessicated coconut encased in milk chocolate.
But I’ll wager no other country has declared a national day honouring a dessicated coconut snack: the lamington.
Of course, there are some that feel very strongly about this, and it seems to evoke the same sort of passion reserved for putting pineapple on pizza (I have no strong feelings about this), egregious violations of human rights (I have strong feelings about this) or making bacon out of anything other than pork (I have very strong feelings about this).
Anyway, in this week’s instalment of The Snackdown, I’ll be scarfing down three uniquely Australian coconut snacks. Namely, the lamington, Cadbury Cherry Ripe and the hilariously misnamed Europe Summer Roll, all courtesy of editor-in-chief Norman Tan’s recent sojourn back to the Antipodes.
Have you ever had a sponge cake?
Sure, you must have. On its own, nothing spectacular, but it’s one of the wonder components of the snacking world, the basic building blocks on which greatness is built.
In the case of the lamington, two sponge pieces are covered in chocolate sauce and left to set. The porous sponge, having absorbed the set chocolate, is ever so slightly crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
Variations include sandwiching cream, jam or even more chocolate between the sponge layers, and the result, as you might expect, is absolutely delightful.
Then, they had to go stuff it all up by sprinkling dessicated coconut on top of it.
Not that I dislike coconut. I mean, with judicious use and given the right context, adding coconut isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
But the inclusion of coconut on a lamington just seems, well, unnecessary. It adds nothing much to the lamington, aside from the fact that eating a lamington and talking with your mouth full sprays an impressive amount of sponge/coconut crumbs.
Do it just right and you could make it look like it’s snowing, which is mildly hilarious.
10-word review: Sponge and chocolate is great, not so much the coconut.
Best paired with: A small vacuum cleaner to suck up the offending coconut, and saved for use as confetti at a later time.
Europe Summer Roll
On paper, Summer Roll sound a little bit cynical. It merely sounds like its close relative, the Nougat Honey Log—made of nougat with chopped nuts suspended therein and coated in milk chocolate—with some coconut sprinkled on top.
Because nothing says “Australian summer” more than coconut, right? Well, what also say Australian summer are pinky joint-sized mutant flies, 42-degree heat and being gently roasted alive by noontime UV.
A chocolate-covered nougat roll with coconut. Nothing special, then. But wait, because you’ll notice something slightly different about the coconut sprinkles covering the Summer Roll.
They’re toasted, to the same golden brown hue as the perfect beach tan.
Unlike the post-winter pall of the coconut covering a lamington, Summer Roll’s coconut actually contributes something to the end product.
Now, why can’t we have a toasted coconut Bounty, too? Are you listening, Mars Inc.? There are quite literally dozens of people like me who would throw money at you to make it.
10-word review: Sounds blah, but the toasted coconut bits lifts it superbly.
Best paired with: Pina coladas, getting caught in the rain and making love at midnight.
Cadbury Cherry Ripe
“The Big Cherry Taste”, the Cherry Ripe wrapper proudly proclaims, though I contend that’s some false advertising.
Not because there isn’t any cherry taste—quite a bit of it, in fact—but more because there’s quite a lot going on every time you take a bit out of the thin, but surprisingly dense bar.
There’s the dark chocolate outer coating, holding cherry bits and some jam-like substance in, and also coconut. A lot of coconut. Oddly enough, the coconut is the least prominent flavour on offer here, providing textural backing vocals than any real taste.
If you hate coconut, however, you’d best turn away now, because once the chocolate melts in your mouth and the cherry bits are sucked out, you’re left with coconut, and lots of it.
It’s coconut hell, or heaven, depending on your point of view.
Not that it’s a bad thing, because this makes Cherry Ripe great fun to eat, mostly because of how chewy it is.
As an added bonus, Cherry Ripe gives your jaw one hell of a workout. Forget those jaw trainer things or Botox, just eat a bar of this instead.
Of course, eating too much of it, while you’ll have a jawline that’s the envy of all your friends, it might cause terminal tooth decay and you might end up losing all your teeth, which won’t be the envy of all your friends.
Welp, you win some, you lose some.
10-word review: A veritable cherry bomb of fruit, chocolate and, uh, coconut.
Best paired with: Strong jaw muscles, you’re a better man than I am if you can polish off an entire bar in one sitting.